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News

Publishing In Russia 2012: Publishers in a Changing Industry

PW would like to thank the following for making this report possible: Vladimir Grigoriev, deputy director of the Federal Agency of Press and Mass Communication, for supporting our efforts, and Alexandra Shipetina, v-p of the Russian Book Union (as well as v-p of Centrepolygraph), for contacting report participants, fixing up appointments, and acting as general minder and interpreter.

Acknowledgments

The following articles are available online in conjunction with this print report: The Rights Side of Business, The Agents’ Dozen (on 12 recommended authors), Independent Children’s Book Publishers, Charting the Bestsellers. Visit www.publishersweekly.com/ReadRussia2012 for additional coverage of the industry. New articles will be added each week leading up to the Read Russia 2012 Festival (running June 1–8 in New York City) during and following BEA.

Online Coverage of Russia’s Book Market

On November 28, the 14th fair will feature Germany as the guest of honor and a program that revolves around a series of “values” lectures on trust, equality, and freedom. The children’s program will be led by child psychologist Angela Tamm.

“The Non/Fiction Fair attracts more press coverage than any other event, and it is here that foreign publishers come to search for information on the Russian book industry and interesting works for translation. Within the past five years, it has become more commercially viable and popular, shifting from an exclusive event for Russian intellectuals to one of Moscow’s main publishing events,” adds Makarova, whose main goal is to create a demand for high-quality publications by analyzing reading preferences. An expert committee (that includes Natasha Perova of GLAS and Irina Prokhorova of NLO), established at the beginning, further helps to ensure the fair’s focus on high-quality literature. “We continue to emphasize popular science literature, which enjoyed much demand during Soviet times but faded during perestroika. It is now being revived. Obviously, nonfiction of any kind is preferred over pure fiction at our fair. In recent years, we are seeing more docu-fiction, or literature on new realism, and intellectual writings on futuristic fantasies.”

Held at the Central House of Artists by the privately owned company Expo-Park (which also organizes several other cultural fairs), the five-day annual event typically kicks off at the end of November. The organizer is known for its support of indie publishers, offering exhibition space at reduced price and special venues for events and presentations. “Last year, we went a little further by giving indie publishers the best location—right after the entrance. Our rationale is simple: these are the publishers with unique programs that uncover new talents and works. They take risks and invest money in cultivating future literary stars where others would not,” says Expo-Park director Anna Makarova. Naturally, these indie publishers chose to launch the Alliance of Independent Publishers and Booksellers at the fair in 2011.

It started from an idea for a new type of book fair that would focus on high-quality and serious books at a time when commercial works were very popular. The inaugural fair took place in 1998, and today big commercial publishers are allowed to participate only with a highly selective range of titles. Last year, it hosted more than 300 events, 34,000 attendees, and 290 publishing companies from 20 countries. About 4,000 foreign visitors (up from 3,000 in 2010) turned up for the fair.

Non/Fiction Fair

Work has started on the 2012 MIBF (September 5–10), which will feature France as the guest of honor. More than 300 events have been planned, and authors such as Mikhail Shishkin, Dmitry Bykov, Valentine Rasputin, Vladimir Makanin, and Yuri Polyakov are expected to grace the fair.

MIBF operates under the aegis of the Federal Agency of Press and Mass Communications, but the General Directorate functions as a private for-profit organization with no government funding. “Our fair plays an important social role in promoting regional works and publishers, as well as encouraging rights trading and translations,” adds Ovsyannikov. “For these reasons, we provide nearly 30% of the exhibition space free or with some discount to small and independent regional publishers, especially those in the business and children’s segments.”

The General Directorate organized a special reading campaign called “Book Turnover,” for visitors to exchange read books with new ones. “We also held a gala ceremony for the Books of the Year Award, as well as a few new competitions such as Runet Book Prize, Biblio-Partnership, and Reading Leader, to further the book industry’s development and to promote reading.”

Last year’s 24th MIBF event saw 180,000 visitors and 1,572 exhibitors from 57 countries occupying nearly 36,000 square meters of exhibition space. “There were 500 events, 26 roundtables, 25 conferences, 313 presentations, 176 author meetings, and 17 master classes and training sessions,” says MIBF director Nikolay Ovsyannikov. One thing he has witnessed in recent years is an increased interest among visitors and exhibitors in new technologies and methodologies associated with book promotion, copyright issues, on-demand printing, and reading promotion. “New trends are always taken into consideration when we plan for the next event. For instance, last year’s inaugural On-Demand Russia conference was dedicated to digital publishing and printing technologies, while the Science Book Festival was aimed at reviving interest in popular science literature. And for Russian readers keen to interact with popular authors, we introduced the Author’s Corner, to facilitate literary discussion between readers and authors.”

Billed as Russia’s largest book forum, the annual Moscow International Book Fair (MIBF), held over six days in September, is organized by the General Directorate of International Book Exhibitions and Fairs. The company is also responsible for the Russian Books National Book Fair in March (showcasing some 1,000 exhibitors from around the country) and the Russian national stands at various international book fairs, such as Beijing, Cairo, Frankfurt, New Delhi, Barcelona, Jerusalem, Paris, and Warsaw.

Moscow International Book Fair

Given the size of Russia (the biggest country in the world, with nine time zones), one finds a mix of international, national, and regional book fairs. The two biggest events are, of course, the Moscow International Book Fair and the Non/Fiction Fair, described below. Then there are smaller events in St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Krasnoyarsk, Perm, Kirov, and other cities that help publishers get in touch with readers in Russia’s far-flung corners. For nonreaders (with the objective to get them to start reading), the Moscow Book Market Festival, where visitors can listen to authors, watch performances, and attend plays, is the event to look out for.

Fairs and Festivals

You can join the conversation on the event, starting on May 1, through@ReadRussia2012, Facebook.com/ReadRussia2012, or YouTube.com/ReadRussia2012, or access the official Web site at www.ReadRussia2012.com for more information.

Somewhere down the road, Kaufman hopes that the publishing and literary community will come together to build a bigger market on American soil for new Russian writings, and to do so through dynamic means. “Technology holds such promise: imagine deploying the Web, video, and social media to advance this goal of informing publishers and editors about new works and ideas. And this is exactly what we are doing with the Read Russia program.”

