DIY Selling of Your Foreign Book Rights

There’s so much more to publishing than just printing a book and putting it into shops – brick-and-mortar or online.  For small publishers and Indies the thought of selling their book rights internationally might be a scary one, especially if they are not familiar with the foreign publishers or haven’t attended any of the large book fairs in Europe (Frankfurt Book Fair, Leipziger Messe, London or Bologna Book Fair) or the ones even further abroad in Dubai or in Asia.
Some Facts concerning Foreign Rights:

  • Publishers are going global to find growth.
  • Marketing plays an important role in foreign rights sales.
  • Foreign rights revenue is both, a global opportunity and a sales challenge.
  • In Germany for example, translation rights are around 40% (mostly from English)

So, how can you, as an author or small publisher earn more money from licensing your works in different formats and countries?  Imagine you can set up all the information about your book, including prices for different formats and contract clauses on digital platforms…

Global Rights Network Platforms:
Selling the rights to your books can be a lucrative business, putting local versions of your works in the hands of readers all around the world.  The predominance of book fairs and back-and-forth negotiations between rights agents and editors left a gap for literary rights-holders.
Now there are online marketplaces for the 365 day 24/7 trading of book and journal rights available.  Publishers of all sizes, including self-publishers can make their book’s rights available for sale from several online profiles, allowing buyers to purchase rights based on their terms, growing income, and in many cases, creating new income streams!

What are these new Digital Platforms Doing:
Automated rights selling systems, allow you to make titles available for rights transactions – worldwide – with little up-front work!

  • Set up your prices for rights by language, territory, format (paperback, hardcover, ebook or audio) and length of the deal.
  • Swap out the standard contract for your own – if you choose.
  • Reactivate your dormant backlist titles for rights sales and create a whole new income stream without interrupting your current rights-selling attempts through sub-agents and at book fairs!

Detail Your Book’s Rights.
Decide to use the digital platform’s contract or your own. You even receive helpful hints from the digital platforms if you’re using your own contract. At PubMatch for example you create multipliers for different formats and contract lengths. The multipliers will tell the system to increase the amount you’ll receive for a specific format or length.  For example, if you value hardcover twice as much as paperback, put “1” for paperback and “2” for hardcover.  To negotiate each deal as it comes, put the letter “M” instead of a number.  Putting the letter M means you’ll be contacted with the potential buyer’s information.  After researching the potential buyer, you will be able to assign a price and complete the contract.

Choose the language, exclusivity, territory, formats available (choose one or all), contract lengths available (choose one option or many), and other contract terms like print run and royalty percentage. Detail individual rights available for individual titles or groups of titles that have all the same rights available.
The base price you assign will be your minimum price (or your multiplier of 1) and will go up based on your multipliers and what formats you’ve made available

How Much Does it Cost?
Once set up, your rights will be available for sale within 48 hours and you can start selling immediately after they’re live!  Several membership levels offer a variety of service options and features, some are starting as low as $30 for a year.  See a video with short explanations about one of foreign rights platforms.

These are the Main Players:
It’s an online global publishing network where you can find authors, book publishers, agents and book rights professionals from across the globe.

IPR License
A Marketplace for publishers to trade rights globally.  The platform offers the opportunity to monetise or find the best new content in a global marketplace.  It also acts as a copyright hub making it easier to locate copyright holders to clear permission for use of their work.

What Rights Could a Publisher Buy?
IPR lists the most common rights usually bought by foreign publishers:

  • Print Rights
    Right to publish in print format.
  • Digital Rights
    Right to publish in digital format.
  • First Serialisation
    Rights common to high profile non-fiction. They are usually sold to newspapers/magazines prior to publication.
  • Second Serialisation
    These rights are similar to First Serial – except that they happen later.
  • TV, Film & Dramatisation
    Rights cover companies who want to dramatise your work for television, film or radio play.
  • Digest
    Right to cover publication of condensed or abridged versions of your book.
  • Radio & TV Straight Reading
    A straight reading for Radio and TV is different from a TV or film dramatisation and can be sold separately.
  • Book Club
    Right for Book Clubs to recieve high discounts from publishers in exchange for committing to a certain number of copies.
  • Audio
    Right to record the full, verbatim text of your book for sale on tape, CD or digital download.  Abridged rights can also be sold.
  • Large Print
    Right to print in large print format for those unable to access regular print.

In case you want rather work with a foreign rights agency, there is the New York-based Trident Media Group, which has the largest dedicated foreign rights department in the literary agency business and a record unmatched by any other literary marketplace – according to their statements.  They accept submissions from authors, agents and publishers who would like to take part in Trident’s foreign rights or audio offerings. Other foreign rights agencies would be: KnightAgency or NelsonAgency.  Choose your foreign rights agent carefully!
Most agents charge 20% (or sometimes even 25%) on foreign sales. This 20% rate is justified because normally two agents are involved (the second one being in the foreign country), and they end up splitting the commission.
It is always good to speak several languages, which makes it easier to find publishers in other countries.

Not convinced?  There is always AmazonCrossing
Touted as the new leader in translation publication.  Crossing is one of Amazon Publishing’s 14 trade imprints – not a part of the self-publishing platform.  Their goal is to find work in languages that are traditionally under-represented in translation.  A recent release, Winter Men, is a critically praised novel by the Danish author Jesper Bugge Kold, just released by AmazonCrossing in both German and in English.
The AmazonCrossing submissions portal is still wide open for proposals. However, AmazonCrossing is the one who makes the money in the end – contrary to the opportunities authors have now with digital selling placing of their rights.

More on foreign rights here:  and here:


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