The good news for us, as indie authors, is that rights issues are greatly simplified. We own our rights and we can decide what we want to do with them.
We are not bound by a publisher’s overall policy and loyalties to other titles.
The bad news is too often we don’t know how to deal with translation rights.
Here are some suggestions of ways you might handle them.
1: Sell English Language eBooks in International Book Stores.
- Amazon.cn and
“It’s taken a while for the free ebooks to percolate through, showing up in the international Apple stores, but I’m now … making between $1,500 and $2,000/mo overall in overseas sales… If I tried to target each of these countries individually through forums or paid sponsorships, it’d be a tall order.”
2: Get An Agent to Sell Your Rights To Foreign Publishers Who Will Translate and Sell Your Book.
If an agent believes money can be made from your book, he or she will work for you on a commission basis, usually 20% of advances and subsequent royalties in foreign markets. The author pays nothing up front; the agents only get paid if they sell.
Most foreign agents work with a co-agent or literary scout in the author’s country, who feed them books to market which already have a proven sales track record in the author’s country. In these cases, the two agents usually split the 20% commission.
Toby Mundy of TMA represents suitable books in translation markets for members of ALLi. Toby is currently accepting submissions from members who have sold more than 50,000 books but hopes to roll this service out to all members soon.
Foreign publishing is behind the US and UK with regard to the self-publishing revolution. In most countries, the market share of ebooks is 1% of the total — compared to approximately 20% in the US and 8% in the UK. There are still some editors who will dismiss any indie book out of hand but increasing numbers who are intrigued and inspired by the possibilities.
ALLi’s rationale in seeking an agent for our members was that it is challenging for an indie author to acquire the knowledge of international territories and publishing houses required to handle their own translation rights, on top of everything else. It seemed a good service for members to have their books read and assessed for translation rights potential by somebody who had experience in this complex arena.
INDIE TIP #3: Consider whether you have sold enough books to interest an agent. If you’re not already a member and you have a significant track record, join The Alliance of Independent Authors to avail of the association’s translation rights service
3: Get LOTS of Agents to Sell Your Rights To Foreign Publishers Who Will Translate and Sell Your Book.
“I sent them a brief descriptive email with the link to the trailer (for the book). This piqued the interest of a dozen or so who requested a review copy. Several of them took me on and offers for translation rights from foreign publishers started coming — Korean, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Slovenian, Chinese, and Romanian — with advances totaling nearly $40k. Several other languages are in the works. I strongly recommend using literary agents (as opposed to contacting publishers directly); they are worth their weight in gold.”
4: Sell Your Rights Directly To Foreign Publishers Who Will Translate and Sell Your Book
“If your agent in a big agency wants to try to sell your books overseas, they give it to the dedicated foreign agent (who you likely don’t know) who then either shops it or gives it to yet another agent (who you certainly don’t know and didn’t hire). If you want to be an internationally selling fiction writer, take control of this aspect of your career as well as home market. My wife sold her last few books overseas on her own completely from start to end. On another, she sold it but brought her agent in to help with the deal.”
BONUS TIP: New rights services are growing up online to help authors meet rights buyers directly without having to travel to a book fair and using technology to extend reach. ALLi now has an arrangement with one of these, Pubmatch. Our members have access to Putmatch’s premium service (usually $79.99) at the deeply discounted rate of $9.99.
5: Pay for Translation and Sell the Translated Ebooks and Pbooks Direct to Readers
6: Hit it big.
- Always ask any publisher or publishing service to give you full details of their plans for your book in a particular territory or language — especially how they intend to exploit the rights. If they don’t have a plan, or you don’t believe they will pursue it, retain those rights yourself.
- Similarly, check your agreement with a translations rights agent carefully.
- Never give world rights as standard.
- Works published in a foreign country are subject to that country’s copyright laws, not those of the country of origin.
- Be aware that if an agent sells your book in a particular territory, they are entitled to all subsequent income on that book in that territory, even if you subsequently part ways.
- Have a plan but also know that publishing is an erratic, mysterious business and this is especially evident when it comes to foreign rights.