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Translation Rights for Indie Authors – Update for ALLi Members from Jennifer Custer

Dear ALLi Members

It's been some months since we set out to explore translation rights for self-publishers together and I thought you might like to have an update.

I’ve been in touch directly with many of you already and those of you know how I’ve enjoyed reading the submissions and been impressed with the overall quality of the writing. Even work I haven't taken on has stayed with me, and there are a few in particular that I'm still holding my breath for, in hope that the market turns their way so that we might revisit the prospects.

Translation Markets are Tough to Crack

It’s important to understand that the translation markets are each as tough to crack as home English language markets. Translation itself can cost many thousands of euros, and so publishers have an extra financial dimension to their calculations. Each market comes with its own difficulties, but we face new challenges in each one. The economic crisis is biting – book sales are way down, and publishers are cutting their lists and have less money to invest in translation and marketing.

Within this context, indie authors have even more to overcome. Though attitudes are changing fast, there are still some editors who will dismiss any indie book out of hand. However, for every one of those editors I've spoken to, there are five more who are intrigued and inspired by the possibilities.

I've been excited to speak to publishers exploring their own indie platforms for home-grown talent – there have been many successes there – and more and more it feels like a new model for publishing is opening up. We're all slightly ahead of the curve, though, and it will take time to see the results we want.

What I'm Looking For

A strong sales record in English language is the most obvious thing to help a writer along the path to translation sales, though I have also chosen some projects which don’t necessarily have huge sales, with specific editors in mind.

I’m generally trying to bring new thinking to the submissions process: in addition to the usual pitching and submitting, I'm now experimenting with an interactive newsletter, which will help me track how editors (and book scouts) are engaging with the ALLi highlights I send them. So far, I’m pleased with the results of this.

Please do continue to send your material, and bear with me as I try to give every one its due attention.

For those I’ve been in touch with already, thank you for sharing your work with me. We’re still at the early stages of this relationship, but I am very much committed to bringing indie talent to new and different markets — and hope we’ll have many successes to share soon.

To have your work considered (ALLi members only), please submit the following to [email protected]:

–        Author bio

–        Synopsis – 1-2 pages max (no blurb style teasers, please; include everything, spoilers too!)

–        Manuscript

–        Anything else Jennifer should know – book sales, pub dates, awards won, future plans, author platform, working on next novel, etc.



Jennifer Custer – Rights Director

Jennifer Custer, Rights Director at AM Heath, works with The Alliance of Independent Authors  (ALLi) to represent  self-publishing authors who have suitable books in translation markets. She also represents authors across the Heath list for translation rights, working closely with sub-agents in some territories, and directly with publishers in the Baltics, Greece, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, France and Italy.


This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. Hello Jennifer, Many thanks for the update and your hard work! Do you think a sample translation will help to improve the chances of indie authors grabbing the attention of foreign editors? So that they get a flavour of the styles and spirits of an author? Or is this already a part of the current pitching process? Just curious. Cheers, Christine Sun.

  2. […] And Alli has addressed many of the concerns I have for the new world of publishing; for instance, the overseas rights which are normally handled through long-standing relationships with publishers. How are indie authors to branch out? Jennifer Custer answers this here, here  and has an update for you here. […]

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