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Indie Author Translation Rights Program Session Two

Indie Author Translation Rights Program Session Two

The fall Self-Publishing Advice Conference saw ALLi launch the start of the Indie Author Translation Rights Program. If you missed it, you can catch up with the first installment here. Today, we're thrilled to present Indie Author Translation Rights Program session two.

Session Transcript

Orna Ross: Good evening from London, and hello from all over the place here from us. We are the Indie Author Translation Rights program. And  this is the first time for us all to get together, the authors and the panel and we're going to be talking this evening about how we as indie authors go about selling our translation rights.

So for those of you who don't know, this program is a six month program where we're going to take a group of authors through the process of properly getting set up to sell rights, understanding the whole rights landscape and how it works, pitching ideas to various publishers, perhaps subagents as well and hopefully setting up some meetings and, even better, some deals at London Book Fair 2020.

So I'm going to let everybody just to do a quick introduction and start to maybe with John Malinowski of because PubMatch is going to be a software that's going to be very central to this program. Hi, John.

John Malinowski: Hi Orna, and thanks and welcome everybody. I'm John Malinowski, founder of PubMatch, which is the global rights toolkit for the buying and selling of copyright. It was established in 2008 and has gone through many iterations and we've just completed our two year upgrade to the programming to make it easier for everybody, hopefully.

PubMatch is a is a joint venture between Combined Book Exhibit, which is my company, and Publishers Weekly, which is the trade journal trade publication out of New York. And PubMatch will hopefully help all of you, the authors here on the panel, organize your rights offerings in various languages and territories and be able to offer and negotiate deals through the PubMatch platform. It's a total automated system. There are no humans involved except for you and the people that you're dealing with.

Orna Ross: Fantastic, that's great and thank you very much from us because I think it's going to make getting everything in one place an awful lot easier and the tool is really fantastic. So Ethan, can you just introduce yourself to the good folk here and tell them, you know, the role that you're going to play as we go through?

Ethan Ellenberg: My name is Ethan Ellenberg, I'm the principal at Ethan Ellenberg Agency. I've had more than 30 years experience in selling foreign rights and I'd like to make my experience available to the indie community. There are a couple of things that really stand out in my mind. Firstly, it's a very difficult thing to do, because there are a lot of people trying to sell right. So don't expect any kind of easy time of it.

Some of the key things to keep in mind are the international markets are very different and very diverse. There are markets that may not be interested in your property, period. It's a genre that is not published in a certain country, and there are other reasons why they would not be interested in it. So one of the best ways to get educated is to explore a key market and say, “Is this is book being published in this key market? Who are similar authors that have had success?” The real key markets to focus on where the most money and success are Germany, France and Japan, China, those four I recommend as being the ones you most want to enter. So you want to scope out those markets. And then in the day of the internet, it's possible to actually get that kind of information.

The second key thing is really preparing information that they will be interested in. And the things that stand out in my mind: list placements. They are very excited about bestseller list, New York Times, Publishers Weekly, USA today, that gets their attention. They are very interested in endorsements and in reviews, really, a real wealth of strong reviews and strong endorsements also gets their attention. And of course, they're very interested in sales figures. So anything you could show them there. So you want to A, scope out the market – is my book being published in this country? Who are the top authors?

Create a real profile that shows that I know what sells books and I've aggregated all of the kudos and all of the success elements that I have. And to assemble that with my sales figures and be able to show a prospective publisher, what makes me attractive. Now, the final thing I want to say is, you know, they mainly work through co agents and scouts. And that is a complicating factor for the indie author. You know, they mainly are trusting other tried and true professionals who are their co equals and those are the co agents. And for an indie to pitch directly to a publisher is a new dimension, something that I can't claim any great expertise in myself because I've mainly worked through co agents. So you have that going on.

And then you have the scouts, which are also very hard to reach. Scouts play a very big role in this world. So again, if you can attract a co agent, if you can attract a scouting report or a scout, this will also give you some some ways into the market. I think the good news is that the translation market is a big and vital market, it's getting more and more aware of the success of self publishing. And it's certainly becoming more open to the idea that they can look at people who are not being presented by their fellow publishers or their fellow scouts.

So those are all things that make it more possible. And again, the final note is Kismet happenstance. You know, things just happen sometimes, if they come looking for you. That's the best case scenario. That's really what you want.

Orna Ross: And we are certainly seeing that where rights buyers are reaching out to indies who have an identifiable success, particularly on Amazon, I think, mainly, if not exclusively on Amazon, because that's the most visible form of success but we know that we have lots of members who are successful in other ways so, you know, maybe reaching out from the author to the buyer or to the intermediary is the only way we can do it. Michael, do you want to or do you want to talk a little bit about your success so far and what you have managed to do in the last while? And then we'll get on to the questions.

Judith Anderle: No problem, I'll take over this section. As you know, Mike has a bazillion things going on so I pretty much focus on the rights side. Since the last time that we spoke when we were in Shanghai, we have contracted the Italian rights for one of our authors. So I'm really excited about that. It was actually one of those Kismet where they reached out to us.

