Our decision here at The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) to hire a rights agent to represent our members' books in translation markets has raised the hackles of those who think an indie author is not allowed to make publishing partnerships.
Snarky comments emerging across the Internet, of the indies-admit-they-are-not-so-indie-after-all variety, show that there is still fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be an indie author or self-publisher.
Here at ALLi, our definition of an indie is one who recognises the writer as the primary driver of the book, not just in getting it written but also in getting it published and getting it read; one who meets other players in the publishing process - distributors, publishers, agents, marketeers, booksellers - as partners who support the writers efforts. (This is in opposition to trade publishing which sees the writer as a resource to be mined, a 'content provider').
So what of translation rights? As one of our members, Steena Holmes, asked on our closed member-only Facebook Group: "Do we NEED an agent for foreign rights? I am hearing about this so much but I'm wondering if this is something us indies' can learn to do on our own or if we really do need an agent for it?"
Our answer here at ALLi is a resounding YES, we do.
a) You need to sell foreign rights widely for it to be worthwhile. Individual deals are not large, added together they can make a real difference to author income, but that requires a knowledge of different territories and contact cultivation throughout the world.
b) There are great varieties across those different territories -- selling rights in Japan is a very different proposition to selling rights in Germany. One needs an appreciation of cultural differences as well as an understanding of the literary landscape and rights scenario in each country to successfully sell translation rights.
c) To develop and maintain the contacts needed -- including attending international rights fairs -- is very time consuming and specialist work
d) Understanding the different contracts and sub-agenting agreements also requires a great deal of time, training and attention-- way beyond the scope of most indies.
In short, having the time to stay on top of it all, while still managing to write and publish in our own language, is virtually impossible.
Hence ALLi went seeking a good agency to do it on our members' behalf.
It is one of our core aims to do for indies as a group what is impossible or very difficult for us to do alone. And we are very happy to have secured an agency of the calibre of Jennifer Custer to do this important work for us.
If you would like your work to be considered these are the steps.
You need to be a fully paid up member of the Alliance to avail of this service. If you are not already a member, you can join here .
We need the following documents:
- Author bio
- Synopsis – 1-2 pages max ("no blurb style teasers, please," says Jennifer; "I want to know everything, spoilers included!")
- Manuscripts (electronic versions in word or pdf)
- Additional information: anything else you'd like Jennifer to know – book sales, pub dates, awards won, future plans, author platform, working on next novel, etc.
We look forward to facilitating some great translation rights deals.