Tuesday, June 05, 2018

licensing your self-pubbed book for translation

I'm in discussions with a reputable European publisher interested in translating and publishing my English language self-published novel. They haven't offered me a contract yet, but I'd like to have the answer to my questions ahead of time just in case.

While I've been self-publishing my book series with minor success, I do have hopes of going hybrid with two other novels not related to my self-published series. My questions are:

1. If this publisher offers me a contract, would I be wasting my time querying U.S. agents with this contract offer?

Answer: yes. US agents mostly do domestic deals and have a separate agency handling their subrights. Whether those dedicated subrights agents would be willing to take on a single author as a client I don't know. You can find these agents in Publishers Marketplace under international deals.

2. Should I pursue agents in the same nation as this publisher instead? Or, at least one that is European based?

Answer: You can certainly try, but my understanding is that most European publishers are not interested in self-published books. You seem to have interest from one who is. I'm not confident you can generate enough revenue for an agent to be interested, even long term since it sounds like you intend to keep selfpublishing. Again, you can find agents working in foreign countries in Publishers Marketplace under international deals.

3. Is it realistic to believe that an agent who rejected my self-published manuscript only because they "didn't know how to sell it" be more interested in taking me on as a client knowing that it can be sold due to this contract?

Answer: no. You have an offer for a sub-rights deal. That doesn't change the domestic side of things.

4. Do I start my query with information about the contract first instead of book, or does that rule still remain?

Yes you would. Always start with the book.

I strongly urge you to find other self published authors who have gotten translation deals for their books and get in touch with them to see how they handled the deal.

While I've sold books directly to overseas publishers, I've also sold a lot domestically so I had some background in terminolgy and contract terms.

You'll be signing a contract that is governed by the laws of another country so you'll need to make sure you understand those terms. The contracts are generally in English but there are some very interesting differences between countries (including the US) about what's included and left out.

As self-publishing grows, there will be a lot more people to help you out here. I'm not well-versed in this area. Make sure you talk to people who've actually DONE deals


Lisa Bodenheim said...

I follow Elizabeth Spann Craig's blog. Her genre is cozy mystery and she is a hybrid author of three(?) different mystery series. As an independent author she's written about audio rights, translators, and foreign rights. You might like to check out her blog.

Susan Spann, who guest blogs on Writers in the Storm and also on...I think The Kill Zone, is an author/lawyer who has written about what to look for in contracts. And, there's an author/lawyer Reider commenter, Dena Pawling, who may comment today with suggestions for you too.

Best of luck, Opie. What an exciting adventure!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Opie, yes, do talk to other self- published authors. My cousin is a hybrid-author now but she has a very good agent amd published 12 books traditionally before self-publishing some novellas that would be difficult to sell traditionally.

She also lives in France and deals with the European market regularly. You might check out her website. Her name is Elizabeth Musser and you can easily google her site. She might have some insight on this situation. Good luck.

Dena Pawling said...

Get thee an IP attorney to review any contract you're offered. I can't stress that enough, especially a foreign contract.

A well-known US self-published author has an agent for translation rights. You might consider contacting him, or at least browse around his site and blog.


Good luck!

Julie Weathers said...

C.C. Humphreys has just released Chasing The Wind as a self-published in America. He's written sixteen books, but there wasn't much interest in a story about a female flier contemporary of Amelia Erhart adventure. Their loss. He loved the story and decided to do a hybrid version. It's traditionally published in Canada and self in the US I think.

I know a lot of traditionally published authors are now also flirting with self-publishing for various reasons. Bob Mayer has some articles about it.

KDJames said...

Really interesting questions, and informative answers.

OP, in addition to those already mentioned, I know Lawrence Block has put out foreign language editions of many of his books. No idea whether he uses an agent for that, but you could ask. He's one of the kindest people out there and might be able to steer you in the right direction.

I believe Kristine Kathryn Rusch has also done foreign editions and she has an extensive blog with advice, so perhaps look to see whether she has covered that topic.

I know I've heard other writers talk about this but I'm blanking on names right now. Try googling how to publish foreign editions, or something similar. Best of luck with it!

John Davis Frain said...

What a joy to hear that Lawrence Block is one of the kindest people out there. I'd imagined him that way. Good to have it confirmed. I also imagine him having a wonderful sense of humor and a loud, booming laugh.

No need to tell me if I got any of that wrong.

KDJames said...

Er, I should perhaps clarify that I've never met Lawrence Block in person. My interactions with him have been on twitter, where he has always been responsive and, yes, kind to a nobody writer like me. Mind you, I'm not saying he's "nice," which I've come to believe is more insult than compliment. His wonderful dry sense of humour is also evident in his newsletter (you should subscribe if you don't already, John) which is a pleasure to read.

So, no, you're not wrong. Not exactly. ;)