Bookseller Briefing 49/18 – week ending 7 December

The Bookseller

Failure to protect exhaustion rights ‘will fatally undermine UK publishing’, warns Trollope

Novelist Joanna Trollope has warned that Theresa May’s government will “fatally undermine the whole UK publishing industry” if it fails to protect in law the UK position on exhaustion rights ahead of a major Brexit vote next week.

Trollope joined fellow authors Linda Grant and Joanne Harris to urge the government to ensure the UK’s reputation as a world leader in culture and creativity is preserved after Brexit.

The authors were speaking out in support of calls from the Society of Authors (SoA), published in a new briefing, that politicians must protect free movement, copyright and trade while warning the sector is “not to be used as a bargaining chip in future negotiations”.

A Brexit briefing just published by the SoA, entitled “No Bargaining Chip”, shared key areas of concern relating to copyright, free movement, access to funding, trade and exhaustion of intellectual property rights.

The SoA, like the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and the All Party Writers Group, urged the government adopt a ‘national exhaustion’ of rights framework after exiting the EU and called on the Government to “axe the reading tax at the earliest available opportunity”.

In respect to the importance of copyright and exhaustion of rights, Trollope said it was “crucial” the UK’s high standards on creative copyright are maintained after Brexit and “not diluted as part of future trade deals or used as some kind of bargaining chip”.

“We need to enshrine our own gold standards, as well as obliging publishers to provide authors with accounting information, into UK law well before we leave,” she continued. “We also need the Government to protect in law the UK position on the exhaustion of rights. Failure to do this could fatally undermine the whole UK publishing industry.”

Chocolat author and SoA committee member Joanne Harris stressed there was no place for complacency when it comes to securing the UK creative industries’ current and future status on the world stage.

“The British are world leaders when it comes to creativity. And the EU is the publishing industry’s most important market for physical books, currently accounting for 36% of all our book exports. But we can’t afford to be complacent,” said Harris. “We can’t just assume that our creative industries will have the same importance if we lose our easy access to European markets. We need to be able to trade easily with Europe and the rest of the world. We need customs arrangements in place that allow us to move goods swiftly and efficiently. Otherwise we risk becoming increasingly marginalised, with disastrous results for the publishing industry, and the creative arts as a whole.”

The SoA said it is “vital” that the UK’s current copyright standards are “not watered down or used as bargaining chips as part of future trade negotiations”, arguing “such a move would be highly detrimental to the success of our creative industries”.

It stressed the importance of maintaining access to European markets after Brexit with “a smooth customs arrangement for goods”.

And, with respect to freedom of movement, it has demanded “adequate exemptions” be made for writers and other workers in the creative industries “where salary level is not an appropriate measure of skill or wider contribution to the UK’s social and economic life”, recommending a visa system for freelancers as part of this.

Grant, whose most recent book The Dark Circle was shortlisted for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, emphasised the importance of free movement for the cultural sector in particular.

She said: “The free movement of ideas and of individuals are essential for the creative life. We need to travel for research and to reach new audiences. The cultural sector in the UK benefits similarly from our ability to attract European writers. We need to preserve our close ties with Europe, and scrapping free movement for workers in the cultural sector will cause huge damage to the industry.”

Although SoA recently welcomed some of the proposals contained within Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement and political declaration on the future framework between the UK and the EU, particularly around customs and intellectual property, it has also expressed unease that the ensuing political chaos had heightened risks of a no-deal Brexit. While other trade bodies have called the political uncertainty “unacceptable for businesses of all kinds, including publishers”, SoA said “most of our central concerns relate to issues that will only be addressed in future negotiations with the EU or in domestic legislation”.The government’s Department for International Trade (DIT) yesterday (5th December) launched a “Brexit Deal Explained” website. On its landing pages, alongside a range of 60-second videos explaining the proposed Brexit Deal, it wrote: “However you voted, now is the time to come together. It is time to get on with it.”

Last month the Prime Minister was issued legal advice that her backstop plan could leave the UK unable to “lawfully exit” without EU agreement. The documents were published this week following a vote in the Commons which found the government in contempt of parliament.

