The U.K. Publishers Association (PA) was established in 1896 and is a cornerstone of the British publishing industry, working with a diverse array of companies to promote innovation, collaboration, and commercial success. In addition to its domestic role, the PA plays a significant role in facilitating export activities, serving as a conduit between British publishers and international markets. We spoke with Dan Conway, CEO of the PA, about the organization’s role in exports—including rights, licensing, and print and digital sales—and the U.S.–U.K. publishing nexus.

What are you eager for Americans to know about the PA and the U.K. book market?

There is a huge amount of collaboration and exchange between the U.K. and the U.S. publishing industries. It goes without saying that the cultural ties between the two nations are immensely strong, with U.K. and U.S. authors read very well on both sides of the Atlantic. Unearthing new authorial talent and bringing it to the fore benefits readers and publishers across both countries.

The publishing industry in the U.K. has done very well over the past decade and showed a huge amount of resilience in the years blighted by Covid. In our latest set of annual stats, we posted our highest-ever-recorded revenue figures at approximately £7 billion in direct sales and supported more than 70,000 U.K. jobs.

The industry is a strong exporter, with countries globally showing a significant appetite for U.K. published content, seeking research from our education institutions, and using curriculum resources. Overall, 60% of U.K. publishing revenues come from overseas.

Books that have done well in recent times include Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper, published by Bloomsbury, which was the U.K.’s #1 literary export of 2022.

Alongside the wonderful and well-known market leaders, the U.K. is also proud of a thriving independent publishing community, with many award-winning companies. Oneworld notably won the Booker Prize in 2023 with Prophet Song by Paul Lynch.

Are there other initiatives at the PA and in U.K. publishing that U.S. publishers should be aware of?

Diversity and inclusion has also been a major driver for U.K. publishers, and the Publishers Association published its three-year Inclusivity Action Plan early last year, with expanded targets to support publishers in making their journey toward representing all readers across the U.K.

What is the size of the U.K. export market and what share of it does the U.S. account for?

Total international revenue for U.K. publishers is £4.1 billion. The U.S. is the U.K.’s biggest export market and trading partner for both digital and print books, and U.S. sales have risen year on year over the past five years, from £193 million in 2018 to £260 million, a jump of 35%.

This is all down to the successful and ongoing collaboration between the U.K. and our U.S. counterparts at every stop—from booksellers to publishers. I hope to see this grow even more this year and into the future.

What categories of books are strongest in the U.S. export market?

Our top three categories for trade with the U.S. are social sciences and humanities, nonfiction, and fiction.

Do you view the U.S. and U.K. as competing for export sales of English books to the rest of the world?

Publishers in the U.S. and U.K. will have a mix of exclusive rights and territories where there is open competition. Of course, some global competition exists in open markets, but I would argue that a strong U.K. and a strong U.S. market that bring forward the best possible authorial talent and trade effectively around the world are positive overall.

The greater and more urgent competition, frankly, comes from tech firms and the desire to access writers’ and publishers’ content for free on a global scale, primarily through generative AI platforms. Publishing needs to stick together to ensure the future for the creative industries is strong.

What are one or two examples of successful collaborations between the U.S. and U.K. industries?

I think U.K. and U.S. publishers collaborate successfully day to day on an ongoing basis, and this has been true for many years. Both markets are facing similar battles, including the ongoing issues around AI. We are in constant conversation with the AAP and other international bodies on this issue, and I think it is fair to say we are all united, regardless of our geographic locations. We also collaborate closely with the AAP on strategic enforcement activities to tackle major piracy threats and look forward to continuing to do so.

60% of U.K. publishing revenues come from overseas

Other issues, like DEI and sustainability, are a constant topic of conversation as we continue to communicate and work together to build a better, more inclusive international publishing sector. It is important for us all to be on the same page to really drive meaningful change.

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