SoA welcomes 5% growth in publishing industry

Martin Reed

Martin Reed

Martin leads the SoA's Communications team. He oversees our strategic communications and campaign-based activities, including PR, social media, events and partnerships.
The Publishers Association’s 2017 Yearbook has been released today and reveals another strong year of growth for the publishing industry.

In 2017 the industry’s total income increased by 5% to £5.7bn, while export income rose by 8% to £3.4bn.

Other highlights include:

  • Total book sales income (Physical and digital books) is up 4% to £3.7bn
  • Total digital sales income (Digital books and journals) is up 3% to £1.8bn
  • Total physical book sales income is up 5% to £3.1bn
  • Total journal sales income is up 5% to £1.6bn
  • Total journal export income is up 5% to £1.4bn

These are the key areas of growth:

  • There has been an increase in exports of both physical and digital books, up 7% to £1.6bn.
  • Export sales income from journals has increased by 5% to £1.4bn.
  • Rights, coeditions and licensing export income is £407m.
  • There has been an 11% increase (to £284m) in the export sales income of non-fiction/reference physical and digital books.
  • Sales of physical books to Europe increased 13% to £489m, and to East and South Asia by 8% to £248m.
  • Digital school book sales export income has risen by 93% to £10m.
  • Export sales income from journals rose 10% to £565m in North America, which is the largest international market for journals – accounting for 41% of the export market.

The publishing industry does crucial and often undervalued work in supporting authors, translators, illustrators and other writers, and the Society of Authors welcomes these figures. The 8% growth in exports highlights the continuing influence of UK writers’ work throughout the world, particularly through the success of our educational materials. As we prepare to leave the European Union this is more important than ever, with authors and publishers making a vital contribution to our overall exports and soft power abroad.

Reading – both for pleasure and to improve literacy standards – has a broad social impact, related to areas such as social mobility, education, community engagement and diversity. Publishing also makes a significant contribution to the creative industries as a whole. A growth in publishing and book-buying can only enhance these economic and social benefits.

However the industry’s success would not be possible without the talent and dedication of authors, translators, illustrators and other contributors, and we remain concerned that not enough of this growth is filtering down to the creators. As the results of ALCS’ recent survey highlight, authors’ earnings are in decline and currently average just £10,500. The SoA calls on platforms and publishers to recognise the central role of authors to the industry, and to adequately reward and incentivise them.

The lack of diversity in the industry remains a cause for concern, as does the fact that those books being published do not represent a broad cross-section of society. It is imperative that books reflect the diversity of our society, in order to broaden the readership base and grow the industry further still.

Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, said:

Writers need publishers to succeed and the Society of Authors welcomes these figures.

The strong growth in exports is particularly welcome, highlighting the sustained role of authors and publishers as ambassadors for Britain throughout the world. Our publishing industry is a major source of soft power abroad, and it is critical that this influence does not decline as we prepare to leave the EU.

Our only concern is that not enough of this growth is trickling down to authors, as the results of ALCS’ recent survey highlight. We look forward to working with publishers and the PA to ensure that the proceeds of this growth are shared and that authors, translators, illustrators and other writers are fairly remunerated for the works they create.

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