Rebuck’s pioneering publishing career explored on ‘South Bank Show’

Baroness Gail Rebuck, chair of Penguin Random House UK, has told “The South Bank Show” that she gave herself just 100 days to prove she could be chief executive of a major publishing business, after taking over the reins at Random House in 1991. In a retrospective of her career broadcast on Sky Arts last night (5th December), presenter Melvyn Bragg described Rebuck’s impact on the publishing business during a period of huge change in the sector as “immeasurable”.

The programme focused on her pioneering role as a woman in publishing at a time when the sector was dominated by men. Rebuck told Bragg: “There were men all over the pace, that was normal in those days . . . Men were in charge, they were running everything, and had all of the positions of power. The women came in as secretaries, and that was how I started.”

Rebuck joined Hamlyn in 1979, starting a paperback list, and also became a Women in Publishing member in the same year, which enabled her to develop a network. She later joined Anthony Cheetham in creating Century, which merged with Hutchinson in 1985, before being taken over by Random House UK in 1989. When she usurped Cheetham at the top of Random House, she said that she had to face down her senior team: “I looked round at all of my colleagues, and there was absolute horror on their faces, mostly men but not exclusively. It was ghastly.”

Private Eye described her as a “Barbie Doll who crunched diamonds in her teeth”. The author Robert Harris told the programme that Rebuck faced criticism, characterised as “a pushy mother”, in a way that men would not have done in the same position.

Rebuck joked that an assertiveness course she attended through WiP had worked almost too well. “My head was exploding with possibilities, you don’t have to put up with the status quo. Some might say it was too effective in my case. It really was a wake-up call for us obedient types.”

But she said she had not been driven by ambition. “I was propelled by boredom rather than ambition. I just wanted to be engaged, challenged, and interested.” She also admitted that she had felt “isolated” when she ran Random House. “Running something is the loneliest thing, because you have no friends and sometimes have to take tough decisions.”

Rebuck said the industry had faced three seismic changes in her time, including the growth of Waterstones, the loss of the Net Book Agreement, and arrival of Amazon, but she was critical of the sector’s initial response to being allowed to discount books. “I failed to understand the lemming like quality of the UK industry, which discounted so low, so extensively, that it almost blew up the business.”

The Bookshop Band take on US tour with Gardners’ help

The Bookshop Band will play a 15-date tour across America next month, with sponsorship from Gardners and US-based entertainment distributor All Media Supply.

The Bookshop Band, formed of Ben Please and Beth Porter, will play across bookshops, libraries and libraries in various states including New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and Colorado with sponsorship from wholesaler Gardners and US sister company All Media Supply (AMS), an entertainment distributor.

The tour will launch at Little City Books in Hoboken, New Jersey on 16th January and close at the WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, on 3rd February. The band is also visiting the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico to play in a series of special performances.

The Bookshop Band was originally formed in 2010 by Please after he was approached by Nic Bottomley, co-owner of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, to create songs inspired by the works of the bookshop’s guest authors and play these songs at the author events.

Bottomley, also chairman of the Booksellers Association, said: “Now, finally, thanks to the incredibly generous sponsorship of Gardners and AMS and the invitation of our friends at the American Booksellers Association, the band can head across the Atlantic to play their songs in American independent bookshops and at the Winter Institute.

“Many of our peers in America have been itching to host The Bookshop Band and we at Mr B’s are so proud and excited to see them finally heading stateside.”

Nigel Wyman, head of business development at Gardners, said: “When Nic from Mr B’s first approached me with this opportunity, something clicked straight away and I knew we had to be part of this exciting US tour.  It did not take long before Jonathan Little, Gardners’ m.d. and owner, agreed this was a great idea.”

Please revealed it had “it’s always been a pipe dream of ours to organise a tour” in the USA and added “we’re very proud to be taking over songs inspired by Mr B’s curation of 8 years of fantastic new literature, and hopefully bringing a bit of the flavour of what is happening in the UK’s literature scene over to the US”.

The band has composed songs such as ‘For an Ending’ based on A Monster Calls (Walker Books) by Patrick Ness and ‘How not to Woo a Woman’ based on The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Penguin), which has seen them take on several tours and play live on BBC radio.

Gardners and AMS are also now stocking all of The Bookshops Band’s albums.

For more information on the tour, visit this website.