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Home / World / British Book Publishers scared Brexit will bring a US invasion

British Book Publishers scared Brexit will bring a US invasion

Much of the concern is due to an impending dispute with US publishers over sales in continental Europe. For decades, the British have been seizing this market and selling English-language editions of books in France, Italy and every other country in the European Union.

This has helped make Britain the largest book exporter in the world According to the British publisher Publishers Association, sales were $ 6.8 billion a year. Slightly more than half of these revenues came from exports, and the largest export market is Europe.

Access to this market without tariffs or serious competition was a financial blessing. If British publishers on the continent lost a significant amount of their sales, the effects could be catastrophic.

"Our home market is tiny compared to the US," said Clare Alexander, a literary agent at Aitken Alexander Associates. "Given that we depend on exports, Europe is a struggle for the survival of the British publishing industry."


A mobile massage service at the London Book Fair seemed particularly appropriate for those who are concerned about what Brexit means for the British publishing industry.

Andrew Testa for the New York Times

Publishers from the United States have long searched for the European market, and as Britain formally wants to part with the Union, some are preparing for an invasion. Last autumn, a kind of warning fire was triggered at the Frankfurt Book Festival when CEO Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster, said after Brexit: "The argument that the British are conquering Europe as an exclusive market will then be over."

This is about as close to a public hostility statement as you can expect. The battle for the European book market is already being held in secret where author contracts are drawn up. These contracts always include a list of areas where publishers want exclusive distribution rights. The list written by American publishers is increasingly covering the European continent.

Patrick Walsh, a London-based literary agent, has seen Europe in early drafts of two deals with US publishers. In both cases, the publishers argued that Britain and the European Union separated at the time of publication. In both cases, Mr. Walsh backed away, hinting that it was too early to know how Brexit would turn out, and the Kodicil was removed.

"It was a relatively friendly opening game," he said. "But I am absolutely sure that we will see more of it."

Much of the talk about the conditions of the British divorce from Europe has focused on banks, real estate and industries such as fishing and mining. But the creative sector is also bracing itself for changes and worries about life after Brexit. Few are as concerned as the approximately 30,000 employees of the British book trade.

Part of this is the concern that Britain will stop serving as one of the great cultural centers of the world. In particular, London is a major attraction for foreign artists in areas such as contemporary dance and theater.

"These people are here because they can come and go," said Andrew Franklin, co-founder of Profile Books, a London publishing house. "The same is true of literary culture, it depends enormously on new voices coming from other places, and I fear that literary culture, when it builds walls, becomes more isolated, which has an impact on the publishing industry." [19659016] Mr. Franklin believes that the biggest threat to Brexit is the damage to the UK economy, which could reduce disposable income, affect book sales, and close libraries and bookstores. There are also smaller and more practical concerns, such as the impact on British writers who lose access to Europe's grants and literary prizes. In addition, the United Kingdom has a robust intellectual property system that publishers want to maintain vigorously.

The Association of Authors' Representatives had several contacts with politicians to convey these and other concerns. For the last two years, the group has visited the House of Authors in tow, including Cressida Cowell, the woman behind the series How to Train Your Dragon, and Misha Glenny, the reporter whose book McMafia led to the successful TV mini (19659018) Lobbyists for British publishers have consulted with important political players in Europe, but the future of the English-language book market is unknown. British supremacy is based on a combination of informal agreement (American and British publishers have long divided countries largely based on proximity and history) and commercial law (as a member of the European Union, UK publishers have smooth access to each country [19659018] Many British publishers and agents believe that they will continue to excel on the continent just because they are physically closer than their rivals.

"Why should a British author have his books delivered from America to Europe? Gordon Wise, former president of the Association of Authors' Agents, said in an email. "And why should even an American author want to wait for the stock to be transatlantic is sent out quickly from the European geographical contingent by her British publisher nt could be delivered? "

In addition to the speed and simplicity of distribution, publishers in the UK have offered higher royalties to authors they sell in Europe. In return for exclusive sales rights, British houses have paid so-called "home royalty rates" – essentially the amount of money they pay authors in the UK – as opposed to "export royalties".

The difference is enormous. Lorella Belli, a literary agency, said the numbers vary from publisher to publisher, but roughly speaking, authors earn one pound sterling (about $ 1.40) per bound book when they get a home license. The export quota, on the other hand, will be about 7 cents per book.

US executives say they are willing to pay residential property royalties in Europe, even in Europe. And they doubt that Britain's proximity argument for the rise in Europe these days has much power given how fast products are moving around the world now.

"This large waterway between America and Europe is no problem with chain logistics, thanks to a much better supply," said Carolyn Savarese of Kneerim & Williams, a literature agency with offices in Boston and New York. "The world actually got smaller, or rather, the markets have become more accessible."


Bestselling authors like John Grisham could benefit financially if Europe becomes a place where American and British publishers compete , But new authors and those with middle sales could earn less.

Flavio Lo Scalzo / Rex

If Europe becomes a place where American and British publishers compete, the losers could be writers, said Ms. Alexander. While the best-selling authors – the Grishams and Rowlings – may make even greater progress in potential bidding battles, new writers and those with average sales records could earn less.

"The book industry in Europe will see more like Hollywood," she said. "It will further fuel the idea that a book has to be a blockbuster, which means smaller advances for excellent books that are more niche."

It's still up in the air as to whether Britain in Europe will end up with new hurdles like tariffs is confronted. The full implications of Brexit will be highlighted in the coming months as the basic terms of exit are negotiated. But among the publishers, the urge for Europe has already begun.

"Everyone wants an advantage," said Walsh. "If they can take it, they will."

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