But a couple of things that I did that I think are important for for us to share as learnings is the fact that I did do a lot of due diligence. And so that was one success where I followed up on down to who the company was, make sure, you know, on the internet, somebody can claim that they're so and so, right? So I did due diligence. I negotiated with them and so I was able to get able to get a 30% uptake on the upfront and negotiated the timeframe. And so it was really a smooth process overall, with the individuals from Italy.

We also had another individual approach us, a company that is established, I presume, in Germany. And I think, you know, as was previously mentioned, one of the key things is that when you're dealing with international rights, you have people from different communication styles, I would say. And so this particular company happened to be German and which is a very direct style. I'm used to working with them, but this individual approached us and it so happens that this particular author also publishes with Wolfpack publishing.

So this individual contacted Wolfpack and contacted LMBPN. Now, they didn't know that Wolfpack has asked me to represent them on foreign rights. It's something that they've asked me to do, Mike Bray asked me to take on. And so he hired me without even asking me if I wanted to be hired. But in any case, he says, you know, “Judith handles our foreign rights, so talk to Judith.” So the individual basically said, “Send me a PDF of your book. Right? Because I'm interested.” Now, I did this a while ago, about a year ago, I sent a PDF to somebody in Romania, never heard back from them. And I thought, “Okay, that was the first and last time I will send out a PDF, because, you know, nowadays, come on, you can't afford $3 to buy a book?” So in any case, this particular individual contacted us.

And I said, I spoke to Mike Anderle from the LMBPN side, and I said, “This individual wants a PDF. I personally don't think that we should be sending out PDFs because, come on, nowadays, you know, if they can't afford to buy a book, then that tells you something and I think that we need to do due diligence with them and Mike Anderle supported that. Mike Bray, on the other hand, said “Just send them the PDF.” You know, and I said, “Okay,” I said, “You know, we should do due diligence on them. Let's not just send them the PDF.” I said, “Okay.” Well, it turns out he sent it on his own. Long story short, this gentleman got the PDF from Mike. And they said, “Okay, I read the PDF. It's a great author. Now, Judith, I want you to send me the PDF for the book that LMBPN handles.”

So I said, “Hey, listen, before we do that, why don't we talk? Let's just talk live, you know, let's talk. I'd like to meet you and learn more about you.” And he said, “Well, no, my English is not very good.” So I said, “Okay.” I said, “Well, listen, we're going to be in Frankfurt.” We just happened to be in Germany around that time, “We're going to be in Munich, we're going to be you know, in Berlin, we have somebody who's German because our German translator was going to be with us, maybe we can meet with you in German.” And he says, “No, we're going to be out of the office around that time.” I said, “Okay, well, maybe we can meet in Frankfurt.”

Now by this time, it gives you an idea that this individual was being evasive. Compared to the other Italian rights where it was very smooth and a lot of the questions were answered. And this individual said they would be in Frankfurt, but they didn't know what their calendar was like, but send me the PDF. So, you know, I politely declined.

And I said, “Well, you know, why don't we talk about the Wolfpack Publishing interest first, right? Because you already have the PDF there” and he got upset. He said, “No,” he said he was backing away and that he's never dealt with anybody who wouldn't send them a PDF and because of that he was pulling away. So you know, and he copied the author.

Orna Ross: Interesting story, I'd be very interested in John and Ethan's feedback on the PDF question. John?

John Malinowski: Yeah, I totally agree with her that you should never send a PDF to somebody that you don't know. What we're doing on PubMed with John Wiley and Sons, is they've, for every title that they have on PubMatch, which is close to about 100,000 they have uploaded through, with our help, a PDF of all of their books.

And we're showing 25% of that book from the beginning of the book. Wiley he understands and most people understand that no one is going to read the whole book, unless it's a children's book, obviously, but all we really need is a sampling of the style of writing, table of contents, some images, if there are any in there.

And so what Wiley is doing now is instead of sending PDFs to people that they don't know they send the link to that title on PubMatch where they click on the link for a “look inside the book” feature and read 25% of the book without any fear of piracy or anything like that. So you know, if once you guys are on there and you list your books, it's highly recommended that we upload the PDFs or epubs to the system so that people can read a sampling of the books. So that's my-

Orna Ross: Right. So this is one of the ways in which using PubMatch makes life easier. Any thoughts on that question, Ethan, anything else to add?

Ethan Ellenberg: You know, you will always encounter some sketchy publishers out there and that's troubling. We've dealt with some people who never paid the advance and the whole world of piracy is very important and interesting question away. I'm not sure you need to focus on that, particularly, I certainly think there are things you should do to guard your intellectual property. But I think for the most part you'll be dealing with sound actors.

