British Book Award for Export (< £10m)

Winner

Nosy Crow

Nosy Crow takes this award for the second year in a row after another exceptional year of exports.

This is a business that has been internationally minded from the get-go, with nearly three-quarters of its income now coming from outside the UK. Phenomenal success in rights—rewarded with the title of joint Rights Team of the Year (p23)—prompted Nosy Crow to switch to direct management of exports, and the decision paid off in spades in 2020, its 10th anniversary year. It added more than £1m to overseas sales despite the disruption of the pandemic.

The small exports team responded brilliantly to the challenges of lockdown, replacing travel with online meetings and staying responsive to the varied and fast-changing needs of markets worldwide. An array of new digital resources, including video content and “flipbook” catalogues, helped to make sales pitches the next best thing to face-to-face meetings, and a revamped website, social media and newsletter improved day-to-day communications.

Notable growth markets included China, where sales nearly tripled, and Europe, where they grew by more than 50%. This was down not to a one-off success but to increased overseas interest across the board—though one of the standout books actually made no money at all: Coronavirus: A Book for Children, produced in-house and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, was downloaded millions of times for free around the world, and won the Best of Lockdown Book Award at the FutureBook Awards.

Nosy Crow’s export partners paid tribute to its performance in a year like no other. “They’re one of the most innovative, nimble and highest quality publishers in the world, and we’re very fortunate to partner with them,” said one.

The Shortlist

  • Canongate
    Canongate had a record-breaking year in exports, selling to nearly 100 countries. The snowballing success of Matt Haig had much to do with that, while Maaza Mengiste’s Booker-shortlisted The Shadow King and Nick Cave’s Stranger Than Kindness were among the other contributors. There was double-digit growth in Australia and New Zealand, driven by excellent publicity and marketing, but even more impressive were the numbers across Europe, especially Germany. Canongate excelled on the logistical side too, adjusting scheduling and printing locally when needed in order to maintain supply amid chaos in distribution. One partner said: “The Canongate presentation is always a highlight of our sales conference—invariably a ‘rabbit out of the hat’ moment. It’s a joy to work with a team that understands our market so well.”
  • John Beaufoy Publishing
    Oxford-based indie non-fiction publisher John Beaufoy, short- listed here for the second time in three years, was initially very vulnerable to the pandemic. With most travel brought to an end and bookshops closed, orders of its books for and about countries in the Asia-Pacific region dried up virtually overnight. But it responded to the crisis with a spirit and resolve that is typical of small, specialist indies, taking its export sales meetings and book events online. Its distribution and rep partners also adjusted, keeping books flowing into shops when they were able to open. Exports eventually held up very well, with revenue increasing in Australia and New Zealand thanks to excellent promotional work around one of the authors of its Naturalists’ Guides series, including an endorsement from New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern.
  • Nosy Crow
    Last year’s winner was an even greater international force in 2020, growing export sales by well over 50% despite a drastic reduction in the volume of travel done by its energetic team. The excellent relationships Nosy Crow has built with overseas customers over its first decade in business paid dividends, and it was constantly alert and responsive to their needs as their various markets went in and out of lockdowns. A revamped website, newsletter, and Instagram and WeChat activity all helped to cement connections, as did the investment in more video and other digital assets, and flip-book catalogues, to help customers visualise its books. Exports to China, South Korea and many other Asian territories rocketed, and it was particularly pleased with sales in territories that it has only recently brought in-house.
  • Sweet Cherry
    Sweet Cherry, shortlisted for Children’s Publisher and Small Press of the Year alongside being in the running for this award, more than doubled its export sales in 2020. It signed a new distribution deal with Penguin Random House for 17 African countries, and another with Alkem to extend its presence in south-east Asia. There was exponential growth in China and Hong Kong, driven largely by sales of accessible editions of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books to fans of the TV series there. Through its combination of educational and entertainment content, Sweet Cherry has also been encouraging English-language learning and reading for pleasure around the world. “It’s a privilege to be able to work with such an innovative and entrepreneurial company,” said one of its partners.

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