Getting to grips with co-edition publishing
John Styring, CEO of fast-growing indie Igloo Books, offers tips for publishers keen to break into the co-edition market.Co-edition publishing is not often at the forefront of the book trade's agenda. It's rarely given the time or credit it deserves - in addition to being a valuable revenue stream, co-edition publishing is a dynamic, digital-driven challenge. It demands skill and tenacity, depends on technical accuracy, and delivers plentiful rewards. Big claims, borne out of the fact that my own company, Igloo Books, has a strong interest in the co-edition market and we owe a significant proportion of our success to it. The books we produce are read in 57 countries and in 33 languages, and here I will share my top tips for breaking into this arena.
The Golden Rule: Hold the content, and you hold the cards
Co-edition publishing works on a simple principle - if one publisher has something to sell, another publisher will generally be found who is willing to buy it. Owning content is key… and owning artwork is utterly essential. Ensure that you purchase the rights to text, images, audio-visual and digital origination. By owning in entirety you can approach business partners with a substantial proposal: a complete product, ready for market - requiring only minimal changes to the "black text". Ownership eases the co-edition process, making it a straight two-way deal, whereby larger print runs lower cost prices, which are beneficial to co-publishers and consumers alike. In an age where publishers are more than ever content aggregators, I cannot advocate content ownership highly enough - as the essential component it is the real substantiation of a company's worth.
Investigación, badania, pesquisa (Research, research, research)
A pragmatic attitude towards the co-edition market is absolutely essential. The more work put in prior to an approach to a potential customer (in this instance, a prospective foreign publishing partner) the higher the chances of success. The book-reading public of each nationality has its own reading fashions, styles and preferences. Each publisher again has its own particular space in the market, and slice of the consumer pie it considers as its niche. Some illustrative styles will be in vogue, others not so much. If you want to succeed in a market you must appeal to the publisher with as many certainties as possible. Look at what is selling well in these countries, look for areas of similarity, pluck from your contacts and suppliers exactly those that are most likely to impress, on an individual proposal basis. Nowhere is this more important than in children's illustrative publishing, where the images are worth far more than the text. It goes without saying, though, that these preferences must tally with the home market's requirements too - as this is still where the primary profit is to be made.
Time spent reading catalogues, talking to trade contacts, gleaning information from the trade magazines is time well spent. It's also time you'll need, as co-edition publishing is a long game. Bologna and Frankfurt are key dates in the diary, and when dipping a toe into the market for the very first time, you will need to plan for and work these events with unceasing passion. Fair diaries fill up at an alarming rate, and you must be ahead of the game, especially as a newer face, to secure your 15 minutes with potential partners. And even then, once your powers of persuasion have paid off - the scheduling, manufacturing agreements, translation agreements must all be agreed through discussion. Go into these discussions with an open mind and patience, and allow yourself to be guided by a simple consideration - a set of parameters in terms of time and pricing under which you will not drop, but be led by what your customer requires.
Tenacity and willpower
Co-edition publishing calls for tenacious salespeople. Getting a foot in the door and keeping the door open can be a tough job, even if both parties speak each other's language impeccably (always handy, I've found). And, while you of course make contacts and keep them for future projects, once a print run gets successfully to market the process starts again. Your representatives must absolutely understand your products and have the capability to act in the company's best interests.
The trick to co-edition publishing is very much to keep your eye in the game. Stay in touch with contacts, keep an eye on the markets, and monitor the competition. Be open to new possibilities and options, but retain an interest where you've succeeded before - the European book trade is predominately healthy and very much ready for business, but you must work to keep those partnerships alive too. And above all else, publishers should use their common sense when it comes to co-editions. Ensure that images and text are seamless across both languages. This is especially important in children's publishing - the perils of illustrating the alphabet, only for it to be incorrect in another language, are well documented!
Ultimately, co-edition publishing offers a real and tantalising opportunity for publishers who are unafraid of a challenge and of a language barrier. It's my belief that a good price for good quality content will result in a good partnership. You must be detail orientated on your current projects, persistent both with on-going and prospective business, with an eye constantly on the horizon for future opportunities. For Igloo, that's a commitment to developing partnerships in the Far East, for publishers new to the game this could be their first co-ed print run. Either way, the key really is to maintain enthusiasm for the next chapter.