Multiple Sales of Your Manuscript


Foreign Rights and translations into other languages can be a great way to leverage the value of your manuscript – but don’t expect big numbers right away.

Foreign rights belong to your book’s subsidiary rights.  Like any other sub-rights, such as audio, movies, book clubs, paperback reprints, electronic rights, foreign rights can be sold and separated from your book’s primary rights – which you totally own anyway as an independent author-publisher.
Before you sign a contract: Always first contact your national writers’ association for further information and get legal advice from a lawyer who is specialized in copyright.  This could save you several thousand dollars – if not more.

Let’s Start With the Revenue You Can Get from Your Book’s Retail Price:

If you sell your book on your own website ca. 90 – 95%
Selling through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple or other online retailers: up to 70%.
Selling your manuscripts to a trade publisher, earns a (small) advance and ca. 8 – 10% royalties – but this will be subtracted from the advance and only if you “earn out” your advance, which means the book is really selling well, you receive royalties.
For most authors, the advance is all they really earn.

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).
  • Revenue will be an advance and approximately 6 – 12% royalty of the retail price, minus a percentage for the agent.
  • It’s also a long-term project as it takes around 18 months until the book is translated and finally available online and in bookstores.

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!

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 life!  Several membership levels offer a variety of service options and features, some are starting as low as $30 for a year.

These are the Main Players: 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.

Let Your Book Translate into World Languages
You can certainly just translate your book and sell it through online retailers worldwide. Most spoken languages besides English are Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, German, Russian, Russian, Portuguese, Bengali, Japanese (albeit not necessarily e-book readers) according to Wikipedia.

Maximize Your Foreign Presence – For FREE
To maximize your presence in overseas Amazon Kindle stores, just set up an Author Central account in each of those country-specific sites where your book is available.  As Amazon divided the world in single countries, announce your Countdown Deals, new book launches or Free Kindle KDP Days in several languages: Order at Fiverr a short translation of ten tweets in Spanish, French, German etc. for $5 / 200 words. The countries with the most users of eReaders, according to a survey of Bookboon are the USA, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark etc.

International Book Fairs
Do not just turn up at an international book fair, hoping to sell your book. Meetings are arranged well in advance (4-6 months) with acquisitions editors at international publishing houses, to whom new projects are pitched, and new potential publisher customers can be discovered.

Top Publisher for French Foreign Rights
If you want to talk about foreign rights with a French publisher one of the biggest in the world, Hachette who are also partnering with Phoenix Publishing & Media Group in China and holds a 25% share of Atticus in Russia.

Top Publisher for Spanish Foreign Rights
– Good for U.S.A. too!
Planeta publishing-companies leads the world’s Spanish-language publishing markets in Spain and Latin America.  The company has further strongholds in Portugal and France, where it owns Editis the country’s second-largest group.
Grupo Planeta is present in 25 countries, with more than 100 imprints and a catalog of 15,000 titles.
A good idea would also be to join ALLI
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.  Members have access to Putmatch’s premium service through ALLI (usually $79.99) at the deeply discounted rate of $9.99.  Pubmatch will facilitate communication, data warehousing and the simplification of rights marketing for publishers, agents, authors and others, making it the go-to place for the international publishing community to find new titles and new talent.

Major agencies, specialized in Foreign Rights:

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.  If you are not represented already, why not try to find agents or even publishers yourself in other countries, especially if you speak more than one language?

There are things to watch when negotiating foreign rights deals – hopefully, an agent will keep an eye on these, but it’s worth knowing about it:

The term of the deal: Five years is most common, anything longer then you should be expecting a premium from the publisher.
Country / Territory for the contract: You might sign away Portuguese language rights without realizing that it will include publication in Brazil (and Mozambique, Angola, Macau, Cape Verde etc). Also, giving worldwide Spanish language rights could cause friction with any United States publishing deal, as there is a large Spanish reading audience in the US.
Tax situation in your and the potential publishers country: While there are now many treaties which allow for the uninhibited flow of money between countries, you could lose some of your advances to a foreign government’s tax.
Before signing a contract with an agent or a publisher, how can an author tell if the company is good with foreign rights?  Ask about their previous sales!  Contact authors who work with that publisher or agent and ask them about their experience.  It’s also possible to find out the name of foreign publishers and go to their websites and see what books they have recently published.

Find out what authors the agency represents overseas, then ask those authors about their own experiences.  Again, foreign rights are only a portion of an author’s income, so that’s something to bear in mind.  Check your agreement with a translations rights agent carefully.  Never, ever! give world rights away as standard, and you should also insist on a large upfront payment.

Read more:

In Gwen Ellery’s article are tips from foreign agents about the cultural difference – something very important!

John Penberthy, a successful writer, who searched the internet, found contact addresses of agents in other countries and contacted them directly.

Morris Rosenthal gives also great, detailed tips in his article about book contracts.

Importance of Foreign Rights

How You Can Sell your Rights or Split Your Book into Single Articles:

John Kremer sells helpful lists and reports for authors and an e-book with an extensive list of foreign rights agents



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