My agent retained foreign (translation) and Film/TV rights for me when negotiating with my publisher. My agent says he has now "submitted" my book to some co-agents he works with in other countries, as well as to some film production companies and film co-agents in the USA.
Since I’m used to the submission process, where my book is individually pitched to publishers, I was surprised when I learned that for subrights, my agent doesn't really submit—he just sends a list of his authors’ books with a short paragraph describing each one. Then he waits to hear if anything struck a chord by way of a request to read.
In this way, my book, which is a stand-alone in a series (three in the series so far), no longer gets an individual pitch. It isn’t, “Dear Hulu, You’ve simply got to read Felix Buttonweezer’s book about Dragon mating, it would make a fabulous limited series for Idris Elba.” It’s more like a pizza menu you find on your doorknob. Okay, maybe slightly more elegant than a pizza menu, but my book isn’t being pitched so much as it’s being passively “listed.”
It seems it’s not particularly effective to pitch a book when it arrives in a long list of other books in the same genre, since my agent specializes in books about…dragons. It seems like a foreign co-agent looking for a book to be published in Carkoon isn’t going to be tempted by a paragraph in a list of similar books. Same with TV/Film producers and co-agents. But maybe this is just how it’s done with subrights? I should’ve mentioned my agent is a one-man show with no rights department. He’s got a lot on his plate. So perhaps my question should be, “Is this how it’s normally done with subrights under these circumstances?”
Well, sort of.
Foreign publishers are mostly interested in big bestsellers.
And they're mostly interested in big debuts.
So Book 3 of 3 that has sold well enough but isn't hitting 20,000 copies out of the gate isn't really something they're going to grab at. And no amount of pitching is going to change that.
BUT they're also not publishing idiots and they know a big splashy debut doesn't always mean big splashy sales. So they've got their eyes peeled for books that are doing well over time. Or books that are winning awards.
Which is why savvy US agents send UPDATES to foreign publishers when there is good news to share.
So yes Felix Buttonweezer's book on Dragon Love will get the initial paragraph.
And when it wins the Dragon Con best book of the year, it gets a nice mention in the next newsletter to foreign agents.
And because your agent was savvy enough to retain those rights for you, you don't have to split the money from any foreign sales with your publisher.
As for TV/film, that's a whole different ballgame.
Almost everything for film and tv is driven by sales numbers. The bigger the book sales, the more likely to secure a film deal. But don't even think about film. It will drive you crazy when you need to be working on your next book.