Sponsored by the Russian Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication under the direction of Vladimir Grigoriev, the Read Russia Literary Showcase will present panel discussions, readings, and workshops with 25 contemporary writers, including Dmitrii Bykov, Sergei Lukyanenko, Vladimir Makanin, Edward Radzinsky, the pseudonymous Master Chen, and Mikhail Shishkin. There will be a public exhibition of illustrations from Russian children’s books published between 1881 and 1939, featuring 50 original volumes and 150 replica posters (from a private collection). The Read Russia program will also present The Russians Are Coming! In Search of the (New) Great Russian Novel, a documentary film introducing the Russian literary successors to Gogol, Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Pasternak. New York–based Overlook Press, known for publishing Russian literature, will release a new anthology featuring excerpts from 40 contemporary Russian works in time for BEA. American booksellers are also involved, collaborating with BEA on a campaign to promote Russian contemporary authors through the 2012 holiday season.

Says president and executive director Peter Kaufman of Read Russia 2012, “America’s literary and cultural connection to Russia and Russian books and ideas stretches across centuries, with some decades marked by intense political and social changes in both countries. Personally, I find this program—maybe the largest ever to be held since the 1920s—a great opportunity to re-establish this connection and to promote Russian literature and book culture to the U.S.”

With Russia as the country of honor at the June BookExpo America, a citywide festival to celebrate contemporary Russian arts and culture is in preparation. Running from June 1 to 8 at leading cultural institutions and social venues across New York City, Read Russia 2012 will find contemporary and classic Russian writers exchanging ideas with American literary stars as well as stage and screen personalities. And from June 4 to 7, BEA will feature special programs on Russian publishing, book culture, theater, and film at the Javits Center’s 4,000-sq.-ft. Russian national exhibit and performance space.

Read Russia 2012

Then there is the translators seminar, where translations of Tolstoy’s and other Russian writers’ works are discussed, workshops with famous Tolstoy translators organized, and newly published translations presented. Adds Tolstoy, “This year also marks the start of our collaboration with the Prosvetitel Prize—established in 2008 for nonfiction, specifically the humanities and the sciences—to organize lectures by Prosvetitel winners and shortlisted Yasnaya Polyana authors. It is going to be a very busy year indeed.”

In August, Tolstoy will organize the fifth biennial family reunion, where approximately 130 family members will get together for a week. “After that, we have the annual International Meeting of Writers, an event launched in 1996, where topics selected for discussion often center on Leo Tolstoy and parallel events during a specific time period. Milorad Pavic, Mario Vargas Llosa, Tibor Fischer, James Morrow, and Alessandro Baricco are among our past attendees.”

The prize, launched 10 years ago, has two categories: XXI Century for post-2000 works, and Modern Classics for those before. “Most literary prizes focus on titles published during the previous year, which often does not give books that are not noticed by readers and literary events a chance. Our book prize seeks to change that,” says Tolstoy. In 2011, for example, the prize, jointly sponsored by Samsung, went to Elena Katishonok (Once There Lived the Old Man and His Wife, a 2009 Russian Booker shortlisted entry) and Fazil Iskander (Sandro of Chegem, a 1966 work). Past winners include Mikhail Kuraev (Captain Dikshtein), Mikhail Tarkovsky (Frozen Time), Vladimir Lichutin (The Schism), and Vasily Golovanov (The Island).

“We differ from other publishing houses in that we focus on books on Leo Tolstoy and the places where he lived, which means that there are big books and small brochures, serious research as well as titles for children so that they can get acquainted with Tolstoy early in their lives. We also publish a collection of articles about Tolstoy and winners of the Yasnaya Polyana Book Prize.”

No venue is more appropriate to host the Garden of Geniuses Festival than Yasnaya Polyana, the museum estate of Leo Tolstoy. “This five-day event is organized every summer to fete seven literary greats from around Europe—Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Goethe, Hugo, Joyce, and, of course, Tolstoy—and preserve classical literature. It has actors and musicians from the seven countries doing open-air performances that promote the literary heritage of these authors,” says director (and great-great-grandson) Vladimir Tolstoy, whose publishing team handles 40 to 50 fiction and nonfiction titles annually including multilingual guidebooks for the museum estate.

Yasnaya Polyana

Vremya distributes directly to retailers like Moscow Bookstore and Biblio-Globus, and gives only one-third of its stock to its biggest wholesaler, 36.6 (which in turn supplies to Ozon.ru). “Giving all your titles to one party is like giving away your independence,” says Pasternak. “We cannot rely on big distribution networks that are owned by major publishers because they prefer stocking their own titles. They only want our bestsellers such as Zhvalevsky, whose titles sold upward of 400,000 copies.” One very important partner, he adds, is the Pushkin Library Fund, which distributes Vremya’s catalogue to libraries and solicits orders.

Obviously (given Morits’s book), Vremya does not cater only to adults. “Contrary to popular beliefs, the YA segment did exist during the U.S.S.R. period, but it disappeared until the Harry Potter phenomenon hit Russia. Since then, YA and children’s publishing have flourished. We went into this segment about two years ahead of others and cultivated local talents. Now we have 15 titles by popular authors such as Marietta Chudakova, Andrey Zhvalevsky, Evgeniia Pasternak, and Igor Mytko.” A political activist, Chudakova delivers her vision through a series of adventure novels featuring teenage protagonist Zhenya Osinkina, and pens Not for Adults to recommend books that teenagers should read. The latter is a hit with librarians. Vremya is confident of another smash with Zhvalevsky and Pasternak’s forthcoming YA title, I Want to Go to School.

But Vremya’s popularity is mostly attributed to the fact that it has the most award-winning titles. Here is a sampling from 2011: Book of the Year (for the complete works of Andrey Platonov), National Award for Literature and Art (Yunna Morits, The Roof Went Home), Russian Booker of the Decade (Alexandr Chudakov, A Gloom Is Cast Upon the Ancient Steps), and Yasnaya Polyana Prize (Elena Katishonok, There Once Lived an Old Man and His Wife).

Being a small publisher with 100 to 120 new titles per year is a good thing in a declining book market, says managing director Boris Pasternak. “We are much more nimble in adapting to changing times. Moreover, our titles, which are available in small quantities, are targeted at a small group of avid readers who would continue to buy books even when the economy is in the doldrums. Our complete works of 20th-century classical authors such as Solzhenitsyn, Platonov, Babel, Zoschenko, Iskander, Vysotsky, and Zhvanetsky are always in demand. These authors are published by others, too, but critics find our editions different and better, hence their popularity.”

Vremya

To mark the anniversary of the 1812 Patriotic War, several titles on the history of Veliky Novgorod, the Rurikovich dynasty, the Romanovs, as well as a series on the Time of Troubles are in the pipeline. “We have also noted the great nostalgia for old Russia among those over 50 years old. So we are working on a special series called Made in the U.S.S.R. to target this niche segment,” adds Dmitriev.

