The response to our post about the possible effects of Brexit on UK publishing was so astounding that I felt it deserved a post of its own.
To recap, we reported that publishers in the UK are worried about the effect of Brexit on the publishing industry. Currently, the UK leads the world in terms of book sales. Brexit could potentially shrink the UK publishing market by a third and then there could be further shrinkage while politicians rush to put new trade deals in place.
The Brexit responses
On social media, there was an immediate discussion around the Brexit post and reactions seemed to fall roughly into three types.
- General agreement that Brexit is worrying
- Anger at us not supporting Brexit
- Amusement and even joy at what was about to happen
Agreement that Brexit is worrying
This was a response we expected. After all, there is a massive risk to the UK publishing and book sales industry (which already pays poorly). Additionally, I’ve not found any indication that there is a plan to protect our market share during Brexit.
With so much up in the air, with so many threats, and with a lot to lose but nothing particularly to gain (for publishing) it is right for us to be concerned.
Those that had taken a look at Brexit – or taken a look at the concerns our article rased – and concluded that, yes, this was a worry, were not especially vocal. Replies tended to not stray far from “yes, this is a bad deal, we knew that already”.
Anger at Author Buzz for not supporting Brexit
This was possibly the most bizarre of the reactions, and there were some pretty strange responses.
Comments would say things like “stop being so negative about Brexit”, and “why are you trying to damage Brexit”, and “don’t be stupid, we will all trade with each other just like before”.
This was the group that was by far the most vocal. As of the time of writing this, not one pro-Brexit supporter could offer any reason to not be worried. No one could point to a plan on how the UK publishing industry can stay safe. As far as I can see, there are no safeguards in place for UK publishing.
On a purely emotive level, these responses reminded me a lot of conversations I have had with zealous religious converts on a recruitment drive. There were many times I simply had to take a step back. I had to give myself time to reply with a calm and rational answer. There is a chance that I should have done this even more than I did.
A response of amusement
There were some, admittedly not many, who responded with amusement. My initial assumption had been that this was people disagreeing with the article. It was not. When asked, I was told, “oh, I know Brexit is bad, I’m just amused to see what is happening to the UK”.
We had reported that Brexit could cause the UK publishing industry to fall apart only to discover that the world is watching and laughing at us.
What worried me was that it was clear that there were people who are actively waiting for Brexit. They can see the damage Brexit will do. People plan to take advantage of what we will be losing. It felt like that image of a dying man in the desert with vultures circling above him waiting for him to expire and become dinner.
Conclusions from the response
From what I could tell, responses were highly polarised. On the one side, there were people for with a religion like faith that Brexit would be okay. On the other side, were people who see Brexit as a train wreck. The only difference is that some are on the train and some are watching the train and waiting to loot it.
The one thing that remains missing are answers for the publishing industry. How can UK publishing survive Brexit? What can we do to reduce the damage Brexit looks like it will inflict on us? Will writing still be a valid career choice in the UK after Brexit?
Overall, I am deeply concerned. If you can offer me any reason not to be I would love to hear it.