The UK division of a German publisher is pushing ahead with plans to expand its children’s book business, despite the economic uncertainty caused by the UK’s recent decision to leave the European Union.
Prestel Publishing UK, part of Prestel Verlag, is looking to increase its children’s book sales from 10% of the business to around a third. “Kids is the fastest growing area and in Germany, children’s books account for 30% of sales. We want to replicate that success here,” said Andrew Hansen, m.d. of Prestel UK.
He said the publisher was “absolutely continuing with the plans” despite “Brexit”. “It is 100% business as usual; keep calm and carry on,” he said. “Of course no one knows what will really happen as a result of the vote but people will carry on doing business and people will carry on reading.”
Prestel was bought by Verlagsgruppe Random House in 2008, which is owned by Bertelsmann, and Hansen pointed out that the parent company has already issued a statement saying it will continue to invest in the UK market. “The UK is the fourth largest market for [Bertelsmann] and it will absolutely continue to invest in it.”
Hansen is planning on releasing four books this autumn—Oscar Loves by Britta Teckentrup, Colouring Book Renoir by Annette Roeder, Medieval Creatures Sticker Book by Sabine Tauber and The Mermaid and the Parakeet: A Children’s Book inspired by Henry Matisse by Véronique Massenot and Vanessa Hié —although the goal will be to eventually publish around 20 children’s titles each year.
Doris Kutschbach (pictured with Hansen), an editor from Prestel Verlag, spent two months in the UK this spring to gauge the market. She said she believed that the UK published some of the best illustrated books of 2015, adding: “We had some fantastic conversations [during the trip], which will definitely lead to at least two or three more projects.”
She also wants to hire a British designer. “Every time I go to Waterstones, I see such beautiful covers. If I go to a supermarket and look at books, I’m always impressed by the whole package. I just think ‘wow’.”
In terms of format, Prestel will continue its policy of publishing in hardback for the more expensive end of the market, although Hansen said some titles may get a second printing in paperback. Prices will range from £4.99 up to around £17.99.
The company will also look to sell original UK titles in the US and German markets. Kutschbach said one reason for the expansion in the UK was a frustration at being able to sell some titles in German, but not their original English-language versions.
However, Hansen pointed out that the two markets are very different in terms of distribution. “In Germany we are mainstream but in the UK we are aiming more at the gift and museum market,” he said.
A large proportion of the publisher’s UK sales are through retailers and outlets not affiliated with Nielsen’s Total Consumer Market: Hanson estimated that certain titles—particularly activity books— generate up to 80% of the publisher’s sales through non-TCM retailers. He added: “The full fruits of our editorial efforts in the UK may not blossom until 2019/20 but we hope to see an expanded list with plenty of UK authors, illustrators and designers, commissioned by Doris by the end of next year for sure.”