Two other big projects last year were the 45-volume Secret History series and the 40-volume Collection of Historical Novels. As for bestsellers, the honor goes to two Veche originals (100 of the Great Mysteries and Prayers of Russian Poets) and two translations (John Gardner’s Return of Moriarty and George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman’s Papers).

Interestingly, it is a special photography/travelogue title, The World Through the Eyes of Bloggers, which took the spotlight in 2011. It marks a major departure from Veche’s core subject areas, namely history and military nonfiction. The project, with avid traveler Dmitriev contributing the concluding chapter, is such a success that a month-long open-air exhibit of the photographs was held under the auspices of the National Geographic Society last August and September along Moscow Boulevard. “We are working on an app based on this title while working on Russia Through the Eyes of Bloggers, which is set for an April launch. Another project is a 340-page book, Our Home: Earth, with cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin that will feature more than 300 photos taken from space.” More illustrated titles and other formats featuring bloggers are on Dmitriev’s to-do list.

Last year, editor-in-chief Sergey Dmitriev and his team published 833 titles, of which 550 are new, and printed a total of 7.1 million copies. “In general, sales through traditional retail channels were down, while traffic through Ozon.ru increased slightly,” says Dmitriev. “Fortunately, abridged versions of our major bestsellers, priced at 100 rubles, or $3.50, sold very well through magazine and newspaper kiosks. While the retail price of these versions is low, so are our production costs, making it workable even for 30,000 copies.” Encouraged by the positive response, Dmitriev is working on even cheaper adaptations of Veche’s bestselling 40-volume History of Russian Orthodoxy. Set for launch this autumn, titles such as Ten Centuries of Russian Orthodoxy and Baptism of Russia will retail at 80 rubles each.

Veche

Another Slovo division, less known outside of Russia, focuses on collector’s library editions. Its 10-volume Dostoyevski set, for instance, is a $2,000 special collector’s edition in hand-bound authentic leather. Then there are the 50-volume Children’s Classics, 100-volume Russian Classics, and 100-volume Foreign Classics, all printed and bound in Italy. “These sets are mostly purchased by private collectors and government libraries. Few retailers can stock such products—there is not enough space for display—and direct B2C sale is the simplest. They do sell well at a few old, central bookshops and through Ozon.ru, though.” Given the price tag, it makes perfect sense to advertise them in Tatler’s and Vogue magazines. “Such ads allow us to show how beautifully the 50 or 100 volumes come together, and many people buy them not just for their reading pleasure but also for display.”

As for bestsellers, nothing beats the 16-volume Greatest Museums of the World series launched in 1998, which features, among others, the Vatican, the National Gallery of London, Uffizi and Pitti Galleries, and St. Petersburg’s Hermitage. “The print run has exceeded 100,000 copies for the series. As far as we know, it is the biggest illustrated series on museums of the world.” The Tretyakov Gallery is the subject for the upcoming volume.

Recently, Slovo has revived its fiction program, which, together with children’s books, was its main focus 23 years ago. “But we are very selective. For instance, we published Conan Doyle’s The Narrative of John Smith because of its value, and releasing any of his unpublished works is in itself an exciting event.” Slovo also published nonfiction works, such as Umberto Eco’s On Beauty, On Ugliness, and The Vertigo of Lists, all of which have gone into numerous reprints, with the first printing in jacketed hardcover and later in paperback. “Last year, we were incredibly successful with Fragments: Marilyn Monroe, which had a first print of 10,000 copies.” Coming up next are Kim Wilson’s Tea with Jane Austen and Rosamunde Pilcher’s novels.

Slovo started publishing art books in 1995, at a time when there was no other player in the segment. “They comprised 70% of our publishing program then. Today, it is about one-third,” says marketing and PR director Alexandra Eritsyan, whose team has collaborated with Magnus Books, Scala Publishers, Bertelsmann, RCS Libri/Bompiani, and HarperCollins (U.K.). “Overall, nearly 70% of our titles now are translations of North American and British titles.”

Slovo

Not many know that 60% of the books produced in Russia are of scientific and academic nature, adds Sorokin. “The challenge of ever-diversifying demand—thus generating more titles—while having to survive on smaller print runs is one that all academic publishers have to deal with.”

More big projects, timed for various anniversary events, are in the works. “For the 200th anniversary of the 1812 Patriotic War [Napoleon’s invasion of Russia], for instance, we have a series of historical studies named the 1812 Epoch. Containing over 3,500 articles and 1,500 illustrations, they include some 2,000 biographies of military, state, and both public and literary figures. And for the 150th anniversary of Stolypin’s birth, we are bringing out 15 books on his life and activities, the most important of which is the Stolypin Encyclopedia, with a foreword by Vladimir Putin. With so many anniversaries coming up, and our collaboration with archives and libraries, there is no shortage of material for publication.”

Another series, Russian Philosophy: Second Half of the 20th Century, was awarded the Best Humanities Title as well as the Grand Prix by the Russian Publishers Association at the Best Russian Books 2011 competition. “The 21-volume Russian Philosophy series, which began in 2006, aims to examine the ideas and achievements of Soviet nonconformists and analyze them in the context of modern scientific and philosophical problems. Coming up next is a new series on the first half of the 20th century,” adds Sorokin.

“I firmly believe that our publishing policy and publications have influenced public opinion. For instance, President Medvedev, in a move to distance himself from Stalinism, has instructed a working party to study proposals for a memorial for victims of political repression during the U.S.S.R. period. Another example is a series we started years ago on reformist Pyotr Stolypin, who was murdered while serving as prime minister under Nicholas II. Today, Stolypin’s birthday is celebrated nationwide. It is fair to say that the social and political views and moods of Russia have changed before our very eyes, and ROSSPEN has played an active role in that process.” So it was not surprising to see History of Stalinism shortlisted for the IPA Freedom to Publish Prize in 2009 and 2010, and the 2011 National Book of the Year award. ROSSPEN also won the Publishers Award at Open Book Russia 2011 organized by the National Bibliographical Resource.

When it was launched in 2008, ROSSPEN’s 100-volume History of Stalinism made waves. “Prior to that, Russian literature was pro-Stalinist. Over 50% of Russians today still view Stalin positively. In fact, books on 20th-century Russia are always the subject of heated public debate,” says editor-in-chief and director Andrei Sorokin.