Due diligence is required, really, no matter what. Unfortunately, a pirate can get your book no matter what you do, and that's something we're all living with. The countries with very strong legal systems, obviously are safest. The publishers and others are trying very hard to police piracy. I can't tell you my experience simply sending a book has triggered a particular event. But we have had pirates and we have been, you know, copyrights have been invaded and we've had to chase them and our co agents have chased them. And so it's a real muddy area.

Most interesting story, I related is in Russia almost every single book has been pirated. And the reason why the Russian publishing system works is because your average Russian, if there's such a person, would rather buy something and own it legally and play fair and not deal with the dark web and potential piracy and potential criminal exposure from some of it, they would have their data stolen, then go into the dark web.

The people who will take illegal properties do it and they are outside of our normal means of commerce and the people who are in the normal means of commerce would rather buy. So there you have a very bizarre situation that's bizarre to my eyes where the piracy world exists parallel to the normative world and the normative world is still intact and still succeeding. The piracy thing is a much, much bigger question that I just don't think I can address right now.

 Orna Ross: Yeah, no, that's fine. And I think as indie authors, we're all very aware of the piracy thing and in fact, we all inhabit that dual world where our books are pirated, but they're also selling. So. Okay, so I think what we'll do at this point, if it makes sense, is just to get each of the authors to just say what you would like from this six months, you know, what would your ideal outcome be? Why you're taking part in the program and anything else. So just a minute or so each to just kind of say why you're here and what your hopes are and I'm going to start with Barry because he's top left.

Barry Hutchison: Oh, great. Thanks for that. Yeah, well, I've been traditionally published for quite a number of years. My publishers have sold foreign rights. Germany's been the biggest market where my stuff is sold 2016. I started dabbling in indie and now fully indie. I have my own publishing company, as well as publishing my own books. We're looking to start publishing other authors. We actually publish our first one in October.

And so as part of that as both by my own work, and the work of the other authors who we are going to be publishing, I was really keen to try and get out there into other territories. I'm a big believer in when you write a book, as I know you are, Orna, you create an IP, and you can then exploit that IP in as many ways as possible. So we're doing audio obviously, we're doing comic book adaptations of my own science fiction series and foreign rights seemed like an obvious extension of that and something which I haven't been exploring beyond the my traditionally published work until now.

Orna Ross: Okay, fantastic. Joe.

Joe Cawley: Yeah, I mean, I've written travel memoirs, that's principally the genre I write in. And I'm a little bit worried that maybe they're Brit-centric, too Brit-centric. Having said that I've sold Estonian and Polish rights so I'm guessing, you know, there is an appeal beyond the Brit shores.

Orna Ross: I think so. I'm not a Brit.

Joe Cawley: Okay. But it's actually not just that, as well. Also I've inherited the literary estate of my uncle who has quite a few interesting titles. So it'll be interesting to see how far we can take those London foreign rights.

Orna Ross: And are they previously published?

Joe Cawley: They are previously published, so we're just investigating what rights we still have, what we can use, what we can't use? But yeah, that would be interesting for me as well.

Orna Ross: That's great. And I think that actually will be interesting to explore as we go through the six months as well, that whole thing of looking at an estate and also getting the rights, you know, having the rights and say, on previously, you know, trade published books, do you want to get the rights back and try and do the translation work yourself if they're not doing anything on them? And you know, how easy or whatever, that may or may not be? Dakota.

Dakota Krout:  Yes. Me?

Orna Ross: Either of you.

Dakota Krout: I think Danielle is gonna take this one.

Danielle Krout: Sure.

Orna Ross: Okay, sure.

Danielle Krout: Well, we've been full time in this business now for over a year, about a year and a half. And so we've established ourselves within Dakota's writing and within our companies, which has roughly 10 plus authors now, which we're at a point like Barry mentioned, where we're trying to expand. We're trying to increase different revenue streams, essentially. And so foreign rights is definitely one of the key ones. I'm very naive in this. So I'm learning as I'm going and I appreciate everyone's help. But we're very much looking forward to expanding our options with my husband's books and with our company's books.

Orna Ross: Fantastic.

Dakota Krout:  Find ways that we do things now and do them better and expand services.

Orna Ross:  Great, fantastic. Skye.

Skye MacKinnon: Sorry, had to unmute there. Well, pretty much what Barry said. I've done audio for most of my books. Now, that's been the first step. And now the next natural step just to to expand on the portfolios to do international rights. I've translated two of my children's books myself.

I'm bilingual and grew up in Germany, so I've got that advantage, but my grammar is terrible nowadays, so I wouldn't be able to do that with anything long but I do have the advantage of having that second language for advertising and as you said earlier, the communication style is very different. Germans, for example, are a lot more direct. And I've lived in several different countries, and every country has their own little cultural differences that you have to be aware of.

So having that background, I'm quite careful with how to proceed because you can very quickly offend someone or destroy any bridges that could have been there because you do a little mistake that isn't really like major In your opinion, but it is in theirs.

Orna Ross: Yeah, very interesting, the cultural differences. Sacha.

