The thread about finding a US publisher mentions that the UK market is "constricted" (not sure what that means).

As Canadian, all we hear about is the US market and I'm wondering, are there any reliable stats for sales of crime fiction in the UK and US?

The US is a big market, but like the rest of things in the US these days it seems very divided along all kinds of lines so looking at it as one market doesn't seem to work. For example, is the market for, say, Ken Bruen that much bigger in the US than in the UK/Ireland/Canada/Australia?

Maybe be genre is a better way to put it. What's the difference in size of the cozy market - UK vs US? The thriller market? The noir market?

Any idea how to check this?

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I suppose you could ask Ken directly how his sales figures compare in the two countries, if that's something he would know off-hand.

I would think that for a popular author, such as Lee Child, his sales figures in the U.S. would be much larger than in the U.K. simply because of the difference in population, but for someone less known the sales figures might be much closer.

Canada's Linwood Barclay for instance had a huge hit in Germany with his last thriller, but did his book sell as many copies in the UK and US? I see that his new book has been selected for the Richard & Judy summer show, which means it is guaranteed to be a huge hit for him in the UK. The average R&J pick sells around 250,000 copies in the UK.
There are other issues to consider in terms of one author's sales. If you read the interview I did with Ken Bruen in Spinetingler in 2007, he was clear on the point that he'd never broken through sales-wise in the UK, ever. Now, I happen to have some idea of his hardcover sales of Jack Taylor books because he once mentioned numbers to me, but I'm not in a position to share that without his consent. Let's just say I can guarantee you based off what I know that his sales are considerably stronger in the US... and this may be in part because HACKMAN BLUES was targeted by Ruth Rendell and PD James to be banned and became quite controversial, and apparently some in the UK are prone to taking offense from everything Ken says or does.

Speaking generally, I'd say the thriller market is stronger in the US, the cozy market is strongest in Canada (duh!) and police procedurals and cozies are the mainstays in the UK. But those are extreme generalizations. Simon Kernick is an exception to the thriller rule for the UK, and of course there are police procedurals that do extremely well in the US.

I had always thought it would be better to have a UK publisher. Usually they take Commonwealth English rights and distribute in Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Of course, this thinking was probably fueled by my love of British police procedurals. But I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that the UK has a bigger readership - Canada's readership is holding strong and the population buys more books (when you break the numbers down per person) than the US population. Of course, overall, US sales will topple Canadian in terms of volume, but I always thought the UK was pretty comparable to the US market in terms of numbers. Could be wrong about that, though.

Have to say that I love having a US publisher, though. It was really funny that in Canada, it was clear in Chapters none of the staff had heard of my book, and other than the airport it was shelved regularly everywhere I went for signings (although some moved the books to display tables after I signed) but in the US Barnes and Noble had me on the paperback display racks and end caps for a solid month. I think it's probable that I wouldn't have experienced that if my publisher hadn't been a larger US publisher.
I am not sure that I agree that the UK market is "constricted". You have to remember that the US is bigger than the UK. Furthermore you have more independent publishers in the US than in the UK that are willing to take chances with novels. I have always maintained that here in the UK that they don't take the crime fiction/mystery novels as seriously as they should. Sometimes I feel that we are just the poor relations of any other genre which is wrong. As for authors like Ken Bruen, I believe that he has a wider readership in the States. Those of us who read him here in the UK are those that are really into our crime fiction and read widely. Another point that comes to mind is the fact that publicity for books in the US is much better than publicity here in the UK.
For sats in the UK I would either try the Crime Writers Association (they may be able to help) or possibly the bookseller. You may get some luck from the publishers.
Thanks for your comments, John. By "constricted" I meant choked - as in, fewer publishers, the market choked up with celebrity biographies, biographical accounts of painful childhoods, JK Rowling (no axe to grind about JK, of course, she had a lengthy journey to her first sale, and it's great that she has such success), and a few other things. There are plenty of great British crime authors, of course. But conventional wisdom — the word of several agents I've spoken to, and a bookseller with insider knowledge — suggests that getting a first novel published in the UK is nigh impossible, whereas chances in the USA are somewhat better.
Thanks guys, interesting stuff.

I guess I was kind of looking at it like this - there's a huge market in the US for NFL football, but not much of a market for soccer. There's a huge market in the UK for soccer but not much of a market for NFL football.

