In advance of Switzerland’s appearance as the Guest of Honour at the 2019 Bologna Children’s Book Fair, we present a brief overview of the country and its publishing industry.
Known for its neutrality, Switzerland is a small but mighty country with strong political and economic ties to its European neighbours. These ties are further strengthened by its participation in various international organizations, including the United Nations.
Switzerland has always had a diverse population, thanks in part to its historical and geographical connections to Italy, France and Austria. More recently, immigration has also has an impact on Switzerland’s diversity. As of 2017, Switzerland has a diverse range of languages present in its population:
|German (or Swiss German) (official)||62.8%|
This level of diversity has had an impact on the country’s cultural policy and industries. Self-described as a nation ‘’united by choice’’, Switzerland dedicates funding to cultural activities at all levels of government. The goal of the funding is to both promote national unity and explore Switzerland’s unique cultural identities. While cultural funding is present in government policies at all levels, its 26 cantons, or regional governments, provide the majority of funding. In 2017, CHF2.8 billion ($2.9 billion) money was invested in cultural activities, with CHF300 million coming from federal funding and the rest covered by the cantons (https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/arts-funding/29055484).
The federal government’s contributions target national cultural institutions, such as the national library and museums, through the Federal Office of Culture. One such institution, Pro-Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council, is a foundation established to promote Swiss works at home and abroad. The foundation supports Swiss artists who take on international projects or collaborations.
Like other book markets, Swiss book sellers struggle to compete in an international marketplace dominated by big discount stores and online retailers such as Amazon. In a 2014 interview with Swiss Info, Richard Harvell from Bergli Books, a Swiss publisher, provided additional insight into the Swiss market. Amazon and online stores are considered a threat, as they offer the same titles at a steep discount compared to the Swiss price. This discount creates sticker shock for potential customers who are used to Amazon and discount prices, whic creates a lot of competition in an already small market. Publishers are therefore careful about what they publish, especially when publishing an English-language title that will have to compete with Amazon and other online retailers.
Harvell expressed a disinterest in risk-taking in the Swiss market, stating that unless a publisher expects a title to sell at least 5000 copies, they will not select it for publication. Nevertheless, Swiss publishers are interested in publishing new material and keeping their lists active, and have expressed interest in considering translation and licensing rights. When it comes the children’s market, YA fiction and especially YA fiction with crossover appeal are highly sought after and are areas of Swiss publishing that are doing well.
For more information on Switzerland’s book market and the 2019 Bologna Children’s Book Fair Guest of Honour program, visit the following pages.
Swiss Books Bologna 2019: http://www.bookfair.bolognafiere.it/en/the-fair/switzerland-2019-guest-of-honour-country/5660.html
Swiss Publisher’s Association: https://www.sbvv.ch/
Federal Office of Culture: http://www.bak.admin.ch/org/index.html?lang=en
AdS – Authors of Switzerland: https://www.a-d-s.ch/index.php?id=469
Association suisse des diffuseurs, éditeurs et libraires (ASDEL): https://www.asdel.ch/
Swiss Books (): https://swissbooks.ch/
Interview with Richard Harvell: English books in Switzerland: a new chapter?