Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I want to sell in multiple countries, do I need multiple agents?

I would like to think that all my works have international reader-appeal, but I am originally from England, currently live in Australia and have two completed creative NF WW2 stories (a PB and an 8+/YA) that have English main characters, and a creative historical biography in progress that’s set in London. While they will be submitted to Australian publishers, I have a feeling that a UK publisher could well be most likely to make an offer. I also have five ‘normal’ picture book texts completed for any readership and one that is distinctively Australian. Would you advise attempting to partner with an Australian agent, one in the UK and one in the US? Do most US agents have co-agent partners in the UK for stories that will probably find a first home there, rather than for a sale of rights after initial release in America?


NO NO NO.
You don't want or need multiple agents.
You need ONE agent who will do multiple deals.

What you don't know is that the Australian publisher will most likely want the right to publish in English around the world. That's called "World English" That then means the Aussie publisher controls the rights for the UK and the US.

You wouldn't have anything for a UK or a US agent to sell. (An Australian publisher would generally not engage a US agent to sell rights; they'd do it directly.)

Whereas if you have ONE agent, they will strategize about which publisher is best suited for your work and which territory they're best suited to exploit.

World English has some very tricky aspects and you do not want to just assume that everything will work out.


Any questions?

28 comments:

Karen McCoy said...

Ah, us woodland creatures sure like to complicate things, don't we? One agent certainly sounds simpler than many.

Colin Smith said...

And don't forget translation rights. From Australian English to UK English and US English? My goodness! You need someone to keep your jolly wot-hos and your hey, y'alls and your g'day mates straight! ;)

Speaking of lame self-promoting links, I recently read and reviewed (see my blog--somewhere in the last few posts) a book that was originally written in Danish, and translated into English by a Danish translator who has been living in the UK for the past 20+ years. The English of the novel is very British. I mean everything from "colour" to the way things are phrased. As I point out in my review, while it was a little odd, and the translation was a bit stilted, it actually worked for the novel because it's set in Denmark with Danish characters. It might have been stranger if they had sounded American.

OK... a bit off-topic, but there you go. :)

All the best to you Opie! :D

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I sure hope my agent will sell in all possible markets, including markets that require translations into French, Spanish, Mamdarin, and so forth. I have no idea how foreign rights work, but my agent better know. I am certain my cousin's books are all published in multiple languages and her one agent takes care of all the associated rights. And I need coffee something fierce.

Good luck, OP.

Susan said...

That's the one caveat with indie/self-publishing. I'm limited with regards to translations and foreign rights. It's possible, of course. I have plenty of indie author friends who have done it successfully. But I don't know how, and I don't have the energy to learn or go through that process myself.

This is a tough industry to navigate. It's about much more than writing a book and getting that book on the shelves. The more you think you know, the more there is to learn. If you can find the agent or mentor or friend who has that knowledge and can help you cross those muddy waters, your books will be the better off for it.

Good luck, OP. I love WWII books. I hope to hear about yours someday.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

IMHO
I think agents are like General Practitioners in medicine.
With special interests, distinct abilities and passions they are the ones who best coordinate care. That’s why it is so important to have a doctor/agent well versed in latest research, (trends) and medical technology,(IT and social media).
Because our craft/business lends itself to a global market, a General Practitioner Publishing Partner is what writers should consider.

A GPPP...umm...I like that
Gee, I sound smart this morning. Must have been that extra 15 minutes of sleep and the second cup of coffee that did it.

Joseph Snoe said...

Colin got us off topic (shame - just kidding, Colin) but I'm curious about how much quality and feel a book loses in translation. I assume the basic story comes through, but what about the nuances. For example, I may revise a sentence several times searching for the right rhythm, or word choice, or length, etc. It may not translate the same to another language, or the translator may not have the same feel for my writing. Or, another example, a colloquialism or metaphor or slang or pun may, as the saying goes, be lost in the translation.

Donnaeve said...

Ah, the ole K.I.S.S. method.

Although, it's really rude to say Keep It Simple Stupid, so how about we replace the last S with Sisyphus?

