Agents at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair have dismissed Simon & Schuster c.e.o. Carolyn Reidy’s assertion that exiting the European Union will affect UK publishers’ ability to secure market exclusivity in Europe.
Gordon Wise, agent at Curtis Brown and president of Association of Authors’ Agents, said the argument supporting the UK publishers’ claim to exclusivity was “extremely clear” and asked: “Why would a British author want their books supplied from America to Europe—Britain’s nearest market—Brexit or no Brexit? Why would a US author want to wait for stock to ship transatlantically when it could be swiftly supplied from within the European geographical continent by their British publisher?”
He said agents had “long negotiated” domestic royalty rates where UK publishers have had the European market exclusively and questioned why an author would want a lower US export royalty rate when they could be offered a better home rate in the European continent. “As Brexit itself seeks to demonstrate, it is a fallacy to think that the European political union is analogous with Europe as a market,” said Wise.
Conceding that the UK’s EU membership was “technically the strongest argument”, agent Lorella Belli said there were other reasons for UK publishers having exclusivity. She said US publishers often “insist” on North American rights including Canada for reasons of geographical proximity, arguing “the same logic has to apply to both cases. As far as agents are concerned, we want the publisher who can sell the most books in Europe and at the best possible terms and royalties for our authors. So far, UK publishers have done much better.”
Although global politics loomed large over this year’s fair, UK publishers said the atmosphere was “buzzy” and “busy”, with diverse storytelling “at last” gaining traction, according to Natalie Jerome, licensing and brand director at Kings Road Publishing (KRP). She reported that KRP imprint Blink had been “on the acquisitions trail, quite aggressively”, borne out in deals with “big personalities” such as The Who’s Roger Daltrey. She added that publishers were clearly seeking authors from a wider range of backgrounds. “It boggles my mind that it’s now something of a trend,” she said. “I’ve always believed in plurality of voices and I’ve always been a commercial publisher. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.”
Sam Eades, editorial director for Trapeze, said publishers were hungry for something “fresh and different” having had their fill of psychological thrillers. “The main topic of conversation has been about what will replace psychological thrillers, as the market is saturated,” she said.
Jason Bartholomew, rights director for Hodder & Stoughton, John Murray Press, Quercus, and Headline, remarked: “This is my 17th Frankfurt and, judging from where I sit, there is as much buzz as ever.”