Jane Tappuni, General Manager of IPR License, chaired Byte the Book’s September 2017 event sponsored by Frankfurt Book Fair, which spread the net wide to examine how British companies can best connect with publishing partners around the world. The panel comprised Alison Barrow (PR Director at Transworld Publishers), Jim James (Senior Trade Advisor at the Department of International Trade) and superstar agent Juliet Mushens, who recently co-founded the Caskie Mushens literary agency.
Our panel (from left to right): Jim James, Jane Tappuni (Chair), Juliet Mushens and Alison Barrow.
Within minutes, Brexit had reared its ugly head, and the panellists were soon discussing how the UK’s convoluted relationship with the EU is affecting its publishing trade. Juliet revealed that, with the hammering of the pound, authors’ international advances are dwindling wildly in value, and small, independent publishers that have traditionally relied on Europe’s relatively low printing costs are struggling to meet their overheads. Jim, however, was reasonably upbeat, reflecting that “we are still in Europe, and will be next month, and next year. It is still open to us”. He added that, while a weak pound is far from ideal, it does mean that what we’re selling in the UK has never been cheaper, and therefore more appealing, to foreign buyers.
Our sponsors: Alex Hippisley-Cox of Frankfurt Book Fair
Asked whether the prospect of Brexit had opened up opportunities in non-EU territories, Alison reflected that “it’s too early to say … no one can predict the future”. However, she did reveal that Transworld has recently seen huge growth in the emerging markets of China, Korea and India, and this was echoed by Juliet. “There’s lots more money in Korea,” she commented, “and they’re especially interested in non-fiction technology books”. America remains the biggest non-UK market, of course, and Juliet confirmed that Caskie Mushens are still landing consistently bigger deals there than in any other territory. “For heft and clout,” agreed Alison, “America is the place”.
The concept of world rights was next on the agenda, with Alison stating that, for a publisher, securing world rights to a brand is always an appealing prospect. She argued that, while such deals might not be suitable in every instance, they can bring significant benefits to an author. A world rights deal means consistency across the board, with international timelines synchronised and complex global conversations – which otherwise might be difficult to manage – joined up. Unsurprisingly, as a literary agent, Juliet fought the opposite corner, but she did concede that global deals are beneficial in certain situations, such as with heavily illustrated (and therefore high-cost) works.
A rapt audience, listening or contributing to the twitter debate #bytethebook
Finally, the panel tackled the tricky issue of copyright and intellectual property. Jim stressed that IP is a content creator’s most valuable asset, cautioning that “whatever you’re doing to protect it, you should do more”. He explained that, while some countries and territories are respectful of copyright ownership, there are plenty that aren’t, and Juliet cited Iran as an occasional offender. She will sometimes hear from Iranian publishers, she said, expressing an interest in one of her client’s books with the caveat that “if you say no, we’ll publish it anyway”. With this in mind, ruthless transparency and constant communication with foreign partners was recommended all round.
Networking is always fun at Byte the Book
Will Brexit continue to rock the boat for UK publishers? Absolutely. However, as Jim put it, “the UK is still in demand around the world, and we sometimes underestimate what might be of interest to other territories”. Which, of course, is what makes us British in the first place…
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