Sacha Black: Sorry, I also have to unmute myself. So I guess I'm kind of here representing those who are looking to do this not necessarily immediately but in the not too distant future, so I would like to understand the process of being able to turn that into something that we can then share for the whole ALLi membership and obviously, the 20 books membership and the wider indie community really. Is that enough?

Orna Ross: That's enough. That's marvelous. Okay, so before we get to the questions, which, again, I'm sure you have, but does anybody want to, yeah, I should say that I'm also going to investigate an alternative option, which is this new AI translation, which kind of does 75% of the work and then working with a translator who will tidy that up if you like, and make it all nice, and then looking at loading it up on the German stores as an indie and putting some auto ads up and just seeing how that compares in terms of work effort and everything else, compared to taking this route, just for the sake of the information, really, I don't know if anybody else has done any of that already or investigated any of that.

But before we get to questions, if any of you have anything you'd like to offer, something you've picked up along the way, something that you, you know, you know about this whole rights world, or this whole translation world or anything to do with the area that we're talking about now is the time to kind of offer that up, or are we all here to ask questions and learn?

Michael Anderle: The only thing I would add to what we've done so far, is our Spanish. So we've got translations in German, which, as Ethan had mentioned German is very strong. Our Spanish translations we're definitely perhaps stubbing our toe a few times. Judith can speak to this more than I can. And it just seems like perhaps our genre, this science fiction and fantasy and particularly in this case, paranormal sci fi isn't very strong in those countries, and then you have a bifurcation or I don't know if that's the right word for all the different types of Spanish. And I'll let Judith mention anything else beyond that.

Judith Anderle: Thanks, Mike, I think to this point earlier, you know, knowing your audience and knowing the genre that they are keen to is key. In Latin America, there is a cultural difference between Latin America and Spain. And there's also a difference in the Spanish that spoken and so if you publish your book in one or the other one or the other will take offence somehow. So it's really a thin line that you have to walk. But when it comes to sci fi, we know that there is interest and we know that there's a group but we're still actively seeking that group because they appear to be hidden. But you know, we're attending the shows and we're talking to everybody we can. In Beijing we spoke to a couple people from Cuba in trying to find out because they're not as open with the US, but they definitely have open access to Latin America. So we're actively trying to crack that nut. But it is a tough nut to crack. And it is a thin line to walk when it comes to the translation for the Spanish.

Orna Ross: That's interesting because Spanish, obviously such a huge market, particularly, you know, in the Americas. Okay, so do we have any questions for our panel?

Michael Anderle: I think in some of it, I'll just go ahead and mention it myself. But part of what created this request in the first place, Orna, that we mentioned in the last one was related to we're at the fairs themselves, of course, when you see this huge amount of desks, especially if you go to Frankfurt, and you're thinking that's when it's time to get busy and to make things happen. And yet, what we seem to be hearing is “No, no, that's merely putting the period at the end of the sentence.” And so that's why, you know, we reached out and started asking the questions and so to summarize it, the question would be we have the information in PublishDrive. How do we find the right people to seek to get it to?

Orna Ross: Sorry, in PubMatch?

Michael Anderle: Yes.

Orna Ross: Yes. So there is actually a facility within the platform that helps with that. I think, John, can you kind of talk to us about that a little bit? In terms of, am I right on that? You can do some research on rights buyers?

John Malinowski: Yes. I mean, you can go to the advanced search option and do searches, by publisher, by country, by genre, and sort of narrow down, you know, the universe basically. And, you know, see, see if there's anybody there that looks of interest to you. That's one way to do it. You know, there's a lot of other ways to search for people as well to find those contacts and oftentimes, when we have new people coming into our USA pavilion around the world who are new to international rights, we tell them “You need to have your, sort of your ducks in a row before you get there.

If you don't, and you go to someplace like Frankfurt, London, you're going to be lost. So, getting, you know, five appointments the first year you're there, I think is good. There's a lot of legwork that you have to do, you know, and there's certain websites that you can go to, the Frankfurt Book Fair website, their catalog, you can search by genre, by publisher, into different countries. London Book Fair, you can do that. Bologna book fair.

So those are the places where you should sort of look and see where you can find like publishers to contact and it's a painstaking process and it's not fun. But  it's a good way to begin. And if you're going to attend a fair with, you know, with five, half a dozen meetings, you're going to pick up more because you're going to be walking the floor, you're going to be knocking on doors and letting people know what you've got.

Another thing we always tell new publishers is to go to the publisher associations of various countries, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, France, Germany and go to the reception desk and say, “Which publishers are publishing in your type of of genre?” and they can give you a number of companies within that collective, which are usually quite large that you can maybe try to get an appointment with. That's the first thing.

So once you get your foot in the door, you can start talking with these people. And naturally what happens is publishing people are very friendly and oftentimes they'll say, “Well, you know, maybe I'm not the right fit for you, but I know of a company that you might want to talk to.” So it's all about networking, and  going to the next level and getting that information on which publishers that might fit your platform basically.

