The Independent Publishers Guild has told the government it needs to help indie presses as an “urgent priority” as the deadline for Brexit looms.
The IPG has asked Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport civil servants to provide support to reduce “the financial and administrative burdens of Brexit” for independent publishers and handed over a survey containing members’ concerns over a no-deal Brexit.
IPG c.e.o. Bridget Shine said: “We continue to talk to civil servants about ways they might help publishers, and we’ve made it clear that this is an urgent priority. We’ve also made the point that independent publishers contribute so much to the UK’s creative economy, culture, education and international trading, and deserve support that reduces the financial and administrative burdens of Brexit.”
The survey shared with DCMS showed nine in ten of IPG members are either slightly or very concerned about the impact of a no-deal Brexit, according to Shine. The c.e.o. said members are most worried about an increasingly weakened pound’s impact on business costs and disruption to imports and exports and, to a lesser extent, freedom of movement and copyright protection.
Shine said: “There’s certainly a lot of anxiety about Brexit, and especially about a no-deal scenario. The fragility of sterling over the last few years has already made publishers’ offshore printing, paper sourcing and shipping more expensive, and there’s a danger that those costs would rise again. New logistical and financial burdens on imports and exports that a no-deal Brexit might bring are just as concerning, because they would put unnecessary pressure on publishers’ international trade. Any extra admin that could be involved via things like country of origin requirements would be extremely unwelcome.”
Shine has stated IPG has shared government resources with members, including obtaining an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number to continue exporting post-Brexit, and advice on understanding the impacts Intellectual Property and data protection requirements. Shine said many IPG members intend to move their offshore printing back to the UK, move runs to key markets, or topping up stock to make sure that availability isn’t affected.
“But of course, while there is so much uncertainty about arrangements after Brexit, it is hard for independent publishers or ourselves to plan with any great confidence. As many members have told us, it’s hard to prepare for something when you don’t know what it is you’re preparing for,” she added. “What everyone really needs is clarity about post-Brexit trading arrangements, and unfortunately that appears as far off as it has for several years now.”
A DCMS spokesman said: “We continue to engage closely with the publishing industry to ensure impacts are understood and plans in place for when we leave the EU.”
As 31st October nears, independent publishers have been sharing their concerns around a no-deal Brexit. Canbury Press m.d. and IPG member Martin Hickman has echoed the frustration independent presses feel around the uncertainty of leaving the EU and said the confusion has delayed expansion plans for his business.
He said: “As small publishers we’ve got more than enough to do fulfilling every function in the publishing business. We don’t really have the time or inclination to prepare for something that might not happen. Obviously Brexit has been delayed once already, it may be delayed again and possibly even cancelled.
“Brexit has delayed me putting in place plans for international expansion because I’ve not been sure what the trading arrangements for Europe will be. So we haven’t looked around for a European distributor simply because we thought we’ll wait a few more months and see what the arrangements are for exporting. Now we’ll probably just have to get on with it anyway.
“Brexit on the whole is just a headache, it’s just completely unwanted. I don’t think it will bring any benefit for small publishers at all. If anything it will just lead to more red tape and problems getting books into our major market in Europe. It’s quite an imposition on businesses general, never mind small publishers, to know whether any tariffs or country of origin rules will apply to our products in our nearest markets. It’s a very odd situation.”
Orenda Books founder Karen Sullivan agreed with concerns around financial and administrative pressures hindering independent publishers however she stressed the strain and lack of funding could lead to a loss of creativity in the industry. She said: “How can you prepare when you don’t know what you are preparing for? In all honestly, for the last year, I have felt like I’ve been poised at the top of a roller coaster, with no idea when we will start our descent, pretty much holding my breath in anticipation of the unknown.
“We are getting more positive press than ever, more festival invitations for our authors, more prizes and short and long listings, but the industry support is weaker than ever. Initial orders are smaller and later, and although we see a steady rise in re-orders, we are unable to plan, to forecast, in the same way that we once did. We print fewer, our unit costs are higher, and margins are tiny. It’s unsustainable, and this has been a direct result of Brexit. No one knows what’s around the corner, and caution is the keyword.
“Independents are known for taking risks that the conglomerates do not, and without a vibrant international market and open-minded retailers, we simply cannot continue to do this. It’s been the most difficult period of our five-year history, and we are publishing some of the best books out there.
“Last year, we were hugely lucky to benefit from the Creative Europe grant for our translation programme and although the money for this has been ring-fenced by our government for another couple of years, this type of financial support for us - and, indeed, all of the arts - will dry up and have immense repercussions. To say that we are worried would be a massive understatement.”
Editor Kit Caless at Influx Press has shared fresh concerns that a squeeze on resources post no-deal Brexit, could see bigger publishing houses take priority with suppliers. In particular, the Hackney-based press is concerned UK printers will see a rush of orders from publishers who currently print in the EU following 31st October.
Caless said: “If no-deal goes through, this might complicate overseas printing and then our UK based printers will suddenly be overwhelmed. We're not a big money maker compared to corporate houses so we would slip to the bottom of the priority list for printing, and that would have a knock on effect for our schedule and budget.
"Indies don't have the same capital reserves or assets that corporates do, we will be the first to fold if anything really bad happens. The larger houses can weather more storms than we can. Probably by selling copies of David Cameron's book.
“No one has told us to prepare anything because no-one knows what is going to happen. We don't have enough capital to be stockpiling, quite frankly. Most of the discussions we've had have been with fellow independent publishers to share concerns, but in reality we're just talking in a dark room about where the light switch is.”