ROSSPEN

This year, he says, “we are looking to grab the market shares of exiting or declining publishing companies. We are focused on increasing our product presence in retail channels through promotional and marketing campaigns. And of course, we are also venturing into e-books and mobile apps.”

Markotkin continues to offer readers more magic and fantasy, with the wand-waving Hogwarts boy (12 million copies and counting) its biggest series to-date. The final installment of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon series was published two months ago, with 20,000 copies printed. In total, Rosman has sold half a million copies of Paolini’s tetralogy. Last year, Rosman’s bestsellers included Natalia Scherba’s Time Wizards; Andrey Usachev’s Dragon and His Friends; Alice in Wonderland, illustrated by Maxim Mitrofanov; and a baby series, World in the Pocket. “We are growing more originals that cater to local taste and demand, and we have sold them to several Eastern European and former CIS countries.”

Parents, Markotkin says, prefer to buy less expensive children’s books, especially since prices have risen 6% on average in the past two years (mostly due to inflation). “But while publishers are interested in producing cheaper formats—in softcover, perhaps—bookshops are not ready to sell such lower-priced titles. In fact, retailers are spoiled for choice now that more publishers are rushing into the children’s segment, seen as the brightest spot in the book industry, since fiction and general trade publishing have been on a decline.”

At Rosman, Russia’s biggest children’s book publisher, licensing accounts for nearly 20% of its projects. “We continue to introduce well-known programs to Russian kids, such as Pop Pixie and the Smurfs, and these have been very successful. Going forward, we will publish more components such as storybooks from these programs.” This summer, the Japanese manga series Doraemon is set for a big launch. (Rosman is the official distributor for Hasbro, Mattel, and Giochi Preziosi, with licensed series such as Beyblade, BellaSara, and Dora the Explorer.)

Much of president Mikhail Markotkin’s attention in recent months “has been directed to preschool titles, a segment that currently represents 65% of our publishing program, and we are going to increase that to 80% over the next couple of years.” Russia’s rising birth rate in the past three years has a lot to do with his decision to shift gears to grow this segment.

Rosman Group

“Our best translations last year were P.C. Cast’s House of Night: Awakened, Erin Hunter’s Warriors series, and George W. Bush’s Decision Points. We continue to select interesting titles for translation and publish highly illustrated titles—representing 80% of our publishing program—in different segments, such as children’s, educational, reference, and design,” adds Ivanov.

Well-known author Boris Akunin’s Love for History gives OLMA another boost. The book is based on historical commentaries written by the author for his blog, which has become a popular discussion forum. “We printed 45,000 copies for its December launch. But this is just the beginning. The author is planning another title—also based on his blog—for 2012.” OLMA is also the exclusive publisher of sci-fi/mystery writer Alexander Bushkov, whose new works in 2011 have sold between 25,000 and 30,000 copies. His titles have been sold to Bulgaria (Persey Publishing) and Poland (Bellona).

Another OLMA bestseller—a sleeper hit, actually—is Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov’s Unholy Holy and Other Stories. Published in September 2011 with 60,000 copies, it is now in its sixth reprint, with a total of 590,000 copies in print. “It has been on the bestseller list of all bookstores since its release, and was recently nominated for the National Bestseller award. I do not think that its popularity is driven by its religiosity since it is, after all, a work of fiction—specifically, a literary memoir. But it is written by the Sretensky Monastery’s superior abbot, a much loved person. I think Russian society today is trying to find its moral compass, and people are going back to basics to find it.”

Professor and politician Vladimir Medinsky gave OLMA one of its biggest sellers last year. “We launched The War, 1939–1945: Myths About the USSR with a 25,000-copy printing, and it has since gone back for reprints seven times, bringing the total to 71,000 copies,” says general director Dmitry Ivanov. “Medinsky became famous after the publication of the Myths about Russia series, which is published by us. His books challenge many stereotypes and offer alternative interpretations based on original historical documents.” OLMA has released another Medinsky title, The Wall, which is the author’s first attempt at fiction. “It is based on events in Smolensk four centuries ago during a period called the Time of Troubles, which culminated with Russia’s victory over foreign invaders.”

OLMA Media Group

As cofounder and chairman of the Prokhorov Foundation’s expert board, Prokhorova is also in charge of the Transcript translation support program, for translating Russian works into other languages. “In 2009 and 2010, applications came mostly from Spanish, Italian, and East European publishers. By the end of 2011, 40% of the applications were from the U.K., U.S., and Scandinavia. There is also a shift from well-known Russian classical novels to contemporary Russian writings over the same period.” The foundation recently announced the 2011 NOSE Literary Prize winner: Igor Vishnevetsky’s short novel, Leningrad, on the first eight months of the city’s siege during WWII.

As for publishing, NLO released 90 new books and three journals (16 volumes) last year. Among the books is Angry Poll Watchers, a collection of true stories from volunteer observers at the Russian parliamentary elections in December 2011, which was released two weeks before the presidential campaign started. Within 10 days of its release, all 15,000 copies were sold. Then there is Liudmilla Shaporina’s A Diary, a two-volume documentation of Russia from 1920 to 1960 that includes such topics as politics, economy, religion, everyday life, the Leningrad siege, KGB activities, and literary movements. “Another interesting title is Will Democracy Take Root in Russia by economist and liberal thinker Evgeny Iasin, which covers everything related to economic growth, cultural patterns, and the influence of culture capital,” adds Prokhorova, whose team also translated Eric Lohr’s Nationalizing the Russian Empire, Elizabeth Wilson’s Adorned in Dreams, and Philippe Descola’s Par-del? nature et culture.

Publisher Irina Prokhorova has stayed true to her mission for NLO of examining Russian culture in a global context since establishing the company 20 years ago. For instance, at the 2011 London Book Fair, she organized the Unknown Russia program, where a series of debates, readings, and performances uncovered little-known aspects of Russia’s cultural life, alternative literary traditions, and contemporary creativity. “It served to promote a better understanding of Russia’s past and present. I am hoping to do something similar for the upcoming Book Expo America if time allows.” For the London Fair, she and Oliver Ready (editor of the Times Literary Supplement and a leading translator of Russian literature) will speak in a panel organized by the Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation to promote translations of Russian fiction and nonfiction, as well as to discuss such issues as international publishers’ difficulty in obtaining real information on Russian literature and creating the right context for contemporary Russian creativity.

New Literary Observer (NLO)

To achieve an extensive reach, a broad promotional strategy is the key, according to Kravtsova. “Social media offer the best opportunity to reach out to the masses. We use blogs, social networks such as VKontakte (the Russian version of Facebook), and virtual bookshelves like Knigabyte. Attending book fairs is equally important, and we take part not only in major exhibitions but also regional events in Perm and Krasnoyarsk.”

