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A Small Introduction to Selling Foreign Rights and Foreign Rights Agents

Whether you are a beginner author or established, you will probably have come across the term “foreign rights”.

When you publish your book in your own language it may reach a wide audience, but what about the global market where readers speak many other languages?

Getting your book translated and selling in foreign markets is an exciting way to find more readers.

Foreign rights agencies take on already published and selling books and help their original publishers find foreign publishers who may be interested in translating and creating their own edition for sale in their own country or territory.

An exciting part of publishing is expanding reach and finding new readers across the world. Traditional publishers often have contacts with overseas agents who seek to offer their books to foreign publishers for them. Some foreign rights agencies will also consider books from indie or self-published authors, so if you are self-publishing you may want to explore this option too.

An online research can reveal suitable agencies to approach. Make sure the one you select to approach with your book deals with the genre you have written. Take a look at the books they have already placed with foreign publishers – you can easily do this by checking out their website, Twitter, Facebook page etc. If in doubt contact them and ask.

If a foreign rights agency agrees to take on a book, the originating publisher will be offered a contract. This sets out the terms under which translation and foreign editions will be sold, which territories will be approached, what percentage the agency will take for rights sales and perhaps also how long the agency will represent you. A reputable agency will be prepared to negotiate terms within reason.

Once an agreement between the original publisher or rights holder and the agency is in place, then the agency will set about presenting the title or titles to publishers with whom they have contacts and others they deem suitable. They may do this by direct contact and also via international book fairs. Sometimes sub agents may be used, particularly for Asian markets.

While foreign rights agencies are aware of current trends and what particular markets are looking for, there is no guarantee that a title will be taken on for translation and foreign edition publishing. As with everything else in publishing that involves submitting work, there is fierce competition.

Patience is often the key. Sometimes a foreign publisher may wish to wait to see how a book sells in its originating market, but a translation deal may happen eventually. Successful books will have global appeal and be easily translated. Contracts with foreign publishers are normally for a limited time, for example five or ten years.

For the self-published author, another way to reach foreign markets is to approach foreign publishers directly. Others use translation services to have different language editions of their books made available via Amazon’s different sites for example. If you take this route then make sure you use a good translation service that uses translators experienced in understanding and translating the relevant languages.

If you receive an offer for a foreign rights edition, remember to check the contract carefully and make sure you understand any tax issues relevant to you/your country etc. But above all, congratulations on making your book accessible to so many more readers!

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Hilary Hawkes