I wrote, in English, a historical novel that takes place in Lisbon during World War II. It came to the attention of a major publisher in Portugal, which published it (in late May 2018) in Portuguese. The publisher has all language rights except English, which I kept.
Now I want to start the process of trying to get the novel published in its original version. (1)What is the best way to pitch it to an agent or publisher in the States? (2)Is the fact it's been published in another language a good selling point? (I don't have sales figures yet.) (3)Will it matter much that the English-language publisher won't have other language rights to sell? (4)What else should I consider, or highlight, as I pitch?
Your oh-so-pointed sharky advice would be much appreciated.
I'm glad you realize this is going to be pointed, cause I want to smack you around with a nerf bat!
For starters, why did you license all languages but English to the Portuguese publisher? Do they have the ability to sell it to China? Romania? Croatia? My guess is no they do not because their job is publishing books in Portugal.
My guess is you did it because you didn't know not to, and that's not a character flaw of course, but honest to god it's why you GET AN AGENT!!!
You wrote this book in English. Query agents who work in the English-speaking market. Despite some of the books I've read recently, I'm fairly sure English is our working language here.
When we take on the book we can help you with the Portuguese deal, and RETAIN your other rights to sell them to other markets.
Please tell me at least that this Portuguese publisher has to split the take on any deals they make for you, AND that if they don't the rights revert to you in a year or so. (Ok, you didn't know to do that either, and I'll just sit over here weeping shark tears into an already salty sea.)
As to your questions:
1. The best way to pitch this to agents in the states is a query letter. You have to tell them it's an English only deal cause you licensed translation to the other guy.
2. No, the fact that all your subrights are tied up someplace else is NOT a selling point.
4. There isn't anything other than the book to pitch.
Bottom line: NEVER grant rights to a publisher if they're not in a position to exploit them. This means when a publisher wants film rights you say no. They aren't a film studio. A publisher without an active foreign rights department or a contracted foreign rights agent shouldn't be granted translation rights cause they have no way to execute them for you.
Any sub right grant should divide the money between author and publisher with the majority going to the author. 60/40, 75/25 etc.
There should be a limited number of years that the subrights are with a publisher. After that time period expires, the author should be allowed to have the unexploited rights revert back.