Yeah, I like it better. 102K into latest WIP. Nowhere near the end yet. And no, I'm not writing Sci-Fi, or Fantasy.

Aye yi yi. There will be cutting and slashing.

Theresa said...

It was nice to read about something that can be handled simply, and I loved Colin's caution about the careful translations. Good luck, OP. The stories sound great.

I envy Donna all her words. I can't wait to get to that point where it's more about cutting than adding. Here I go back to Ch. 1.....

Colin Smith said...

Joseph: That's something I've struggled with for a long time, and I dig into it a bit in my review... which you can find on my bl--okay Janet... stop smiling at me like that... I'll stop!!! :-O

Steve Stubbs said...

One thing to consider is that WW2 is not seen the same way everywhere. Churchill's strategy was to suck as many soldiers out of Australia as possible to fight in Europe and North Africa and leave the stragglers to fend for themselves with the Japanese. They fully expected Perth and Brisbane and Canberra to be Nanking II, III, and IV. That was fine with Churchill, but not so fine with the people who expected to be in the line of fire.

The Australians also still had a bad taste in their mouths during WW2 because of Churchill's badly conceived effort to seize Turkey during WW1 using their troops. The British and French seized the Ottoman Empire (avenging the Cairo Conference of 1923 was a major selling point of master terrorist bin Laden) but Ataturk organized a successful defense of Turkey itself and Britain was not able to seize it. The Australian p.m. was snubbed during the post-war negotiations despite the terrible price they paid on the battlefield. That went unnoticed elsewhere in the world. It did not go unnoticed in Australia.

You probably know the Dieppe expedition was the worst debacle of the western theatre. "Lord" Mountbatten, who led that fiasco, is ill-regarded in Canada because of that, whereas in England he is considered a demigod because of his family ties. So one war, multiple perspectives.

Also, Australia is a very large island with a relatively small population, whereas the UK is a very small island with a much larger population. If your book is England-oriented, that is probably where you will get most of your sales. My guess is, go with a UK agent. The British consider WW2 to be their last hurrah before losing what was left of their empire and sliding into socialism and decline. Now they have decided to cut themselves off from that part of the world with which they do 40% of their external trade, so the decline will resume shortly and sharply. With no good news to be had anywhere, interest in WW2 may surge.

And then predicting the future is a fool's errand in its oldest form.

Good luck.

kathy joyce said...

Nothing to add about agents, except I'm looking forward to my own World English deal someday.

As to the English language, my scores on online word games increased after reading a slew of novels set in England. Same word, different spelling, but it counts. Also, aga. I thought I was getting credit for British "stove." Nope, Anglicized Muslim word for "general." Language. What a great invention!

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Hey Janet. In the fantastically happy eventuality that my book gets published in multiple countries including my country of origin and a local media company offers me to do, say, Telenovela scripts,does my book agent get to handle that as well? Also, can I use a character from this widely published book in these scripts?

Megan V said...

Another good post. All you need is one battle buddy who's got your six.

That said, Opie, I want to point out that 8+(MG) and YA are two very different categories. But then I'm not as familiar with NF...

Joseph Snoe said...

I'm with you, Donnaeve.

I'm revising what was a nice 84,000 manuscript and it's looking like it'll come in at around 105,000 words. The thought of deleting 5 to 7 percent of it is daunting.

Craig F said...

Another question to clarify with that mythical Literary Agent from somewhere in my future, maybe. My job, then, will be to make sure the agency knows how to do these things.

Yes, to Donna. I was running at the 100k mark on a sci-fi thing and could find the end of it. I discovered that it was two stories balled up in one. Splitting it into two personalities was much harder than writing it in the first place.

I am now even close to a query for for it. Look out world.

Craig F said...

Oh, I am again glad that wasn't your subway. At least I hope it wasn't.

BJ Muntain said...

