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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Thanks Barbara, very interesting.

I guess the authors, who all get royalty statements, could make available the sales stats if they want. I don't think there's anything in my contract that says I can't.

The territory thing is a strange animal. I can only say what one of our prime ministers once said, that living next to the USA is like living next to a sleeping elephant - it can roll over and crush you and not even realize it. For places like Canada, if there was no territory, we feel that all our publishers would simply be wiped out by huge American companies - it's a political hot potato, of course, because no one knows for sure, and many people feel a protected territory breeds many poor practices and if those publishers get wiped out they shouldn't have been there in the first place.

It's especually tough in the arts, where cultural imperialism is an even stranger animal. Are we protecting people from their own tastes?

It's certainly a complicated situation.
I hadn't thought about that angle - like the Canadian Film Board supporting film so that there is a Canadian film industry (other than Toronto playing New York's stunt double, which can't be very cheering). I certainly wouldn't want to hurt publishers in countries that don't have an elephantine market. But if they survive by publishing the elephant's books, extending the herd of pachyderms that crowd out the local wildlife ... man, this gets complicated.

For my part, I'd just as soon buy a Canadian book from a Canadian publisher than have to hope some US publisher decides to publish it. Maybe I should make a point of dealing direct.

(And I cringe when I see the stupid pricing of US books for the Canadian market - those numbers should be flipped around these days.)
You've hit on a raw nerve for a lot of Canadians, and when I was signing stock in Chapters/Indigo before I left they told me the pricing had really hurt them last Christmas.

The reality is, it won't change any time soon, because books can sit on shelves for a long time while exchange rates fluctuate.

Going over to Canadian publishers, there is a flip side to the coin. While I'm not advocating that they disappear, one of the problems with an industry surviving off protection and subsidies instead of commercial sales is that they don't necessarily publish what's in demand or of interest to the larger readership. It doesn't force them to be market-savvy, it allows them to indulge niche interests that may not serve anyone other than the few people they choose to publish.

It's a catch 22, because how do you keep the industry alive while also making sure they're actually in tune with Canadian readers?

I don't want to get into citing specific examples, because some people are members here, but it's extremely frustrating that the books that have been put out by Canadian publishers that I've wanted have been often impossible to get in bookstores. That's what's most telling to me. Back when I was submitting I would check to see if the bookstores stocked that publisher, and was amazed at how many didn't stock the books. Bookstores stock based on sales and the prospect of sales, and if you look at it on that level, it suggests Canadian booksellers don't have a lot of faith in Canadian-published books.

Or, if you want an indicator of how different the Canadian publishing industry pulse is from international readership, look at the Arthur Ellis Awards and then look at the Canadian bestsellers. Bestseller does not always equal quality, and we all know awards are subjective and a matter of taste, but something that happened at the awards in 2007 (John knows what I'm talking about, when the nominees were announced) totally turned me off. I decided not to bother submitting my book for it because they'd made it clear that unless you wrote within a certain subgenre, your book would be labeled as trash by the reviewing committee.

I think many great Canadian writers are finding better success outside Canadian borders. All of my reader mail has been from Americans. And men, but that's a whole other subject.
But all of this is also true in the U.S. Even the awards thing is often politicized. Sales are influenced by more than public taste. They can be manipulated by the publisher in a million ways (not the least of which concerns availability in stores).
And if we are dealing with public taste, I have come to realize that the people who read because it's a daily fix for them are not the people who buy books.
For the first time I'm actually involved in one of these organizations (the Crime Writers of Canada) and I'm starting to see what happens with awards is like so many other in things in life - judging is a huge job taken on by volunteers. Not many people want to volunteer their time - especially for something likely to be filled with controversy, so most people you ask just say no. You get the best people you can, and they often have particular tastes, and are aware of the politics.

I would like it if we could ignore awards altogether, but it seems we're moving in the opposite direction.
Well, I won an award once and it helped me get the novels published, so I think awards (juried!) are a wonderful thing for authors. I returned the favor by reading for the same award and for another sponsored by the same group. The fact that they gave me an award is enough proof for me that they are not biased one way or another. I'm proud of that fact and shall try my best to be a good judge.
The other aspect of juried awards is that they recognize quality when frequently neither the publishers nor the public do.
So do volunteer to read for CRIME WRITERS OF CANADA. They need good people and your fellow writers will thank you for it.
It seems to me that during the 80s and much of the 90s the UK was having a love affair with the States generally. American music, films etc were ubiquitous and we jumped hell for leather into folowing the free market ecomony model.
At that point we loved American culture - liking nothing btter than watching and reading about alien social problems such as gun crime, gang violence, racial segregation at root level etc. At the time it seemed exciting.
Now we are having all those problems ourselves so we don't need to look externally anymore. British writers can now write 'urban' fluidly and with authenticity so there is much more competition.
Also Britain is currently having an anti American backlash generally - the war is hugely unpopular, Brown is distancing himself, the sub prime market collapse has had a knock on effect on our housing market, oil prices etc etc
Much of what the Brits loved about American culture is now seen as problematic...
That said, strong foreign writers break through every week. The cream will always rise to the top.
HB x


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