As with other indie publishers, Ivan Limbakh faces a big challenge in distribution. For Kravtsova, “liaising with several independent wholesalers is the best way to reach the regions. Unfortunately, these distributors do not specialize in intellectual literature or know how to deal with it. So we also sell directly to specialist bookstores like Falanster and Primus Versus in Moscow or Porjadok slov and Knizhnyi okop in St. Petersburg. Online bookstores order our titles through wholesalers, and this is the way we cover the major channels.”

Recent major titles from this 15-year-old press include Dutch historian Johan Huizinga’s works, Alfred Doeblin’s sci-fi Mountains, Seas and Giants, and classical French writer Marguerite Yourcenar’s novels and essays. “We released Yourcenar’s works in three volumes, and most of these works had not appeared in Russian before. We also published Olga Manulkina’s From Ives to Adams: American Music of the Twentieth Century with a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies. Her book is the first in Russian to cover the entire century of the subject, and it is packed with photos from the Musical American Archives.” Due out over the next few months are Witold Gombrowicz’s Diaries, Czeslaw Milosz’s The Issa Valley, Mikhail Kuzmin’s Diaries, 1921–1923, and Lev Loseff’s poetry.

Uncovering new authors and picking out unique titles are the strategies of indie publisher Ivan Limbakh Press (named after its founder). “For instance, we published Patrick Barbier’s Vivaldi’s Venice because there is no other book like it on baroque music. But this strategy does not always work as planned. Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, for example, was a blockbuster in many countries, but it did not fare that well in Russia when we released it in 2008,” says editor-in-chief Irina Kravtsova, who actively seeks funding from organizations such as the French National Book Centre, the Polish Book Institute, Goethe-Institut, and the Fulbright Program for her projects. Not surprisingly, translations make up more than half of her catalogue.

Ivan Limbakh Press

Meanwhile, her year-old partnership with distributor Consortium has expanded to digitization. “The e-book program, focused on our backlist, is aimed at the U.S. market, and most of these titles have not lost any of their relevance despite the passing of time.” The partnership, she adds, “has provided GLAS with a wider exposure and much more professional service than what we had before. But, of course, we do not always see eye to eye: on cover designs, for instance, they want a more American style, whereas I want to retain the Russian look and feel.”

Perova’s next big project, timed for BookExpo America, will be a collection of stories by young women writers. Half of the authors in Russia, she says, “are women, and their books are invariably in greater demand. Russian women, who are increasingly taking on leadership roles in our society, have a pragmatic view and speak openly on all issues. This makes their writings fascinating and spot-on.”

Translating formerly banned books from the 1920s and 1930s is another goal. “We keep discovering such gems as Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, who has now been translated into other languages, with his fourth title soon to be published by NYRB Classics. I’m hoping for a similar success with antiestablishment writer Vlas Doroshevich, whose collection of satirical tales, What the Emperor Cannot Do, was out recently. We have also reissued The Scared Generation, two novellas by Vasil Bykov and Boris Yampolsky, about political persecution in Soviet Russia and Belarus.”

Producing bestsellers is not publisher Natasha Perova’s goal. “We want to discover authors and give their voice a platform. We want to help those who live in the provinces and do not speak any foreign languages, those who consider it embarrassing to promote themselves, or those who are long dead but their works have only now been published for the first time in Russia.” She is focused on young post-Soviet writers whose works are refreshing. “These writers address current issues with no holds barred. Alexander Snegirev in Petroleum Venus, for instance, describes the experience of a single father with a Down syndrome child and highlights the problems of Russia’s disabled. We have published Arslan Khasavov’s Sense, about Russian youths’ political struggles, and Andrei Kuzechkin’s Mendeleev Rock, on Russian punks in the provinces, and Off the Beaten Track, about hitchhiking. All of the above authors are Debut Prize winners.” (The Debut Prize, supported by the Pokolenie Foundation, awards writers under 35.)

GLAS

“The drop in sales of fiction has prompted us to go into other segments, which is great in terms of diversification. For manufacturing, we have moved more jobs offshore, specifically to China, for book-plus and those requiring hand assembly and plush-and-plastic components,” adds Novikov, who is looking forward to faster delivery with the opening of a new seaport in St. Petersburg. His team is also busy expanding its list of 15,000 e-book titles while monitoring e-book piracy. “I’m very happy with the digital development in the book industry as it opens up new opportunities to reach readers and creates new business models. Personally, I believe that the subscription model would work best in Russia’s e-book market.”

As for local authors, no one beats Ludmilla Ulitskaya’s latest, The Green Tent (300,000 copies sold in eight months), and Viktor Pelevin’s S.N.U.F.F. (150,000 copies sold since its December 2011 launch). Then there are Daria Dontsova (Eksmo’s bestselling author for 10 years running), Alexandra Marinina, Tatyana Ustinova, Tatyana Polyakova, Oleg Roy, and Maria Metlitskaya. Some of these names are among the dozen or so authors whose new titles automatically command a minimum 100,000-copy print run.

Detecting a strong interest in nonfiction, especially true stories, Novikov has lined up several big titles for the coming months, including Jack Mayer’s Life in a Jar, Jaycee Dugard’s Stolen Life, and Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-la. In fiction, readers can expect to see Lauren Oliver’s Delirium and new titles from Camilla Lackberg and Rachel Mead on the shelves soon.

Haruki Murakami is currently flying high at Eksmo. With more than 110,000 copies of his first two volumes of 1Q84 in print, Eksmo is counting on another bestseller when the final installment is out in a couple of months. “We have rights to 26 of his titles, all reprinted regularly. Norwegian Wood, for instance, has been enjoying a revival following its big-screen adaptation,” says CEO Oleg Novikov, whose team published Murakami’s collection of short stories, Yoru No Kumozaru, for the first time last year. Other translated bestsellers (aside from the usual suspects by Stieg Larsson and Rick Riordan) include French nutritionist Pierre Dukan’s Je ne sais pas maigrir (more than 100,000 copies sold), Steve Harvey’s Straight Talk, No Chaser, Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, and works by P.C. Cast and Daniel Amen.

Eksmo

“We are happy if a novel sells 5,000 copies,” says Gornostaeva. “In recent times, fiction sales have come down considerably, and that makes us very selective in buying fiction. While names such as Eco, Houellebecq, Franzen, Cunningham, Don Winslow, and Peter Ackroyd form a big part of our fiction list, we are always open to new names, even debut works.”