Judith Anderle: Orna, along those lines for Frankfurt, for example, I started looking at the catalog in September and it wasn't up yet. So it took them a while. Finding the catalog is a battle unto itself. But once you've conquered that one battle, then you look at, you know, the myriad of exhibitors and I was able to narrow down based on different prompts that you put in there, sci fi for us, fiction, and I found that were commercial fiction versus literary fiction, but I had 60 pages. And every night it was my homework. And whenever I had free time, I would go in there and send out I've put together an introductory email, both for LMBPN and Wolfpack, you know, my adopted publishing company.

Orna Ross: Foisted.

Judith Anderle: I had dinner and I didn't know that I was being interviewed, and I didn't know I was being hired. But anyway, so it's interesting, because, you know, you've got to be thick skinned because I sent out, so out of 60 pages, there's 10 companies within, you know, and all over the world. And I've gotten to John's point, maybe three responses. And now I have three scheduled meetings out of that whole homework, but it was a long time. It's painstaking and I did have one saying, “Listen, we don't have time to meet, but send me your catalog.”

And so what I told Mike is, at the very least, the way we're getting our name out there, so LMBPN and Wolf Pack. And there were a couple of companies because Wolfpack has an imprint that's Christian. And so a couple of times I switched it. So I put Wolfpack first, Christian, you know, and so I did different little things to get it. But at least our name is getting out there if nothing else. And I did get those appointments.

Orna Ross: I think these are really good points. I think it's really important to realize that what you're essentially doing when you go into this rights world as you're stepping back into the world of trade publishing, if you've already stepped out of it, or you're stepping into it for the first time, if as an Indie you never had the pleasure before.

And so rejection, being ignored, not getting answered, all of these things are just absolutely par for the course. They're nothing personal. They don't tell you anything about your book, your project or anything else. I think as indies because we already have a following we're maybe not as likely to be derailed by that but still it can be quite wearing to be constantly trying to make something happen and not getting an awful lot back.

At the beginning is the hardest and so this is what Judith is saying and is absolutely right about, I think, you know, that first couple of conversations that lead somewhere and then people begin to know who you are and begin to tell “Yeah, that's who that is.” And as John said, people point you in different ways and so on. But at the beginning so what we are going to ask you to go away now from this meeting today, and to begin to compile your lists. And I know that Michael and Judith are going to Frankfurt and John, you'll be there as always, I presume. Is anybody else going?

Ethan Ellenberg: I'll be in Frankfurt.

Orna Ross: Yes, you go all the time, don't you?

Ethan Ellenberg: Yes, I go every year.

Orna Ross: Yeah. So, you know, in terms of we started this to pick up on to Judith's point. And we started this now in September 2019 with a view to getting some, maybe some deals but certainly some meetings in London and Frankfurt can be a preparation for London in that way.

So doing some of the things that John talked about at a book fair, you could do those at Frankfurt with a view to going home with your lists from your publishers associations, or whomever, and, you know, working on those between now and London, but you can do an awful lot now virtually, which you couldn't do 10 or 15 years ago. So yeah, Ethan, do you have anything to add in terms of how people would compile a list of of good targets?

Ethan Ellenberg: Not really, I mean, I really use internet detective. I mean, that really is what it is I, you know, through the Amazon site, you have access to the actual, almost total publication of what's going on in Germany, Japan, Italy, etc. So you really have a wealth of information. I think you need to have a laser-like focus on what you are publishing and who might match up with you. A lot of this is speculative but what you really want to do is handicap your speculation, you know, as full time authors and full time publishers, you have to really think about how much time you want to spend on this, and how you want to go about it.

So I would focus on key markets that match up with you. You know, Germany, Japan, China, France, are they the markets that you fit? And I would really focus on them, you know, one sale is a very big deal. And I think that's where I would start, you've got to find the publishers that publish your kind of book.

The only other thing I'll say is, you know, when you are at a book fair, wandering around and seeing who's doing what is a very good strategy, because that's really, you know, the internet is a little bit of a keyhole, but a convention is very much a marketplace, and you can wander around and you can see things and certainly you're going to see things that you can't see through the internet.

You're going to see some small publishers setting up for the first time. You're going to see who's starting a new line, who's retiring the line, and you may be able to get better market information. And I think that's really the way to do it. If you are working in genre, if you're working in a certain kind of book, it's just as important to eliminate the countries where you don't fit and where you're not being published as it is to focus on the ones that you are.

So I think it's a combination of those things. Really do enough due diligence to locate a country and the publishers that do the kind of book you're going to do, very much try to approach them prior to any convention. Don't be surprised if you can't get an appointment, but do show up at their booth and try to strike up a conversation. I mean, I'd be friendly, but also be considerate.

They are there to see a lot of people and you don't want to annoy them and sort of make yourself unwelcome but there certainly is a chance that you can get a business card and you can get the name of an actual person and an email address that will open the door that's better than some web address. So all those things I think are worthwhile.


