In this real-life case study, a start-up children’s publisher embarked on export planning and implementation as follows:

  • The company was established in the 2010s by a children’s publisher who had worked for several large publishing firms. That publisher had a strong track record and reputation for author discovery and development, and for publishing books that became international bestsellers; but in the new venture concentrated at first on the UK market.
  • Realising that there was likely to be an opportunity beyond the UK market, the publisher recruited a consultant to devise and implement an export strategy. At this stage the publisher’s sales arrangements included representation in Europe, but sales were low and no part was played by other overseas markets. Sales outside the UK represented 1.7% of total business.
  • Knowing the publisher’s track record, the consultant recognised that there was considerable potential for growing the business into international markets, with all the benefits noted in the introductory section of this guide.
  • The consultant prioritised the various overseas regions and markets, and travelled first to Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), knowing that the largest rewards in the children’s area were to be had in those countries. Meetings took place with several potential distributor partners, and the ANZ associate company of an international group was selected. A contract was duly drawn up and signed. Significant business quickly began to develop.
  • In the USA, the publisher had already established a publishing partnership with a major firm which was a member of the same group as the chosen publisher-distributor in ANZ. The ANZ initiative further cemented that relationship. This US arrangement meant that the chosen avenue into that market was through licensing rather than distribution.
  • The next priority was South Africa, where the consultant’s connections together with the publisher’s reputation secured a distribution agreement with a prominent company in the market.
  • Complementing these distribution arrangements in the English-language markets of the southern hemisphere, the consultant appointed commission sales agents to cover (a) East Asia and (b) the Caribbean and Latin America.
  • It proved hard at this stage to find the right distributor in India. Although India is a high-volume market for children’s books, market pricing means that profitability is hard to achieve. The best course will most likely be to appoint the Indian associate company of one of the international publishing groups.

Within little more than a year of setting up these sales and distribution networks, the export share of total business moved from 1.7% to around 33%, a level which PA statistics suggest should be a ball-park target for such a publisher. This was clearly transformative for the business.

Firms seeking to export should not expect to achieve such remarkable change as a matter of course: each list will have its own potential. But this case study indicates (a) what may be possible and (b) the usefulness of PA statistics in offering a bench-mark.