Frankfurt 2019 Rights Meeting Recap: The Czech Book Market

This year’s Rights Meting at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October explored a series of exciting book markets and rights selling technologies, covering various aspects of the Chinese book market, the Czech and Slovak markets, and digital tools such as blockchain. In our latest blog series, we are sharing some of the insights we gleaned from the event presentations and discussions. In today’s post, we provide a synopsis of Kristin Olson’s presentation on the book market in the Czech Republic.

Known as part of Czechoslovakia for much of the 20th century, the present-day Czech Republic was established in 1993 after the “velvet divorce” or peaceful division of the country’s two main groups, the Czechs and Slovaks, into two separate nations. Despite the separation and the cultural differences between the Czech Republic (population approx. 10 million) than the Slovak Republic (population approx. 5 million), both countries still share some commonalities when it comes to books. As Kristin Olson of Kristin Olson Literary Agency in Prague explained to the audience at the Frankfurt Rights Meeting, Czechs and Slovaks love to read and both enjoy a big book loving culture, with 98% of Czech and Slovak households having a home library. The Czech and Slovak languages are mutually understandable which also means that the Czech and Slovak book markets remain closely related. Olson further noted that both countries boast some of the highest per capita number of books read per year in Europe—book buying is a regular activity, especially around the holidays when everyone gives and/or receives a book for Christmas. In fact, Olson noted that the pre-Christmas sales season is the biggest of the year, sometimes accounting for up to 70% of a publisher’s entire turnover for the year.

According to Olson, the Czech and Slovak tastes most closely follow tastes in the bigger Polish and German markets and, even though the Czech market has often been perceived to be “intellectual,” commercial thrillers sell just as well in that market as they do elsewhere. Adult titles that are selling well in the Czech market include commercial thrillers, history, health, and lifestyle trends. Children’s titles that sell well in the Czech and Slovak markets include realistic YA, fantasy YA, and humorous middle grade books. Conversely, Olson explained adult titles on politics, current affairs, romance, and military history are not selling well, while children’s picture books and nonfiction tend not to sell well either.

With their local economies experiencing solid growth rates (3%), the Czech and Slovak Republics make a great market for translation rights sales. However, while Czech books are sold in Slovakia, Slovak books are not sold in the Czech market. Olson pointed out that for this reason, it’s important for Slovak publishers to publish first, or coordinate timing with Czech publication. To familiarize her audience with some of the intricacies of publishing and rights sales in the Czech (and Slovak) market, Olson shared a number of important publishing statistics.

Retail, as in many other markets, is marked by small independent bookstores being eclipsed by bookstore chains, with the biggest growth in bookstores occurring in large shopping malls. The largest trade publishers, such as Euromedia, Argo, Albatros, Grada, and Beta, also own their own large distribution companies and retail sales outlets, unlike in Western Europe and North America where wholesaling is typically an entirely separate line of business. This can create problems in the retail market since distributors will typically give priority placement and attention (and bigger discounts) to titles from their own publishers.

Average print run for a regular trade title is 1,500–2,000 copies, bestsellers are 4,000 copies and up, while extremely successful bestsellers are 20,000 copies and up.

Average retail price of an adult trade title is €17–15.70 EUR, a children’s title is €8.70–7.80 EUR (parents will not pay much more for children’s books, so the retail price is definitely limited).

Value Added Tax (VAT) on books in the Czech market is 10% for printed books and 21% ebooks. It is 10% on printed books and 20% on ebooks in the Slovak market.

Average advance for a title is 1,500 EUR/USD or from 5000 EUR/USD and up for a bestseller. The average audio advance is 1,000 EUR/USD, and the average renewal advance is 500 EUR/USD and up.

Average royalties are from 7% of retail price less VAT; ebooks 25% of net receipts, and book clubs receive 5–6% of book club member’s price (only Euromedia and Albatros have in-house book clubs).

Standard term of license is five years from the date of agreement.

Subsidiary rights: None! These are sold separately which translates to more money and greater transparency.

Main sub rights are audio, theater performance, and radio broadcast.

No hardcover/softcover market. Books published in hardcover or paperback only and paperback reprints are rare. Book buyers prefer hardcover for their home libraries, and most trade fiction and nonfiction are hardcover, while most mind/body/spirit is trade paperback, and genre fiction such as sci-fi and fantasy is mass market.

Translations are big in this market. For example, 35% of all published titles are translations from other languages. The major translation languages are from English (54%), German (15%), and Slovak (6%), while French and Scandinavian languages (2%) are smaller, and Spanish, Russian, Polish, and Italian represent less than 2%.

Total number of titles published per year is approximately 15,000. General trade fiction and nonfiction account for 63%, while children’s titles have been growing steadily for the past 15 years and represent approximately 12% of the total number of titles. Textbooks have been dropping steadily and are now at 5%, while academic/professional/technical nonfiction represent about 20% of the total number. Many publishers are increasing production and publishing more titles, but in lower print runs.

Consolidation is on the rise with the fastest growing market publishers trying to gain a bigger market share. Only 20 publishers publish more than 100 titles per year and 14 general trade houses publish more than 100 titles per year. Nevertheless, there is still a large number of small, independent houses compared to Western Europe or North America (for example, the top five largest publishers in the Czech Republic have only have a 38% market share as compared to over 75% in Holland or France).

Digital book market is growing but still smaller than other markets (only about 3% of the overall market) largely because of the preference for print books for personal libraries. Digital books are primarily sold through ebook retailers (Palmknihy, e-Reading) or online by bookshops ( ,—not directly by publishers.

Ebook retailers take ca 40% discount and ebook pricing is generally 60–70% of the trade retail price. Some publishers report ebook sales of up to 50% (and 50% for the trade version), especially for romance.

Audiobook market is growing 20% year on year even though it still only accounts for about 2% of the total book market. This growth is expected to continue, and audio publishers need to continue to produce interesting content to attract buyers, making it difficult for independent audio publishers to keep up with demand. Currently, the largest audio publishers are OneHotBook, Tympanum, and Bookmedia while many trade publishers, such as Euromedia, Albatros, and Host are now developing their own in-house audio programs because traditional producers are overwhelmed.

Audio sales are fairly narrowly focused on business, thrillers and children’s titles, but backlist sales are developing steadily.

The Czech and Slovak book markets are healthy and growing. Strong local economies are predicted to keep growing, so book sales should continue steadily for the next couple of years. Olson explained that despite the consolidation trend, more than 2,100 publishers published at least one title last year and more than 300 new publishers register for business every year. Many of these new publishers are often enthusiasts with little experience, so Olson cautioned that local insider knowledge is key in helping to navigate a landscape punctuated with numerous publishers and many small deals.

01/06/2020 | Book Fairs, Digital, Distribution, Events, Export, Rights