The next few months will see more big titles from Corpus, including Ines de la Fressange’s La Parisienne, Keith Richards’s Life, Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton, Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail, and Hal Vaughan’s Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War. Corpus has also published Martin Amis, Jennifer Egan, Siri Hustvedt, Jonathan Tropper, David Remnick, and Philip Roth.

Recent bestsellers from Corpus include Patti Smith’s Just Kids, Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery, Michel Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory, Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and Michael Cunningham’s By Nightfall. “Isaacson’s book is a rather unique case. Often, when it comes to a bestseller like this, agents would hold an auction. But for this book, in a bid to keep it under wraps, the agents negotiated with a select publisher from each country that they felt would be most suitable to publish the title. It was very flattering that Corpus was chosen for Russia. Our international scouts at Maria Campbell Associates have certainly been really good at keeping us informed of new and important titles well in advance.” At first, Gornostaeva commissioned two translators for the title, but she added another two after Steve Jobs’s death. That enabled Corpus to launch the book on December 1 at the Non/Fiction Fair—barely six weeks after the U.S. edition—with a 30,000-copy print run, and it has gone back for 10,000-copy reprints three times already.

How a book looks as an object is very important to editor-in-chief Varya Gornostaeva, who has been collaborating with Andrey Bondarenko, one of the best book designers around, in the past dozen years or so. “Book design is crucial in projecting high-quality titles as complete cultural objects. At Corpus, an imprint of AST, book covers get as much attention as content and translation. In fact, Corpus titles are easily recognizable and even famous for their covers.” Several recent titles are given very bright and distinctive designs. Such designs, she adds, “are great for attracting attention when there are so many titles and competing choices at the bookstore.”

Corpus

As for originals, one of Shipetina’s biggest projects this year is going to be Evgeniy Antashkevich’s Harbin, a big book based on the 20th-century Russian Civil War. “We are going to enter this title for the Russian Booker, Big Book, and National Bestseller awards. Another project, Limonka in Prison, is Zakhar Prilepin’s latest work on present-day Russia and its political prisoners,” adds Shipetina, whose team will also be bringing out new nonfiction titles by leading Russian psychologists Valeriy Sinelnikov and Anataliy Nekrasov.

As for Harlequin titles that it publishes in Russian, “We have the digital rights, and the 100-plus titles that we have published so far are available as e-books,” says v-p Alexandra Shipetina, noting that the e-books are selling very well. For print, titles by Nora Roberts will go for a 100,000-copy printing, while Sandra Brown and Tess Gerritsen command a 60,000-copy order. “We are launching hardcover and mass market paperback versions this year. You can say that the Harlequin program has been a major success.” Other translated titles such as Emma Donoghue’s Room and Peter James’s Dead Man’s Grip have also done well, earning them slots on Centrepolygraph’s bestseller list. New translations are on the way, including thrillers by Charles Todd (Red Door) and Deon Meyer (Trackers). “In a few months, we will launch Kyung-sook Shin’s Please Look After Mom, an unusual and interesting story that was voted one of Amazon’s 10 Best Fiction Books for 2011.”

The most notorious and active of these e-pirates, says Shipetin, operate outside of Russia, in countries such as Ecuador where copyright enforcement is weak at best. “Lib.rus.ec, lib.ru, flibusta.net, and aldebaran.ru are the more popular sites frequented by readers looking for free content. Then there is peer-to-peer file sharing of scanned books through BitTorrent networking. Clamping down on pirate sites and file-sharing activities is difficult, and lawsuits are often lengthy, costly, and draining affairs, with no assurance that they would not return using different domain names.” For now, Shipetin is busy digitizing every title that Centrepolygraph has obtained digital rights for, most of which are Russian originals.

Digitization for e-books started in earnest about 15 months ago (immediately after the 2010 Non/Fiction Fair), and so far more than 2,000 titles are available through its partner, LitRes. Spearheading this digital initiative is director Filipp Shipetin, who is pushing to get the digital version out within a month of the print publication. “Digital pirates prey on titles that have no electronic version, and they act very fast once a book is launched. Our goal is to beat them.”

Centrepolygraph

There are certainly not many originals from contemporary Russian culture to capture international attention, he adds. “Russian publishers in general are not producing enough titles that revolve around everyday life, or topics that bridge cultures. We need to move on from Soviet Union–based themes and Russian classical authors to fresher voices and topics.”

“Our 2012 focus is on digitizing our list, strengthening the position of our main segments, such as children’s books and translated fiction, and finding new sales channels beyond the traditional methods,” says Vitrouk, who views the increasing interest in nonfiction as a new opportunity. Azbooka-Atticus’s current publishing program is around 65% translations, and efforts to grow its originals list is proving to be tough. “Few Russian authors write regularly, making it hard to find new titles from published authors. And branding any author is impossible given their sporadic works.” YA titles with potential, adds Vitrouk, are hard to pin down. “Russia and the rest of the world, it seems, are fixated on the Twilight series. Readers and retailers are using it as a benchmark for new titles for that age category, and meeting such expectations is obviously not possible. So our editors have been very selective and we published only a few YA each year.” (Vitrouk’s publishing team, comprising nearly 80 editors, released 600 new titles and reprinted more than 1,500 titles in 2011.)

Also on its bestseller list is TV personality Leonid Parfenov’s The Other Day, which chronicles the final decades of the Soviet Union, as well as Rony Oren’s Secrets of Clay children’s activity series and Gregory David Roberts’s Shantaram.

Given the stacks of Dmitrii Bykov’s Citizen Poet in all the bookstores, big and small, that PW visited, it is not surprising to see the title on Azbooka-Atticus’s 2011 bestseller list. In total, more than 100,000 copies are in circulation, and a new two-volume edition with a DVD to accommodate additional material has just been released. The book is based on the political satire of the same name in which actor Michael Yefremov performs various Russian classical poems adapted and recited by Bykov. Nothing about Russian politics or politicians is considered off-limits in the performance (and the book). “Timing has been an important factor for its success. We launched the first volume in November 2011, and it rode on the interest generated by the recently concluded parliamentary election. The next volume will carry on the conversation and examine what has happened,” says CEO Arkady Vitrouk.

Azbooka-Atticus

Deykalo’s goal is to improve sales through investment in different product segments and pushing the titles through a diversified range of distribution channels. And with more than 373 outlets in its Bukva chain focused on distributing its own titles (and selected titles from other publishers) as well as partnerships with major bookstores such as Moscow House of Books, Biblio-Globus, and Respublika, its books are certainly well distributed. “Buying rights to bestsellers, providing the best translation quality, and moving them quickly to the market is one strategy to boost sales. We need to focus on big projects and spending more promotional and marketing efforts to turn them into successes in Russia.”

