Over one in five publishing houses in Italy “works” abroad: 21% of Italian publishers who produced a new book in 2007 have bought or sold publishing rights abroad over the last four years, a significant growth bearing in mind that the figure in 2004 was 15% (+75%). This is what emerges from the second “Survey on imports-exports of publication rights in Italy”, carried out by Doxa on behalf of the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) in collaboration with the Italian Publishers Association (AIE).
This second survey – using a methodology basically identical to that used in 2001-2003 – makes available a historical series relating to the number of titles bought and sold by Italian publishers, the number of businesses involved and the countries with which importing and exporting of rights take place. These are the main results:
Publishers: between 2001 and 2007 the number of publishing houses which have either sold rights for Italian books and authors or bought rights for foreign books grew by 75.1%
In the years covered by the two survey periods – respectively 2001-2003 and 2004-2008 – the number of publishers involved in the exchange process grew. There was an increase both in the number of publishers who bought from abroad and those who sold, although with rates which vary in relation to the size of the company, and therefore its organizational capacity and the human, economic and financial resources available for publishing projects.
Between 2001 and 2007 the number of publishing houses which sold rights for Italian books and authors or acquired rights for foreign books grew by 75.1%. In 2001 they represented 15% of those publishers who had published at least one new book in the course of the year (381). They have now grown to 21% (667). This growth has taken place across the whole industry but it has been particularly marked among smaller publishing houses (which produce fewer than 15 new books per year), where the numbers have doubled (from 191 to 396: +107.3%) compared to large and medium-size firms (+42.6%). In 2007, 272 small publishers bought publication rights from foreign firms compared to 117 in 2001 (+132.5%). 74 small publishers sold rights from their own authors compared to 39 in 2001, a growth of +89.7%.
Among larger publishing houses, 135 firms sold rights compared to 86 in 2001, showing an increase of 57%.
Titles: between 2001 and 2007 the number of titles acquired by Italian publishing houses grew by 43.1% while the number of titles sold almost doubled (+93.9%)
On average publishers sell abroad the rights for about 17 titles (among those which they publish). The average number of titles exported has tended to decline: from 22 in 2001, the figure fell to 20 in 2003 and 16 in 2004, remaining at this average level during the following years. The figures tell us that in recent years there has been a better distribution among firms of both the ability to buy (showing slight growth: from an average of 15 titles per publisher to 17) and to sell.
Between 2001 and 2007 the estimate of the number of titles acquired by Italian publishers grew by 43.1%: from 5,400 to 7,730. The number of titles sold rose from 1,800 to 3,490 (+93.9%).
Genres: boom in Italian books abroad. Large growth in export of Italian rights for fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. However exports beat imports only in art and illustrated books
What exactly is exported? And what is bought? The first striking feature seems to be the variety of titles exported: “other genres” alone represents 8-10% of titles sold. Irrespective of possible considerations regarding this or that segment of production, Italian publishing seems therefore able to win its own space on the international market in a wide range of genres, and this must be taken into account when programming support policies, including initiatives in support of translations.
The genres which the Italian publishing industry tends to buy are very different from those which are sold. Purchases of rights remain higher than sales in almost all sectors (except art and illustrated books). However, sales are growing more rapidly than purchases. For example, the sale of rights for Italian novelists (602 titles) grew by 157.3% between 2001 and 2007 compared to +51.8% for purchases of rights for foreign novelists (2,316 works). Children’s books recorded a growth of +106.6% (1,004 titles sold) while acquisitions remained essentially at the 2001 level (+10.5% with 1,384 titles acquired in 2007). The sale of non-fiction titles to foreign publishers grew by +440% (973 titles) compared to +99.3% for acquisitions (2,699 works). Publishing of art and illustrated books is the only segment where the sale of rights in 2007 outnumbered purchases: 616 titles (+80% over 2001) for which rights were sold, as against 264 bought (-19.8%).
Countries: Europe remains the leading market. But the “weight” of Asia and Russia has doubled
Europe represents the principal outlet market for domestic publishing. Exports in this area amount to 77% of the total (311 titles sold to the German publishing industry compared to 620 acquired; 320 works sold to French publishers as against 998 that we have bought etc.). The imbalance which remains in favour of imports over exports reflects the great curiosity, attention and enthusiasm of Italian publishers with regard to everything produced by the great international publishing industries.
The years between 2001 and 2007 saw a significant rebalancing in the relative weight of the various markets. In 2001 Asia absorbed 5.8% of the titles for which publishers sold rights. By 2007 this figure had almost doubled to 11.5%. In 2001 Italian publishers sold 19% of their total rights marketed to central and eatern Europe, the Balkans and Russia. Six years later the weight of this region rose to 30.2%.
Within Europe, the sale of titles is highly fragmented, with a rise in the importance of central-eastern European countries. Poland, for example, already in 2003 counted for as much as France or Germany, and double the United Kingdom, in terms of titles bought from Italian publishers. In the latest survey, the weight of the Hungarian market (150 titles compared to 99 in 2006) is emerging.
Import of rights? 60% comes from the United Kingdom and the United States
Importing and exporting countries are totally different: most of the acquisitions (60.1% in 2007) come from two countries, the UK and the USA, which are weak importers of Italian titles (with only 7.7%) while the majority of sales (73%) are made in other European countries, from whom we import only 33% of titles.
The survey was carried out by DOXA on behalf of the Italian Trade Commission. Intervention by AIE, in the form of analysis and interpretation of the data gathered, was carried out on the basis of the Sectorial Agreement signed by the Ministry of Economic Development, the Italian Publishers Association and the Italian Trade Commission with the aim of optimising synergy between public and private action as part of the process of internationalising the publishing industry.