Yes. ONE agent. Because 3 agents mean you'll be paying 3 15% commissions (that's 45% of any money you make), and they'll have to all be getting along - despite having different priorities. For instance, a US agent's priority would probably be American markets, while a UK agent's priority might be European markets. Not to mention, this is a war you're talking about. The three different countries have three different views of the war. Every country involved has a different view of the war, and there were a LOT of countries involved.

One agent to deal with English. For translations, etc., many agencies have subrights agents to deal with getting those published. Or they partner with subrights agents.

I do seem to remember one agency having offices in both the USA and Australia, but I don't know if that makes any difference.

You might have a better chance getting an Australian agent than an American agent - not because American agents are biased against Australians, but because Australia is a smaller market than the US, and there's fewer authors trying to get in. Australian agents might even prefer Australian authors over other authors. I know most Canadian publishers prefer Canadian authors. But then, I know one Australian author who got a Canadian agent and was published with a medium-sized Canadian press. Canadian agents seem to prefer Canadian publishers. That's something else you need to take into account. Where would you prefer your books to be published *first*? The US, with the largest publishing audience? The UK, where you think it will do better? Or Australia, which is home?

If you decide to go the American route, do NOT submit to publishers first. I don't know how UK agents feel about that, and it's possible Australian agents don't care. I know in Canada - at least a few years ago - 10% of submissions to publishers were agented, while in the US, 90% of submissions to publishers were agented. Many US publishers won't even work with unagented writers. Again, I don't know how the UK or Australia compares to Canada and the US.

Good luck OP. I hope your works do have international reader appeal. Unfortunately, you need to choose what country would be the best to start with. Or you could query agents in all three countries, and see what happens. If you get The Call (TM), you can then ask about what the agent feels about international markets. Then you can decide if that agent is the right agent for you.

Lennon Faris said...

I imagine that the way the world is now makes it much easier to navigate publishing/ sales in other countries. Still, not something I would want to do! I mean, I wouldn't want to do it myself. I do hope I find an agent who wants to :)

BJ Muntain said...

Joseph: Regarding translations - it really depends on the translator. And since most publishers will arrange that themselves, the author has little choice in that matter. However, I believe an author can ask for a chance to talk to the translator, and see whether ideas mesh. Or maybe the translator will interact with the author, to ask questions about the meaning of certain words or phrases. I don't know. But if you don't know the language yourself, you're not going to know how faithful the translation is to your writing and style, unless someone else tells you.

Donnaeve: I used to play D&D with a couple guys whose characters were named Hack and Slash. I often think of them when I'm helping to edit down a piece for a friend. (I rarely have to cut in my own works - I tend to draft much too short, so I usually have to add more.)

Cecilia: That's what an agent is for. To negotiate the deals, and make sure you - and the agent - are well-paid and happy. If said media company approaches you, you would send them to your agent, or ask your agent what to do about the offer. Of course, different agents work differently, but I know a certain shark will do whatever she can to protect her lucky clients.

Julie said...

Do agents manage translations as well?

- Nemo

BJ Muntain said...

Hi Julia! I believe that depends on the publishing contract. Some publishers will negotiate to manage the translation rights as well, and sometimes that's the better choice. If you don't sell the translation rights to the publisher, then your agent will probably have contacts they work with. If you don't have an agent, then - as Susan said - it gets complicated. :) If your agent isn't interested in translation rights along with other subrights... I don't know what happens. But I'd think they'd be interested, simply because they do get paid for that, too.

Colin Smith said...

It occurs to me that--correct me if I'm wrong--if one signs up with an agency such as... oh, New Leaf, for example... one gains the benefit not only of the stellar agent with which one signed, but also the deep resources of their foreign rights, and other media experts. So by signing with one agent, all your translation and international sales worries are taken care of in one fell CHOMP... I mean swoop. :D

Joseph Snoe said...

More on Translations and foreign sales. I must read books in English. It's the only language I know.

But I've observed that many people in this world can read many languages, including English. Examples: A man I met in Brazil lived in Sweden. He gave me a book he finished. It was written in English. A friend (American) has lived in Brazil for 30 years. He reads books in English, Portuguese and Italian.

