For those of you who think I spend my day in my slippers, sipping bourbon, lazing around reading query letters and manuscripts, I’m afraid you are sadly mistaken. I don’t wear slippers!
But in seriousness, I actually do have a job where I have to keep up with industry news, and today I’ve decided to prove it to you by boring you to death with industry chatter.
Oh, and you can stop working on your Crazy Astronaut Lady Book Proposal, because a Crazy Astronaut Lady Book Proposal just sold.
There is a big drama going on in publishing: a battle over the future of Europe, pitting rival superpowers clashing over the future of European democracy! Does that sound like the next great WWII spy drama? It isn’t! It’s sort of like a book industry version of the cold war, i.e. very polite.
You see, American publishers have typically had exclusive rights to America and its territories and dependencies (basically United States, Puerto Rico, the Phillipines, Guam… you get the picture). And UK publishers have had exclusive rights to UK territories and assorted former colonies (UK, India, Singapore, Burma, a bunch of islandes that no one has ever heard of. I mean, Ascension is totally made up, right??). So anyway, exclusivity means that only the US publisher can distribute in their exclusive territories and only the UK can distribute in their exclusive territories, and if you’re not in your exclusive territory you need to step OFF.
Whither Europe? Oh, yes. Whither Europe indeed. Europe has traditionally been part of the “open market,” that nebulous territory where BOTH the US and UK publishers can distribute. So European bookstores who stock books in English have their pick of the British and American versions, and sometimes they present them side by side.
WELL. The Brits are like, “Nu uh! We’re in the EU and even though we haven’t adopted the Euro we’re going to claim Europe exclusively now, you bloody Yanks need to take your books somewhere else!” and the Americans are all, “No way man, we are the country of freedom and democracy and the Europeans should be able to CHOOSE what books they want,” and the Brits are like, “You’re a wanker,” and the Americans are all, “I don’t even know what a wanker is.”
Enter Hachette, the French multinational who recently purchased the Time Warner Book Group, and who thus has both American and British divisions. A CIVIL WAR WTIHIN THE COMPANY BETWEEN THE BRITISH AND AMERICAN DIVISIONS was… uh…. recently decided very amicably. In cases where they control world rights, the Brits get to distribute exclusively in Europe, and the Americans get East Asia. So now European bookstores will be stocking only British versions of the few titles for which this compromise applies to.
So it’s not over yet. This is but one compromise on a veritable powderkeg of emotion and pride and money over the exclusivity of Europe. Stay tuned. Only one country can win. (Unless they come to an agreeable solution)
And that is what is going on in the publishing industry. Aren’t you glad you asked?