Publishing in Turkey

Some information from a recent evaluation of Turkey’s publishing industry (click here):

According to the Turkish Ministry of culture, over the last 10 years there has been a 300 percent increase in number of books published. In 2011, according to the Turkish Publishers Association, 43,190 titles were released with sales of 1.5 billion dollars.  30-35% are translations, mostly from English. 54 percent are books related to education, language training and academic study.

E-books were introduced to Turkey in April 2010 by the online bookstore Idefixe and have had annual growth rate of 120%. This sector is growing 120% annually. In 2011 fifty Turkish publishers offered 1,314 titles in e-book format. Both international (amazon.com) and national (idefix.com, kitapyurdu.com, dr.com.tr) online bookstores are doing well.

In 2010, the Ministry of Education began the FATIH (Movement to Increase Opportunities and Technology) Project to provide tablet computers to all 17.5 K-12 students, to install smart boards in classrooms and to digitize textbooks.  The project is expected to cost 10 billion dollars and be completed by 2015.

Piracy continues to be a problem, especially of schoolbooks, which make up a major part of the market. In 2011 law enforcement agents seized 2 million pirated schoolbooks.  Law No. 5846 on Intellectual and Artistic Works (revised in 2004), criminalizes piracy, but enforcement is weak.  

As a writer of both scholarly books and fiction that has been translated and published in Turkish with a variety of publishing houses, my own experience with Turkish publishers has been relatively positive (except for a portion of my text that a publisher omitted without my consent in a translation). My Turkish literary agent told me, though, that she decided to deal only with a handful of reliable Turkish publishers because there are too many disreputable start-ups that make a deal to acquire translation rights for a foreign book through her (she then pays the foreign publisher for those rights), but then the Turkish publisher doesn’t pay her, even though they go ahead and publish the book.

Turkish writers have told me that the only payment for their books that they can expect is the initial advance because the publisher doesn’t report sales figures. So even if their book is a best-seller, the publisher won’t tell the author how many are sold (or give an accurate figure) and consequently the author doesn’t earn any additional royalties beyond the advance. So authors try to get the best advance on royalties possible, figuring that this is the only money they’ll ever see. Intellectual property rights seems to be a weak concept even in the industry, and enforcement of laws is lax, allowing various kinds of piracy to flourish.

5 Responses to “Publishing in Turkey”

  1. Your book will sell many once it is translated into Turkish. I would work a very reliable publishing company.

  2. My experience for over ten years with a Turkish publisher (my books are in English and Turkish) has been a very positive experience. Yes, we have our shouting matches but I know who has bought my books, where they are sold and royalties are paid on a regular basis. I seriously dispute your negative issues with publishers. Yes, intellectual property has a way to go in Turkey but I negotiated a contract in Turkish using a well-known Istanbul legal firm and both myself and my publisher have adhered to this contract. Without a proper contract, why would you expect anything at all? I think you need to go back to the drawing board on your opinions or find a more suitable agent.

  3. Suzanne,
    please note that I never said I had a problem, but that my Turkish colleagues did — both writers and my well-respected agent. Why would you think that your experience can stand in for everyone else’s?

  4. Jenny, nothing personal intended. I admire and support all and any authors who know Turkey as intimately as you do. I am responding generally in response to the article you quoted from Digital Book World. Many Turkish authors do, indeed, have issues with publishers. Arrangements and book deals are, quite often, casual and problems ensue. But there are quite a few reputable, profitable, professional publishers in Turkey who honour contracts and pay royalties in a timely manner. Boyut Yayin Grubu, my publisher, now has about 400 or 500 authors: it is a happy house. My experience is not a solo one that I am foisting on anyone else. It is perhaps a shame that Turkish publishers are so isolated and, in the main, unable to sell extensively on world markets due to the pricing structure. E-books might help in this respect but will exacerbate the persistent copyright problem.

    The DBW evaluation was sketchy and Turkish Publishing 101. People reading it would assume one was talking about traditional publishers, whereas in Turkey, many (to give one example) left-wing politicians, broadcasters and authors were and are published by Is Bankasi. Yapi Kredi, another bank, has a dynamic publishing department that publishes many prominent authors. Foreigners would not equate these and the many civic organisations (and numerous government Ministries who churn out admirable booklets, books and material) with publishing ventures. But they make up a substantial part of published works in Turkey. There was no mention of the hundreds of thousands of ‘conspiracy’ books on sale in every bookstore. I wonder what percentage of books sold these represent? Many of these authors do not look for payment, just to be in print and have a public platform.

    One of the most important things about Turkish publishing was not mentioned at all – small print runs are the norm!

  5. Good points, Suzanne, especially about the large variety of actors in publishing. There’s a whole back story.

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