In children’s books, the industry’s best segment, AST has exclusive rights to six of Russia’s top children’s authors, including Samuil Marshak and Eduard Uspensky, as well as control rights over Russia’s biggest animation company, Soyuzmultfilm. In the children’s magazine segment (which contributes nearly 15% to the company’s revenue), AST is the nearest competitor to Egmont, publishing about four magazines per month and offering 30-plus magazines, such as Winx, Hello Kitty, Ben 10, Bratz, and Angel’s Friends. “The idea of packaging children’s magazines with toys is one that works well in our market. Aside from making the whole learning process entertaining, it also offers a way to compete with disruptive media such as television and the Internet that are eroding children’s reading habit.”

President Yury Deykalo is looking forward to more hits with Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, Paulo Coelho’s Aleph, Michel Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory, Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery, Stephen King’s 11/22/63, and Gabriel Garc?a M?rquez’s Vivir Para Contarla. “Interestingly, M?rquez’s book represents the first legal edition of his works in Russia, as it took us 15 years to negotiate the rights with his agent, Carmen Balcells,” says Deykalo, whose more than 200 editors work closely with a dozen or so packagers to come up with new titles, formats, and editions.
With 10 imprints (including Astrel, Vostok-Zapad, Corpus, Avanta+, Sova, and Comics Factory) generating more than 1,000 titles per month, AST is never short of bestsellers that sell over a million copies. For instance, there are four million copies of Dan Brown’s titles in circulation, and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series has chalked up more than two million copies in sales.

AST

As expected, being an indie house in a market dominated by big players is tough. “One way for indies to survive is to move into special segments and nonbook markets—museums, cafes, libraries, and such—with niche publishing programs. Another alternative is to reduce print runs and somehow survive on profits from major titles,” says Kotomin, pointing out that the Internet can help indies to create their own market. “The democratization of book distribution opens up new opportunities as indies are nimbler in scouting for new titles to suit changing reader preferences.”

Two years ago, Ad Marginem ceased using distributors affiliated to major publishing houses when it saw its sales declining. “We started working directly with retailers and small book chains. Next, we combined sales and warehousing resources with another indie publisher, Text, so that now the team pushes titles from both houses simultaneously. We currently work with two book chains in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and approximately 50 bookshops in other regions,” adds co-owner/publisher Alexander Ivanov, who is pleased to see his online sales at Ozon.ru growing 25% annually. “We organize indie fairs in Moscow—and in other cities soon—to allow readers to buy cheaper books and enable us to find small retailers. We are now working on a personalized mailing list of 3,000 core subscribers, which gives us our minimum print volume. These readers then order our titles directly through indie bookshops.”

For 2011, its bestsellers include French-American Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones, Prilepin’s Sankya, Leonid Yuzefovich’s The Emperor of the Desert, and Ten, an anthology of contemporary Russian fiction edited by Prilepin. “The coming months will see the publication of The Complete Works of Heraclitus of Ephesus, Tom Reiss’s The Orientalist, Emmanuel Carr?re’s Limonov, and Susan Sontag’s On Photography,” says co-owner/publisher Mikhail Kotomin.

An independent publishing house operating from a basement office in Moscow, Ad Marginem never shies away from the provocative and the controversial. In fact, Vladimir Sorokin’s Blue Lard scored its first major success in 2002, with sales rocketing to 100,000 copies, after progovernment youths flushed copies of the book down a giant toilet installed outside the Bolshoi Theater. Then there were titles from journalist Elena Tregubova (Tales of a Kremlin Digger), opposition leader Edward Limonov (In Through the Prisons), and Chechen War veteran Zakhar Prilepin (Pathologies).
Ad Marginem

Now that the major opportunities and challenges in the Russian publishing industry have been identified, let’s take a closer look at specific companies, 16 in all, to learn more of their programs and upcoming plans. (For more background information and coverage of various publishing houses, please refer to the 2011 “Publishing in Russia” report on PW’s Web site. Exclusive reports on the Russian book industry will be posted on www.publishersweekly.com/ReadRussia2012 between April 2 and June 4.)

While Rosman produced more titles in 2011 compared to the previous year, it sold fewer copies per title (with an average drop of 3%). Future success in the children’s segment, adds Markotkin, “would depend on the ability to distribute directly to retail partners and bypass wholesalers, and most companies are trying to do that now. However, going direct in a vast country is a logistical nightmare, especially when the quantity ordered is usually on the low side.”

The children’s segment remains the brightest spot in Russian publishing, “occupying somewhere between 16% and 20% of the Russian publishing market, with industry experts predicting it to go up to 25%,” says Mikhail Markotkin, president of Rosman Group. “The main reason for this rise, I think, is not due to an increase in children’s book sales but a decrease in the adult segment. But this is not an easy market. For one, the strict requirements on production and printing now border on absurdity. Then there is the entry of general and trade publishing houses into this segment, causing heightened competition and overproduction of children’s books.”

But it is nonfiction that boasts the biggest changes in recent years, with reader interest in different genres—memoirs, biographies, popular science, politics, etc.—increasing dramatically, says editor-in-chief Varya Gornostaeva of Corpus Books (an imprint of AST). “When Corpus was founded in 2009, our portfolio was seven to three in favor of fiction, but nowadays we are paying much more attention to nonfiction. In a way, the financial crisis has caused readers to be much more selective, thus resulting in higher demand for serious reading material. So the more commercial publishers are trying to increase their literary titles. And while this is very positive, it has certainly intensified the competition.”

While book prices have gone up in Russia (as everywhere else) and pirated/free downloads are rampant, the writing continues. As Perova of GLAS puts it, “Publishers and authors are certainly losing money, but fortunately there is no lack of writers who simply cannot help writing. Of course, readers, as well as publishers, should be able to distinguish between graphomaniacs and good writers.” At the same time, she finds that readers of literary fiction and serious books are not that eager to migrate to e-books: “The interest in e-book and e-reading is grossly exaggerated, and certainly does not apply to all types of fiction.”

The Show Goes On

“The growth of online bookstores such as Ozon.ru is important for indie houses. It is a marketplace that often offers the only way to reach our readers outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Equally important in terms of marketing and distribution are provincial book fairs and the re-emergence of local bookshops, which had mostly collapsed along with the Soviet Union, or soon after that.”

