Since starting Neem Tree Press, a London-based independent, I have daydreamed about the size and significant potential of the U.S. market. This year we are launching our list in the U.S., working with the fabulous Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, and I am relishing moving back to the U.S. in April to expand our market.

For U.S. independents looking to better understand the U.K. market, here are some insights. Paperback originals are de rigueur for small independents in the U.K. These publishers often take risks on debut authors, with many prizes aimed at rewarding and showcasing them. U.K. presses are also actively attempting to capitalize on the massive growth projected for the global audiobooks market.

The fly in the ointment for U.K. indies is that the pricing structure here is relatively rigid, despite increasing costs. There is, however, considerable upward pressure being exerted by established publishers. On a positive note, the smaller market size, less fragmented media landscape, and shorter PR lead times mean that the average cost of a book marketing campaign is generally lower in the U.K. than in the U.S. And so far there is very little censorship.

The U.K. is a complex tapestry of distinct regions, each with its own unique cultural, historical, and linguistic traits. Book publishing in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales reflects these differences, and themes of independence, history, and identity are common in each. There is often support provided for local authors; for example, the Scottish Book Trust helps promote and market select Scottish authors.

The drive for diversity and inclusion is greater than ever in the U.K., with publishers aiming to improve representation in their author lists and subject matters—particularly for children’s books. While 18% of the U.K. population belongs to Black, Asian, mixed, or other ethnic groups according to census data from Diversity UK, a 2019 report commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society found that 94% of authors in the U.K. are white. So, despite DEI initiatives, we still have a long way to go in terms of representation and avoiding tokenism.

Translated fiction is gaining momentum in the U.K., offering readers lenses into other societies. However, the difficulties of marketing international, sometimes debut authors who don’t all speak English can dampen book sales. Authors may be unavailable for events due to steep travel costs, which are out of reach for smaller publishers—although some festivals and grants cover them. We’ve been lucky to work with high-profile translators with great reach and network in a market where public appearances and bookshop visits are still valued. We’re hopeful that demand for translations will continue to grow, aided by prizes such as the International Booker and funding schemes like English Pen.

To state the obvious, the U.K. market is no longer a gateway to Europe. Brexit has had a hugely negative effect on smaller independent publishers in the U.K. due to significantly higher shipping and customs fees and taxes. Pre-Brexit, we wouldn’t have thought twice about sending physical review copies to Europe, but now we are much more reluctant to do so. Similarly, we are unable to fulfill direct website sales to Europe as the cost is prohibitive.

Great networking opportunities exist at the Independent Publishers Guild, the Publishers Association, and the Publishers’ Publicity Circle, as well as at the London Book Fair. May 2022 marked the official launch of the U.K. Sustainability Industry Forum—a collaboration between the Society of Authors, the Association of Authors’ Agents, Book Industry Communications, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, and the Publishers Association. This is the first cross-industry initiative designed to tackle the negative impact the book business has on our planet, opening essential lines of communication between authors, publishers, and booksellers. There are ample opportunities and encouragement for publishers of all sizes to get involved in these efforts.

We hope this brief insight has been informative for our U.S. counterparts, and we would love to participate in a buddy system connecting like-minded independent presses across the pond. When it comes to working together to bridge the Atlantic divide, I look forward to sharing best practices with my American colleagues, educating each other on both markets, pooling resources, and unifying two literary communities.

Archna Sharma is the publisher and CEO of Neem Tree Press.