Orna Ross: Fantastic. Okay, folks, questions?

Barry Hutchison: Thanks so much. It was just really, I suppose this is for John and Ethan, it was really, do you see any genres or trends in particular that are doing really well at the moment?

John Malinowski: I'll let Ethan take that.

Ethan Ellenberg: Well, you know, it's a question that no agent likes, because things change very quickly. Genres fill up and they stopped buying. I'll say this: There are genres that have permanent presences in each of the International publishers. I'm very knowledgeable of science fiction fantasy so I'll start with that. Science Fiction has a worldwide audience. It's relatively small, but it's relatively permanent. And you will have science fiction buyers in France and Germany and Japan and China that are always out there. And so that is a genre that you can always depend on for interest.

There are other genres that enjoy boomlets, but the problem with that is they get credit very quickly. Female suspense. Yeah, there have been some mega hits worldwide. There's a lot of interest in that. The problem with that is, it's they buy from the top of the bestseller list. So who's going to buy your book? So those those are really the interest. I think, you know, you have to be the best you can be, you have to look for a legitimate partner and you have to focus on that. I don't really believe you could follow trends in publishing. I really don't believe that.


Orna Ross: Okay. Any other questions?

Michael Anderle: I'd be curious. Also, if we go to these events, from the standpoint of acquisition, I mean, I know that generally speaking, we're all talking about selling, but from the acquisition side as well would be interesting.

Orna Ross: Yeah. Is that something you're thinking about doing? Is that something you're exploring?


Michael Anderle: Absolutely.

Orna Ross: Yeah.

Michael Anderle: We've done this before, Judith and I've walked through some of them and we've approached but I think that, and Judith has more experience because she's willing to actually go up and say, “Hi,” and talk to the people and I just want to stand over the corner wish they could just read what I want from my mind.

Barry Hutchison: Can I just, I wondered, it's not actually a question, really, but talking about publishing associations. earlier on. We joined Publishing Scotland recently and I discovered to my delight that publishing Scotland has a translation fund, where they will, if a foreign publisher takes on a book from a member of Publishing Scotland, publishing, Scotland will pay the translator's fee to translate that book. So it might be worth talking to your local publishing associations and see if they offer anything similar.

Orna Ross: Fantastic.

Michael Anderle: What if you're someone who has a really bad Scottish accent? Can you still join Publishing Scotland?


Barry Hutchison: You can give it a try. I'll vouch for you. I have heard your Scottish accent and it is appalling.

Ethan Ellenberg: Barry has put his finger on an important element of this area and that is the high cost of translation, the relative high cost of translation. You know, one of the barriers to entry in translation and audio are the fact that many translations start at the $8,000 range for German and Japanese translation. Chinese too.

So it's not an inexpensive thing for a book to be translated. It's an expensive proposition for many publishers. And considering, you know, our next wave point of view, where we're going to be publishing our own translations that's something to keep in mind, how do we master that the cost of translation itself is already barrier and looking towards the future where there will be co ventures between publishers and translators splitting the pie the way ACX splits the audio pie. It's exciting to think about, and it certainly has some potential.

But this is something that you've got to get your head around. And I think Barry's made a very valuable contribution. There are translation funds, and the national governments of many countries are interested in seeing their works translated, and you may well find that somewhere out there, again, this is a difficult search, but somewhere out there, if you defray the cost of translation, you have made a major step up in the ability to sell those rights.

Judith Anderle: So I think it's a good point, we're currently, and I can't speak too much to it until we sign a contract. But we're in negotiations with a potential acquisition from a Chinese author that is really big, somebody well known in China. And so we see a potential of bringing that in, the prohibitive cost, in our opinion, was at least in the negotiations that I was undertaking was the translation rights? And so then I pushed back, and I said, “Hey, this is going to be a high ticket, how much can you guys, you know, can you find a translator over there that could be?”

I thought, you know, something that was reasonable. And they came back with a high amount. And I thought, “Come on, really?” So I said, “No way, we're not going to pay that amount.” And so then they said, all of a sudden, they came back and go, “Oh, never mind, we'll cover the cost.”

Well, it turns out when we went to Beijing, that the government is encouraging exports. So the government is picking up, all they have to do is file, you know, and I mean, it sounds easy to me the way they explained it, but all they have to do is file a request, and the government pays for the translation costs. So I think Barry is bringing up a very valid point and that is now there's an opportunity where if you tap into the right resources, you know, there's funding to be had.

Orna Ross 

Okay, I think a huge amount of translation is funded. It wouldn't happen otherwise. Okay, so-

Joe Cawley: Orna.

Orna Ross: Yes, please.

Joe Cawley: Yeah. Just going back to what you were saying about the kind of the AI translation experiment that you're going to be doing with the development of AI translations I would imagine that will be bringing the costs down.

Orna Ross: I hope so, yeah.

Joe Cawley: And consequently, I would imagine that with the cost being down, there'll be more demand for foreign translation, translated books as well.


