Andrew Wylie has labelled HarperCollins and other conglomerates’ models of acquiring world rights in order to publish writers in all territories “bewildering”, claiming it is not in authors’ best interests.
During a keynote speech at yesterday’s (10th October) “Frankfurt Book Fair: The Markets” conference, The Wylie Agency founder rounded on the larger publishing groups, singling out HarperCollins and its Global Publishing Programme as the company that “has pursued [all-territory publishing] the most vigorously”.
Wylie added: “I do think the HarperCollins model is more bewildering than anything else. And the authors it has chosen are so ridiculous... No one else would want to publish them [globally]. Most of them are romance authors, right? But ultimately, what it does is take authors off the table in a lot of territories. God bless competition.”
The agent’s speech touched on a variety of trade issues and what impact the rise of populism and nationalism, particularly in the US, would have on the trade. Wylie argued that readers were looking more than ever for stories that cross borders and that “local is global”, claiming authors’ world views can strike a chord globally, such as Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro’s British/Japanese perspective, or Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “daily concerns in Norway and Sweden, which are similar to what we experience in Chicago, Lagos, Shanghai and Dubai”.
He also argued forcefully for diversity, stating: “So-called ethnic minorities are the majority of the world. We need to publish their stories. People see things differently; the populist view is that they do not [and there is only one way of thinking], there is no appreciation for another’s perspective. But that difference stimulates readers, sells books and resolves conflicts.”
Penguin Random House c.e.o. Markus Dohle was in positive mood at the fair’s opening press conference, saying that the book trade was at its strongest point for “50, maybe 500 years”. He cited a number of reasons, including international markets’ “slow but continuous” growth; the abating of digital disruption in mature territories, with a “healthy coexistence” of physical and e-books; and the fact that the children’s and YA sectors are driving sales in many markets, which he said was promising for the future.
Dohle argued that digital was still a challenge, albeit more in terms of how publishers market themselves, and not in terms of book formats. He said the industry must switch from being B2B marketers and go direct to consumers. “Given the way that the e-commerce market for books of all formats is developing and growing, we need a new approach to marketing books. We have to be able to generate demand for our books, directly and at scale,” Dohle said.