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The French Connection: Selling Rights in Quebec

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The French Connection: Selling
Rights in Quebec

 

by Gina Barile

 

For years, Canada has been
the single most important export market for U.S. publishers. Many large U.S.
publishing houses sell into the Canadian market, but there are still plenty of
opportunities for small, independent book publishers. My home province, Quebec,
provides some of them. Quebec is one of Canada?s top publishing centers (along
with Ontario and Vancouver) and is also the home of Canada?s thriving
French-language press.

 

So how does a small, independent
U.S. publisher sell to the Quebec market? Think first about selling
French-language translation rights (a book written in English is more likely to
sell elsewhere in Canada). Popular lines in Quebec include fiction as well as
how-to titles, books on travel and outdoor adventure, children?s books, and
educational materials.

 

You will not have to pay any
tariffs or duties when exporting books to Canada from the United States (the
importer pays the 6 percent Goods and Services Tax). But you might want to find
a good Quebec partner to help you navigate your way through some unfamiliar
practices.

 

The Government Lays Down
Some Rules

 

Although Quebec is a relatively
easy place for U.S. companies to do business, it does have its own regulations
and marketing environment. For example, in Quebec, the Ministry of Culture and
Communications regulates the commercial practices of all parties involved in
the book industry—including publishers, distributors, bookstores, and
institutional clients—to ensure that each party receives its fair share
of the pie.

 

Furthermore, all publishers,
distributors, and bookstores must have an accreditation certificate from the
ministry to operate in Quebec. To become accredited, a publisher must have its
corporate office in Quebec. It must be up to date in paying its authors. In the
year before applying for accreditation, it must either have published at least
five books, of which three must be by different Quebec authors, or have at
least 15 titles in stock, at least three of whose authors were born in and/or
settled in Quebec.

 

Distributors must also have their
principal business locations in Quebec. They must supply books to accredited
bookstores, distribute Quebec authors, and deliver books to bookstores on time,
especially books to which they have exclusive distribution rights.

 

You can get more information on
laws and regulations affecting publishers in Quebec at the Web site of the
Canadian Legal Information Institute, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>www.iijcan.org/index_en.html
. But I
suggest that finding a good Quebec partner is your best option. In the long
run, the right partner can be a real energy-saver for a smaller U.S. firm.

 

Plus Factors Affecting
Partnerships

 

To understand what potential
partners have to offer, it helps to know three things about the Quebec
publishing industry.

 

Quebec-owned publishing firms are
typically smaller than the multinational competitors that operate subsidiaries
in Canada, and their main competitors are large French-language publishers
based in France. In the past, these houses have dominated the Quebec market for
French-language books. The situation is changing, however, and the Quebec
publishing industry today is enthusiastic, vibrant, and determined, eager to
establish itself on the world stage and to partner with publishers from the
United States and elsewhere. Quebec publishers regularly exhibit and attend
both local and foreign book fairs. They are a regular presence at BookExpo
America, where they look for American partners that want to sell (or buy) foreign-language
rights.

 

The Quebec provincial government
provides direct support for its accredited publishers. One of the most
important sources of this support is SODEC, a Quebec government corporation
overseen by the Minister of Culture and Communications. SODEC offers a range of
financial assistance, from subsidies to credit and risk capital to tax loans.
Although U.S. companies cannot apply for this support, their Quebec partners
can. In other words, the Quebec government is able to provide financial backing
for smaller Quebec publishers that may do business with U.S. firms.

 

L?Association nationale des
éditeurs de livres (ANEL, the French Language Publishers Association) also
encourages partnerships between its members and U.S. publishers. ANEL was established
to represent most French-language fiction, nonfiction, and educational
publishers in Quebec and French Canada, and (like SODEC) it is very interested
in working with U.S. publishing organizations like PMA. In fact, I?ve started
working with both ANEL and SODEC to see if we can set up a joint
U.S.–Canadian networking event for Quebec and American firms at BookExpo
America this coming June.

 

Book fairs are the best places to
find good Quebec partners. In addition to BEA, you may want to consider attending
the Salon International du livre de Québec (April 11–15, 2007) and Le
Salon du livre de Montréal (November 15–19, 2007). My office sets up
meetings with prescreened potential partners at Quebec book fairs for a fee,
and I would be glad to provide additional information about the Quebec
publishing industry to PMA members at no charge (please see the bio, below, for
contact information).

 

Quebec has been my home for more
years than I can remember, and it?s a real pleasure for me to introduce U.S.
businesspeople to the opportunities here and the very special French connection
of the province. Like my fellow Quebecois, I take great pride in not only its
economic dynamism but also in its creativity, passion, and European-flavored
joie de vivre.

 

Gina Barile is a commercial
assistant at the U.S. Commercial Service office in Quebec. To reach her, call
514/908-3650 or email gina.barile@mail.doc.gov. For details on all the services
the U.S. Commercial Service offers in Canada, visit www.buyusa.gov/canada.

 

 

 

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