Orna Ross: Yeah, I think I think that's right. If that big cost hurdle can be taken out of things I think you could see a lot more action in this area. It'd be interesting to see how much you do actually save though. And it probably would vary from genre to genre, you know, you get a fair translation, but you still need a translator to go through the entire book and refine it and particularly if it's fiction, you know, and voice and and all that sort of stuff, it may not save all that much. It'd be interesting to find out. So yeah, I think to run that experiment side by side with what we're doing here will be interesting. Any other questions or comments?

Barry Hutchison: There's a service that I've looked at before called Fibereed,, which is kind of a crowdsourcing translation site. I know they do China. I'm not sure what other markets they do. And I think it's kind of a profit share thing like ACX does. So those crowdsource translators, they will get a percentage based on how much they translate the book. And the author gets 50% I think is the terms.

Orna Ross: Yes, I think Fibereed have played with our business model and you know, they've offered various things but they're certainly something to look at. And Babelcube was another service that was also offering various help and things here. But yeah, lots of players have come into this market and then not, you know, are no longer with us. So it's quite a volatile area. But yes, thanks for raising that one too Anybody else got any… yes?

Michael Anderle: I just had one last thing. Once you have the book translated, how do you market it in a foreign language if you can't communicate with the potential fans? That is something that we had to deal with over in Germany. So it's not as straightforward necessarily, as you get it translated and then what?

Orna Ross: Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. And I think that's something maybe we'll look at a little, you know, a little further down the line and in a bit more detail. I mean, outside of auto ads I can't really think of anything you can do or have some somebody pretend to be you in German on German social media. I can't. Yeah, I don't know. Danielle, you had a question.

Danielle Krout: A quick question for the panel, because essentially, what's happened with us is we've been approached by people, particularly in the German and the Russian market but they're all essentially startups, you know, individuals who are trying to get into the translation market, essentially.

And I'm just curious as to the panel's feedback on that, if you have had experience with dealing with, you know, an individual who's starting up their translation work, or you know, something along those lines, if you trust that, or if you'd rather go the direction of a more established company.

Ethan Ellenberg: I had a considerable experience and I'm in favor of it? I mean, you know, maybe we were risk takers and we've done in a number of times, I haven't had a situation where my co agent refused to take the deal and I had to take the deal directly. I said, “Well, if you're not going to do it, we're going to do it.” And that worked out great. I won't name the country or the agent, of course, but we decided that this startup was worth our while. This company has succeeded. We're doing very well with them and we're happy about it. We've taken a number chances in France and Germany, we're happy with the results. There are slow payment issues for sure.

A couple of people walked away from deals. You're going to get, some of them go bankrupt on you or disappear into the stratosphere but we think it's worthwhile. We think the ebook revolution that's going on here is worldwide, as ALLi existence speaks to, and we're willing to take some chances with startups, which are, by definition, startups and it has some risks, but we've had good experiences and we'd have royalties paid and they're still around. Due diligence, yes.

Don't be crushed if something goes wrong, but if you structure the deals properly, remember, a lot of these deals are one and two and three year deals. You know, even if they go bankrupt, the license will have expired, which gives you full legal title back to your property. You don't even have to worry about any kind of court or legal kinds of stuff. Keep those licenses very short. Manage your expectations. But I say take some chances. I think they're a very valid and good way to get going.

Judith Anderle:  The difference between the licensing deals, right, versus the translation is really, to Mike's point, the question of “Okay, who's going to market.” Because on the licensing side, obviously, you know, your licensing it and then they take on the marketing and I think that speaks to Ethan's success in that end. If you're going to undertake the translation yourself, then I think part of the question should be “Great, you offer translation services, but we would need marketing help as well. Can you also provide that?” Because whether they can or can't, they might know someone who can on their behalf, and that's the way you might want to start thinking about it because we've been successful in Germany through somebody who approaches a fan, but he's undertaking the marketing himself.

So although he doesn't claim to be Mike Anderle, he does speak a lot on our behalf but he is in constant communication with Mike. And so having that marketing arm is key and Spanish we do have that marketing arm but unfortunately the market itself, like we have, you know, over 200 something followers, which doesn't sound like a lot on Facebook, but they all share and they all like and all this but nobody actively participates and our moderators sometimes *inaudible*.

So it's not that I'm undertaking my Spanglish from, you know, growing up in Hollywood, it's actually somebody from Venezuela who speaks native and is able to communicate colloquially, and even then they're not participating as much as they do in the German side. But having somebody market for you is also going to be put up the arm that you need to undertake if you're doing the translation yourself.

Orna Ross: Great. Okay.

Skye MacKinnon: I've been wondering whether it's better to focus on one or two particular series, or whether you should focus on or like, try, with all your books depending on what genre or type of story might be more interesting for different countries.

