Publishing for the World - A look back at the SYP Conference 2020 for some inspiration for 2021!

There are many challenges for publishers internationally with the current economic and political climate. In light of this we’ve looked back on the fantastic Publishing for the World Seminar at the SYP Conference this year where we heard from some brilliant publishing professionals who work internationally across the publishing landscape. Chaired by Elle Brenton-Rounding, Senior Rights Executive at Little Tiger Press and Chair of the SYP London branch, the panel included Kate Wilson (MD at Nosy Crow), Doug Wallace (Executive Director at Andrew Nurnberg), Hannah Paul (Associate Editor at Princeton University Press) and Kiyeun Baek Lee (Head of Business Development and Sales at DK).

They discussed the importance of considering global markets when acquiring or commissioning. Kate noted how the content needs to be applicable to all kinds of cultures in order to have a global reach – challenges for this include the background of the team working on the content, showing how important it is to hire from a diverse background! Doug pointed out how there can be tension between what publishers produce for a domestic market and what to sell internationally. Particular subjects work better in some countries than others, and Kate agreed very few books will have a wide appeal and sell in each market. Within Academic publishing, Hannah explained the ambition is to acquire content and publish authors to sell in multiple territories. As a non-profit press, their commitment is to the global scholarly community and they want to amplify as many international voices as possible. Usually this would mean attending conferences to meet with scholars from all over the world. When working with an author in the early stages of a product, it can be curated so it is viable for an international market from these meetings. It is important to maintain these contacts around the world, and with the current travel restrictions many more of these conversations are happening virtually which has its own challenges – for children’s books it can be the lack of physical book to show, but across all areas it’s the lack of face to face contact.

There are many impacts of Covid 19 on acquiring and selling rights. Hannah has found that the lockdown has disproportionately affected female academics, with them finding it hard to find time to work on books with other commitments. To combat this, there has been funding made available for any under-represented community through this time, with the Global Equity Grants that Princeton University Press has launched. Kiyeun added there had been challenges within stock management, with projects having to change and be delayed. In looking to the future, Kate explained that they will currently be working on titles for next year and beyond, so if they were to stop working in lockdown it’s not now that suffers it is the time ahead. However there are other elements to consider such as other commitments employees now have, and also their mental health. In terms of pitching to clients, virtual book fair meetings are very different from the usual ones. There’s no point going for a hard sell if the customer is feeling vulnerable or anxious – make clear what the values are and what matters. Doug added how it can be difficult financially in an agency being in the middle when clients are looking to sign more deals, but the last deal has not been paid for yet. However Kate did say that most conversations have been that people thought it would have been worse than it is – within children’s books, the demand has actually increased slightly.

It is clear how important it is on many levels to be publishing internationally, in an ever more global world. There are challenges ahead but many fantastic minds in the industry looking for the best way forward!

If you are keen to learn more about Rights and International Sales do have a listen to our podcast with the amazing Amy Joyner