So, is the market size for every kind of book so much bigger in the US?

The populations of the US is about 300 million and just so I can do the math, let's say the population of the UK/Ireland/Canada is about 100 million.

But once you start subtracting people whose first language isn't english (what is that in the US, 20%? more?) and people who claim they 'never' or 'almost never' read novels and then add in tastes, to me, the market starts to look different.

Like all statistical analysis you remove the very top and very bottom (so we can remove Harry Potter and 500 print run small press books) and then I wonder where we are.

Maybe I just find in Canada there's far too much pressure to serve the US market potential and I want to see evidence that the real, potential market for specific kinds of books is really that big. Every one of those 300 million people isn't a seriously potential buyer of every book.

And, you know, we always think the grass is greener....
Which is interesting, as some of the debut authors this year that have gained my attention - Grant McKenzie, Tony Black and Russel D. McLean - all have UK deals.

I do think that the UK market is going through a transitional period and that there's been a lot of change overall, and that may be affecting the process at the moment. The Waterstones/Ottakers buyout has also affected bookselling in the country. Ayo could probably speak better to that than I could, in terms of how much it affected the publishers in the short term.
Sandra confirms what I've always assumed about U.K. markets -- in terms of readership etc. I cannot make headway there at all writing historicals, though the British seem to like them. Strangely (the logic of this escapes me), a British publisher would have to pick up the titles and print them, and my agent tells me that that market is tougher than any other foreign markets. My assumption has been that preferential treatment is given to British authors. This may also affect Ken Bruen's case. I don't know HANGMAN BLUES, but for me Ken's work is extremely uneven. I'm a great fan of the Jack Taylor novels which I've found as good as anything I've read in the subgenre -- and maybe better -- but I have reservations about some of the glibly violent stuff. This may well be a matter of taste.
"My assumption has been that preferential treatment is given to British authors."

Generally speaking, I'd agree.

I was also told for many years that Americans liked to read about Americans, that it would be impossible to sell a Canadian series to a US publisher. That may have affected my thinking, that I'd stand a better chance in the UK of being published, but both John and I have Canadian settings and have been picked up by larger US publishers, so I definitely don't see that as the current mentality.

And both Louise Penny and Giles Blunt have used Canadian settings and done extremely well in the UK, so it just goes to show that there are no hard and fast rules, I guess.
For what it's worth, I asked my agent about the possibility of finding a UK publisher, since I'd reviewed a number of British and Irish that were of similar tone to mine, and we'd had a few near-misses here in the States. Her reply was that it is more difficult to break in throuhg the UK and move to America than vice versa. Considering the comments I'm reading here, I think I see why.

Thanks to John for starting an interesting and valuable thread.
Well, for purely selfish reasons, Dana, I'm hoping this isn't true ;-)
I think she was referring to someone trying to get his first book published in the UK. I review a lot of books by British and Irish writers who have found publishers here after getting a start over there.
I think one thing that it's safe to say is that nobody knows much of anything about the book market, of if they are, they aren't telling.

Publishers don't want to share information about their sales (other than 'profits were X this quarter') because of competition. This means we also can never form a rational opinion of where the industry is headed or whether they are making smart or daft decisions.

A couple of reports have been published in the last year (one from BISG, the other from a UK outfit that I can't recall at the moment - it came out in the past week or so and was reported in the Bookseller.) They may have useful data, but they cost hundreds of dollars / pounds so they aren't something individuals are likely to buy, nor do libraries, and I can't imagine smaller publishers are likely to buy them, and within a big house, the copy is probably stuck in some administrative office. To me, that sort of information should be paid for by publishers' associations and put on the Web to promote the industry and our shared understanding of it, but they'd rather have a teeny audience. They're so frigging timid. And why should information be hoarded so jealously. These are BOOKS for god's sake. To be read, not shut away in a corner.

While I'm on a rant, I find the idea of "territories" for books increasingly stupid. I'm just reviewing Ian Rankin's Exit Music and Steig Larsson's Girl With a Dragon Tattoo for Mystery Scene. I've been hearing about these books for ages. They seem like old news, but they're just about to finally be launched in the US. We already bought the brit edition of Larsson at my library, and Rebus fans probably ordered Exit Music months ago. The more we hear about globalization, the more balkanized the entertainment industries make themselves. What a strange set of cross-currents.


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