 Ethan Ellenberg: I would recommend you focus on on a single title or a single series. Take your absolute best seller, put everything behind that. Your breakthrough is not really going to come on an author recognition basis in an early stage situation. You've got to sell them on the idea that this one book is the book with the magic, is the special book. And that will be the door opener to everything else. Again, I think you really need to concentrate your resources. Publishers are not out there buying a raft of stuff. If they buy you, you're basically a starter, you're a trial run, if you will. And if you succeed, they'll buy more. So you always want your best book sold no matter what the market is. I think that's almost a truism for the publishing business.

Orna Ross: Great question. Great answer. Okay. Are we happy, then, with our next steps? Sacha, do you want to kind of talk through the homework? So what we're kind of hoping that people will do is that on the file, no. Sorry.

Sacha Black: The file, sorry?

Orna Ross: On the agenda. Did we outline the homework? No…

Sacha Black: The homework? Yes, we did. So let me just open it again. So, there's a few, a couple of videos that we would like you to watch. The first one we've already mentioned is the PubMatch one. And I know that there were some issues accessing that. I'm just, well, I will check also, I'm pretty sure that we sent the YouTube link but and if we haven't, I will make sure that that is re-sent. So that's the video that John mentioned, that will give you a grounding in PubMatch.

Orna Ross: And also there's quite a bit of good information, just basic rights information and it will be good to know starting off.

Sacha Black: And then the second video is the video from the ALLi conference that we've just had, which was our introduction session. So that was when the panel met previously, and talked through kind of what we're hoping to achieve, what we hope you guys will achieve, where we take this is going to go, how it's going to run.

So that will give you more of a grounding in the project as a whole. And again, I think I have sent the youtube link but I will double check. And then we also are sending, I think I might even be able to show you the actual book, but we have also sent you a book funnel link to… there we go! To the Alliance of Independent Authors' How Authors Sell Publishing Rights book, which is super handy and you might even have heard of the other author Helen, is it Sedgwick?

Orna Ross: Helen Sedgwick, yes, she's done The Indie Author's Legal Guide as well.

Sacha Black: Yeah, yeah. Which I think most authors, well, hopefully lots of you have got that book. I know it's fantastic. So, we will send you a book funnel link to that, so that you can read that and it will give you a really good grounding. And so by next time then, so as well as those, and I know we are kind of bulk ending the work on the front end, but that is because, as Michael and Judith and everybody has alluded to, if you try and do this, you know, a month out, it's not going to happen.

So, the other two things then are obviously we've mentioned having an initial list by the next call and then the second one is the catalog, which I think we've discussed. Did we discuss it at the start? I think we did, didn't we?

Orna Ross: Yeah. So the joining PubMatch with the link that you will receive from us tomorrow and you know, going in there and setting yourself with your books and creating your own rights catalog, that's your first step really, that's your basis. That's your foundation. And then your second thing is to begin to compile lists so that in a month's time when you come back, we will be hearing much more from you next time about what you've done. Who, you know, who's on your list? Have you made any approaches? Have you had any conversations and, you know, how it's going putting your catalog together, and in the book itself, it's explained very clearly what you need in order to make an approach and you know, sort of kind of things you need to be putting into an email and so on. And by next time Judith and Michael and Ethan and John will be back from Frankfurt, right?

Ethan Ellenberg: Yes.

Orna Ross: So we'll get a Frankfort report from them and maybe you guys will do a bit of online sleuthing through the Frankfurt site, which anybody can use and see who's there and see what's going on. Yeah?

Judith Anderle: Yes. And for those of you not attending, if you happen to peruse the exhibitors guide, and there's something that you want us to look up for you let us know, we're more than willing to do it on your behalf.

Orna Ross: That's fantastic. That's very generous. Thank you. Great. So that's it for this time, I think, unless anybody has anything else they'd like to say or add?

Sacha Black: Yes, that the next call is booked for the 30th of October.

Orna Ross: Oh, yes. Same time.

Sacha Black: A gentle reminder.

Orna Ross: 30th of October, 7:30 UK time, 2:30 for you New Yorkers, wherever else you are in the world. Ethan, we can see you now like a ghostly presence.

Ethan Ellenberg: I had to switch to my Pixel phone which is quite horrible. I apologize again. We'll have this fixed up for the next time out but hopefully my face has nothing to contribute but hopefully my words did.

Orna Ross: It's great, you look like The Ghost of Rights Deals Future.

Ethan Ellenberg: There you go. Exactly right.

Orna Ross: Okay, thank you so much everybody and look forward to talking to you next time and hearing what you got up to. Okay, take care.

Ethan Ellenberg: Take care. Thank you very much, Orna.

All, various: Thank you.

Indie Author Translation Rights Program Session Two #indieauthor #selfpublishing #IARTG #ASMRG #writingcommunity Click To Tweet


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Author: Sacha Black

Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition-winning author. She writes the popular YA Fantasy Eden East novels and a series of non-fiction books that are designed to help writers develop their craft. Sacha is also a developmental editor, wife and mum. Website:


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