I wonder if (picking Germany as an example) if a book written in English is marketed both in an English and in a German version in Germany.

Colin Smith said...

Joseph: If I recall correctly, when the Harry Potter books were coming out, the foreign language versions were always weeks or months behind the English versions. Many kids would order the English versions rather than wait for their own language translations. Not surprisingly, in non-English-speaking Western countries, this accounts for quite a number of kids.

AJ Blythe said...

BJ, it's a smaller market in terms of authors, but it's also a smaller market in terms of agents. I'm aiming US agent, but I'm pretty sure it's just as competitive to land an Aussie agent as a US agent.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

The pathway to publishing in Australia is a little different than the US. One tends to go straight to the publisher and doesn't bother with an agent until one is a Name. The few Aussie agents there are tend to be closed to unsolicited submissions more often than not.

It is a different game to publishing in the US. Also, publication in Australia tends to be insular with Aussie distribution only, in that your book will reach an Aussie audience, and that's it. Small market.

Even my US-based small publisher has a greater distribution base than many Aussie pubs.

I much prefer to play in a bigger pond, thus my plan to query US and UK agents, eventually getting published internationally.

Peter Taylor said...

I'm not sure if I should post this confession that the question was mine. Huge thanks for your mauling/answer, Janet, and to everyone for your feedback and good wishes.

The PB: A child finds a gift that his English Great Uncle was given when returning from India at the end of WW2—it’s largely about the Hindu legend behind the gift and its powers …but with a twist.

With the larger US market than Australia’s, a US Agent is attractive. My concern has been if the agent would know the best-fit Australian and UK publishers for submissions of my regionally set works, Aussie animals etc that may not be of US interest. I’m thinking that with its English main character, my WW2 Burma Railway/Japan coal mine story for 8+/YA could be most attractive to a UK publisher, but I may be wrong. It’s not been subbed anywhere yet, but one of my Australian publishers wants first refusal, I’m known to many Australian publishers and the story has been developed under an Aussie ex-Random House imprint Publisher’s guidance, and she has provided Big 5 direct contacts to send it to with her regards, so I expect that it will be subbed in Aus by someone, and yes, Heidi, I could easily sub it myself if I don't link with an agent.

The exhausting POW work, meagre rations, appalling conditions and intimidating supervisors will hopefully be felt by readers, but details of brutality are omitted. One Japanese guard, Toshi, empathises and risks his own life in an act of kindness. It’s a 2,200 word narrative non-fiction story with themes of mateship, empathy and the common humanity of opposing wartime forces—men plagued by the same ants, leeches and diseases, sharing the same desires but conflicted by forces beyond their control.

I anticipate that it will be highly illustrated, perhaps like a sketch book a POW might have drawn in secret, but I know that will be up to an art director and illustrator. I know a Japanese illustrator who would like to be considered, which would be interesting. But maybe only Australian publishers publish longer picture books for older readers. The publishing scene is different here.

The story is based on another English uncle’s written and verbal reminiscences of his experiences alongside Australian, Dutch and Americans on The Railway, in Fukuoka 17B coalmining camp (Japan) that was organised by Americans, during liberation by Americans and in repatriation through devastated Nagasaki—hopefully giving it appeal in those countries in particular. Both returning UK and American servicemen were told not to tell people of their ordeals. But the story also provides an opportunity, should the illustrator wish, to give readers a unique appreciation of the role of the Romusha with their wives and children (the mainly illiterate Asian ‘slave’ labour force) whose involvement is largely unrecorded because, for the most part, they were illiterate. 200,000 of them worked on The Railway and only 100,000 survived.

We naturally feel for our Allied dead and returnees, but far far more Japanese died. 300,000 served in Burma and Thailand, but only 112,000 made it back alive to Japan. Wars are always a disaster for the general populations of all countries involved.

Julie said...

Wow, Peter, that sounds really interesting. I don't know what the US YA/MG market would look like for such a plot, but I do know that my son eats up graphic novels, and he's in the age range. Perhaps there would be some Manga or Maus-type crossover?

In any case, good luck.

-Nemo