Brexit Impacts UK Publishing & the Pound


The tensions leading up to Brexit have caused uncertainty among U.S. and foreign publishers from around the world in regard to the state of book publishing in the United Kingdom. Brexit has been driving down the value of the pound due to uncertainty from markets such as the European Union. While UK publishers remain hopeful of what might result from Brexit, many publishers and literary agencies throughout the rest of the world are beginning to question the UK-EU book trade distribution agreements that might come apart at the seams.

As a result of devalued currency in the UK and exchange rates, book advances from UK publishers are likely to decrease for authors publishing in the UK. As a result, some authors being published in the UK by way of UK literary agencies and UK book publishers might seek out U.S. book publishers and U.S. literary agencies. The losses of EU trade agreements to UK publishers resulting from Brexit will likely impact book distribution and therefore directly impact author royalties. UK consumers might also end up buying fewer books as a result of the economy. UK authors are already seeking out other protections against Brexit.

While UK authors are probably already seeking out U.S. income, World English deals to UK publishers may decrease with authors/agents opting to split the markets if they have the U.S. reach. A breakdown of trade agreements between the UK and the EU could also impact the Open Market (territories where publishers can sell their English-language editions in a country that does not have its own English-language edition) and Exclusive Markets for UK publishers, but not for the U.S publishers and U.S. literary agencies that already have their trade agreements in place. While current sales agreements with booksellers under EU agreements could be going away for UK publishers, U.S. trade agreements with those in the foreign book trade will remain in place.

All of this might lead some to believe that there could be lower attendance among non-UK literary agencies and book publishers at the London Book Fair(LBF) in years to come. Further adding to the possibility of lower attendance at LBF would be the increased complexity and potential expense of travel restrictions across the border (travel visas, etc.). Additional issues concern monitoring changes to border procedures (tariffs, delays, other red tape) for importing and exporting books, and, like above, dealing with increased complexity if and when their people need to travel abroad to conduct business (or when they want to bring a visitor in), as we’ve all come to know is vital in this relationship-based industry.

Optimists believe that the lowed cost of travel in London could make it easier to do business overseas as a result of exchange rates, thereby resulting in a higher attendance at LBF. These optimists are predicting that those U.S. literary agents at LBF will focus on conducting meetings with foreign translation publishers willing to buy in higher volume while paying higher advances and royalties—over UK publishers buying fewer books while paying lower advances and fewer royalties to authors. This shift away from meetings with UK publishers at LBF, and even at the Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF)—which is the bigger of these two largest of the international book fairs—could result in even more meetings with foreign translation publishers.

Some of my colleagues at Trident Media Group are not convinced that the focus at LBF will necessarily turn to translation publishers, particularly if non-UK publishers have issues even getting to the fair because of visa issues. A low pound, however, will encourage more World English deals with U.S. publishers, which will result in fewer projects for U.S. literary agents to offer UK publishers. This, in connection with potential lower attendance overall, may bring the value of LBF into question. Those of us at Trident Media Group working within the foreign rights area desperately hope this does not turn out to be the case. Of course, it’s possible that Brexit could be entirely reversed, making all of these doomsday predictions seem like nothing more than a bad dream from UK publishers and authors. All of us in book publishing will just have to wait and see how Brexit shakes out.