The increasing trend for the Big Six groups to publish brand authors globally can provide “huge advantages” for authors, publishers have said. However, agents are more dubious about the benefits for writers.
This year HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette have all said obtaining world rights and publishing authors on a global scale are priorities. Meanwhile, in the past few weeks Penguin Random House UK has poached two high-profile authors—Diana Gabaldon and Harlan Coben—from Orion, ensuring that the authors’ publishing houses are aligned across the Atlantic.
In a joint statement to The Bookseller Daily, Hachette Book Group c.e.o. Michael Pietsch and Hodder & Stoughton and Headline c.e.o. Jamie Hodder-Williams said that “in publishing worldwide, we best serve writers’ interests in an increasingly global and instantaneous market”.
Pietsch and Hodder-Williams stressed the cross-border collaborative nature of the global publishing programme which “offers a shared publishing vision, close co-operation, and open communication”.
They cited recent examples such as Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala and Jeffery Deaver’s recent move to Grand Central in the US, bringing all his books under Hachette worldwide.
Clare Alexander of Aitken Alexander Associates said she thought there would be more high-profile moves in the future, with “large American brand names” being the most likely to move to another publisher in the UK to align with their US publisher. However, while “the centre of gravity has moved to America,” there was no need for UK agents to find this “frightening”, as Britain has “world-class authors”, Alexander said.
A recent example of HC’s global publishing is inking Patricia Cornwell to a worldwide, two-book deal after the crime author was published by Penguin in the US and Little, Brown in the UK.
HC sales strategy director Oliver Malcolm said that “global publishing gives us and our global authors a huge number of advantages”, which include consolidating marketing and communications, aligning digital strategy, and sharing best practice on pricing, metadata and promotion.
Clare Hey, editorial director at Simon & Schuster UK, agreed. “There can be benefits to working together in a global sense—shared visions, strategies, working together to get a publication date that works best,” she said.
But agents said good publishing was not necessarily reliant on an author having the same publisher across territories. Curtis Brown’s Jonny Geller said there was “undoubtedly pressure on agents and authors to either accept world rights or go with both sister companies”, but that each book and market is different.
Geller added: “The moment you think one publisher can do everything, you stop analysing every individual case. There is no question that they can offer certain things [if you have one publisher], but communication can be bad whether a company is affiliated corporately or not.”
Alexander said a difficult UK market meant more publishers were trying to acquire as many rights as possible that their rights departments could then “spread”. “Some publishers are good at overseas rights, but most are not,” she said.