by D. J. Herda
There are several reasons to sell foreign, or translation, rights of your book into other languages. For one, more people will read your book. For another, your readership will be more global. For yet another, you’ll reap more monetary rewards, generate more publicity, and reap more monetary rewards. (In book publishing, success equals success.)
When you write a book, you create a piece of property called a Work. The Work may be published in several different formats (editions), including hardcover, softcover (paperback), audiotape, eBook, magazine condensation, newspaper serialization, movie, translation, etc. These different formats are called “subsidiary,” and the right to produce the Work in these formats is called “subsidiary rights.”
Unfortunately, many English-language publishers today don’t sell foreign rights because they don’t take the time to let international publishers know that their books even exist.
Publishers in English-speaking countries are fortunate. English is the official language of the most influential disciplines in the world: business, aviation, the Internet, diplomacy, medicine, and science. The worldwide market for original English-language books is large and growing larger every day. More people speak English as a second language (and I’m not talking only about residents of the Bronx!) than any other language in the world. Nevertheless, given a choice, most people would prefer reading a book in their native tongue.
That’s why English-language publishers sell foreign-language rights to publishers in other countries. Foreign publishers translate, design, typeset, and print the book before plugging it into their distribution pipeline. In short, they do everything a writer of a Work could want short of actually creating it.
But what if your book is self-published? What if you don't yet have any publisher at all? The good news is that you can still pursue foreign rights sales for your English-language book.
Observing the Legal Issues
Once that's done, the majority of your most difficult work is over. The foreign publisher should be responsible for paying the translator his or her royalty directly, above and beyond the royalty you receive. This should be spelled out in any foreign-rights contract you negotiate.
Other issues that should be covered in the sub-publishing agreement are:
Resolving the Money Issues
The royalty rate, whether on retail list price or on money received, usually varies on a country-by-country basis. Usually, it averages between 6 - 10% for the first printing. That rate might also depend upon the subject matter of the translated title, the difficulty and cost of preparing the translation for the foreign edition, and any other costs that may be incurred by the publisher, such as the cost of providing illustrations and various other production costs. Royalty rates are often increased on second and third printings of the translated work, since the publisher presumably has recouped his out-of-pocket expenses on the first printing.
At some time during the early stages of negotiating a foreign-rights contract, the foreign publisher should provide you with a proposed royalty advance and royalty rate. That will allow you to do the following:
Here's an example to help you determine that:
Retail Selling Price is $10.00.
Some additional contract issues that should be agreed upon include these:
Finally, remember that, unless you have a second home and dual citizenship in the country in which the foreign publisher resides, you need to assume the worst and take precautions against contractual disaster. Once the book is in the hands of the foreign publisher, you run the risk of the publisher proceeding to publish the work even without an agreement in place and without paying you your advance. Therefore, the English Language Publisher should never allow the foreign publisher to have the book until all agreements are signed and advances are paid.
a Foreign Publisher
Match your book to the international publisher and contact that publisher. With a little hard work, a lot of diligence, and just a bit of luck, you too could be reaping the benefits of additional income from your books.