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British publisher provides challenge in US market

27 February 2017

The successful growth of new British publisher Head of Zeus shows how an international approach to publishing can put a business in a strong position through challenging the traditional approach to publishing markets.

Head of Zeus is supposed to get to £20m turnover by 2020. Last year, its fourth since launch, it achieved £7m, an increase of 31% from the £5.4m it reached in 2015, and it made a profit of £825,000 on the year. Although ebooks and print books contributed equally to the figures, it was the launch of the ebook-only Aria list and its direct-to-the-US business, which represented 22% of Head of Zeus' total e-book revenue in 2016, which accelerated its growth.

CEO Amanda Ridout said the company was making "particular headway" in the US with its Aria list:

‘We have a lot of rights for e-books because it's absolutely imperative that when we take on awards authors we get world English-language rights. So we have the rights for all our authors in the US, which gives us a good portfolio of content and this has been really successful for us for building that e-book revenue across Aria.

Interestingly, many of our Head of Zeus storytellers that we have - for example [Women's fiction author] Diney Costeloeo - they don't really sell [well] in print, but we sell a huge number of e-books [globally], which goes to prove that the readers for these stories are universal. Sometimes when one discusses publishers in America, for example, they won't necessarily think that type of women's fiction would work in America, but what we've been managing to do via 'e' revenue is get round the gatekeepers and appeal directly to the readers, and that's been very satisfying because we've had these great results.'

Could ebook sales operations like these spell the end of the traditional English language markets of the US, the UK, Canada and Australia? If a publisher can acquire world rights in authors, there's no reason this will not work with ebooks, because of the ease of delivery to an international audience. It may put publishers on the defensive, but it only mirrors what self-publishers have achieved across the world.