In the short time since its founding, the alliance has already organized a two-day book festival in Moscow’s Muzaon Park, celebrated Piotrovsky’s two-year-old bookstore in Perm, and hosted a delegation with roundtable discussion at the Vilnius Book Fair in Lithuania.

The establishment of the Alliance of Independent Russian Publishers and Booksellers in December 2011 marks an important chapter in the history of the country’s indie publishers and retailers, says Alexander Ivanov of Ad Marginem, who masterminded the alliance. “We now have approximately 114 membership applications and strong support from independent bookshops, especially in the provinces. Among the many first-year activities is the alliance’s conference during the Books of Russia fair in March, as well as five book events in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vyatka, Perm, and Nizhny Novgorod, aside from developing the alliance’s Web site and an extensive mailing list of indie booksellers and publishers.” (Publishers Text and OGI, along with retailers Falanster and Piotrovsky, are among the first few members.)

Indies United

However, Ivanov is confident that publishing extensively researched and illustrated series such as his bestselling 18-volume encyclopedia on history is the right strategy for OLMA. “Given the proliferation of e-reading devices, the speed of broadband, and the tons of free material available online, there has been much skepticism about the longevity of reference titles among publishers and readers alike. It is a fact that many people turn to sites such as Wikipedia for information. But is the information reliable? Can it be used for publishing or research purposes? No, and no. So we believe that our reference titles will stand the test of time in the foreseeable future.”

Over at OLMA Media Group, a focus on high-end illustrated books means that it faces far less piracy problems than its counterparts. “Still, pirated editions of our titles have appeared in various countries, especially in Ukraine. The worse news is that those books sell at half their retail prices in Russia,” says general director Dmitry Ivanov. “We have seized nine such contraband print runs with assistance from the Ukrainian police. In one case involving an encyclopedia on Russian Orthodoxy, while we sold 78,000 copies, the pirate managed to reprint and sell 40,000. So, while the present focus is on digital piracy, traditional piracy is alive and well.”

Adds Eksmo’s Novikov, “Only 10% of downloads involve legally obtained content. Eksmo has been leading the fight, and we closed down 20 pirate sites and removed several dozen unauthorized download links to our titles last year. Obtaining digital rights for more Russian and translated titles is crucial as we go all out to protect our content from illegal downloading.”

Electronic piracy plays a part in declining book sales, and fighting it, says AST’s Deykalo, requires determination and combined effort, as evidenced by his collaboration with his closest rival, Eksmo, in several piracy cases. “To stop book piracy, we should start with protecting music and TV content—a strategy proven effective in the U.S. But the battle involves money to educate people about copyright and legal downloads. And in these times of declining sales and shrinking margins, money is not that easy to come by.” (E-book sales at AST represent a mere 5% of its bottom line.)

Battling Pirates New and Old

A weak national distribution network, says editor-in-chief and director Andrei Sorokin of ROSSPEN, means that “major publishers that are geared toward the mass market are dependent on their own retail and distribution networks, something that smaller and academic publishers usually do not have. What is worse is that Moscow lags far behind other European cities in terms of bookstore numbers per capita. In short, Russia’s book market structure is distorted and distribution highly monopolized. For academic publishers like ROSSPEN, it is an uphill battle every day.”

“Bookstores see lower sales as consumers, facing an escalating cost of living and increasing financial burden, turn to kiosks and supermarkets that offer heavy discounting programs,” adds president Yury Deykalo of AST. “So we are seeing very cheap editions selling in high volumes in these two new channels. How this will impact the future of bookstores remains to be seen, but it is not encouraging, to say the least. Publishers would have to figure out how best to distribute their titles and seek different channels to stabilize their sales.”

The bankruptcy of the retail chain Top Kniga (despite massive cash injections from various companies, including AST) has created a ripple effect, the biggest problem being the loss of publishers’ and consumers’ trust and confidence. Major publishers such as Eksmo and AST that own distribution and retail networks might naturally benefit from such closures and expand their market domination. But rebuilding that trust and confidence could take a while.

“The market is at a crossroads where people will head to the bookstore less frequently, and books are becoming more of an impulse purchase. Readers wanting to browse through books will opt to do it electronically,” says Vitrouk, which started selling books from its Web site last October (with “current sales comparable to those of a small bookstore”). “Increasingly, people will buy books through nontraditional channels such as supermarkets, toy stores, and specialty stores. For instance, pharmacies would be an ideal place for selling health books, and gourmet [food] stores for cookbooks and wine titles.”

The Distribution Dilemma

“We have been lamenting about declining reading habits in the past five years, and the harsh reality is here: Russia is no longer a nation that reads,” adds CEO Arkady Vitrouk of Azbooka-Atticus, pointing out that efforts to arrest further decline would require sustained social advertising with plenty of government support and cooperation from all industry players. “Often, available market statistics show printed volume, not the total quantity sold to end consumers. This means that the drop in book sales has been understated all along and the issue much more serious than it appears to be.”

Says Novikov, “The industry decline is a huge issue for Eksmo, not least because of our leading market position. So far, we have managed to compensate for the drop in overall [print] sales—especially for fiction due to the popularity of e-book format—with those from segments such as business, professional, hobbies and crafts, popular literature, and children’s books. In the longer term, however, the whole industry needs a society with a strong reading habit.”

Now for the bad news: a shrinking reading population will cause an estimated 5%–7% drop in sales this year (8% in 2011) for the publishing industry. For Oleg Novikov, vice-chairman of the Russian Book Union and CEO of Eksmo (one of the major publishers in town, with 22% of market share), it is imperative to get Russians to read again (and to read more). Last year, the Russian Book Union, the Federal Agency of Press and Mass Communication, and Moscow and St. Petersburg city governments supported an extended reading campaign, with some help from several Russian celebrities. This year, a similar program targeted at children is planned.

Closer ties with the global book community mark the biggest change in the Russian publishing scene, notes publisher Natasha Perova of GLAS. “We have Russia as the market focus at the upcoming BookExpo America, besides last year’s London Book Fair. Who could have imagined anything like this 20 or even 10 years ago? Today, Russian publishers and literary agents are learning to promote their authors internationally following Western practices, when just a decade ago they saw no point in it or had no idea where to start or how to go about it.”

Despite the economic gloom, the number of titles produced annually in Russia continues to grow. The country is now #3 in terms of book production (approximately 125,000 new titles per year), after the U.S. and China. It also saw more than 20 million e-book downloads and some one million reading devices sold in 2011.

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