Week 42/19 – week ending 18 October

Publishers braced for potential no-deal Brexit

Even as the British government and the European Union wrangle on a withdrawal agreement, UK publishers have begun warning staff of the dire consequences of a no-deal Brexit, fearing it could lead to book stock being held up at ports, paper supply to UK printers threatened, and a fall in the value of rights deals in the long-term as European markets become a contested territory.

Hachette UK sent an email to its staff before Frankfurt, offering guidance on a hard Brexit. Penguin Random House and Pan Macmillan both say they have prepared for the possibility of the UK crashing out of the EU on 31st October. Hachette would not reveal the exact contents of its letter, but confirmed it had issued “updated Brexit advice to colleagues and stakeholders” in anticipation of no deal. The publisher said: “This includes information and advice on topics including people, supply chains, market access, data flows, copyright and business travel, based on contingency planning around the business. We are also actively engaged with the Publishers Association (PA), Creative Industries Federation and government departments on Brexit issues. This is a dynamic situation and there are still material uncertainties, but colleagues across the business are working hard to mitigate any disruption.”

PRH said its stance was unchanged from the last time the UK faced an impossible-looking Brussels deadline, and it has extensively planned for all scenarios across its supply chain, distribution and publishing schedules. The company has secured several months’ worth of UK paper stocks and has a monochrome printer in place in Europe to provide local printing for titles with high European sales, should it be required. It also brought forward backlist printings earlier this year. “We will continue to be in very close dialogue with our printers to ensure we remain ahead of any unforeseen challenges,” a spokesperson said. “We have worked closely with retail partners to manage stock-ups where we might expect supply chain delays.”

Pan Macmillan publishing operations director James Long said his team were “monitoring events closely and planning for a possible no deal”, adding: “We are in touch with our customers and suppliers and, where necessary, we are making decisions to increase stock or print earlier on relevant titles. We distribute through our sister company MDL and we have a long experience of mitigating against challenges in international supply.”

The PA stepped up its activities last week, with a forum for presses on no-deal planning. Attendees were told companies faced a raft of extra costs to keep goods flowing, and many indies warned of the impact of such costs.

In its end-of-year results this week, Faber director Mary Cannam noted: “A hard exit from the EU could cause issues with export supply, as well as delays to inbound paper supply to printers in the UK.” Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page told The Bookseller every effort had been made to mitigate the risks, stating: “We’ve been preparing for the worst for a very long time but hoping for the best… whatever that is.”

PRH launches Ripley’s annual with ‘butter Boris’ stunt

PRH launches Ripley's annual with 'butter Boris' stunt

PRH division Century has sculpted a bust of Boris Johnson made from butter to promote Ripley’s Believe It or Not! 2020 Annual.

The publishers unveiled the statue outside the Houses of Parliament to mark the launch of the trivia compendium today yesterday (Thursday 17th October). Century recruited food sculptor Prudence Staite to carve the likeness from 15 kilos of British butter to highlight the book’s chapter on the history of butter sculpting which dates back to the 1800s.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Creative Content Manager and Lead Researcher Sabrina Sieck said: “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! has been home to the world’s weirdest and most wonderful talents for the past 100 years. We’ve discovered amazing people from all over the world making art from things you’d never expect – spices, bugs, nails, breast milk! Butter sculpting is another of those amazing art forms that has to be seen to be believed!”

The 2020 annual also contains facts on the world’s spiciest ice cream from Glasgow, a tribe in Bangladesh which trains otters to help them fish, and a Brazilian man who has lived in a sandcastle for more than twenty years.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! was borne from cartoonist Robert Ripley’s column in The New York Globe during WW1. His first full-length book Believe It or Not! Was published in 1929 by Simon & Schuster and PRH has published Ripley’s annuals since 2004.