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Part 2 – Great Opportunity for Authors: Foreign Right Sales

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia


see also Part 1 here


How does a foreign rights contract work?
The agent usually has a standard contract which she prepares and sends to both parties for signatures, so the foreign contracts you will see are generally quite similar. The key factors, of course, are the amount of the non-refundable advance and the royalty rate, generally minimum of 7-8% on foreign rights, which should be applied to the retail price.

Royalties are deducted from the advance. Once the advance is paid back, the publisher makes royalty payments. Most publishers calculate royalties following the end of each calendar year, though some do so semi-annually. Payments are due a quarter later. The contract should have a finite term, usually five years. If the book proves to be big with good longevity, it can go back on the market at the end of the term for much better terms.

One thing that is absolutely critical is that the publisher provides a computerized statement showing sales, returns, etc. via postal mail to the author for each period. If figures are provided any other way (i.e. via email), it is too easy to fudge them. The language and geographic territory licensed should be specified. And the number of complimentary books provided to the author should be specified. The agent’s commission should be identified. Another thing is to limit rights to book publishing only. Always retain all other rights or sell them for top dollar advances.

Be aware: You are dealing with international countries.
Don’t email the manuscript file until you received the advance in full. But for royalties, once the advance is paid back, it can be dicey, depending upon the quality of the agents and size of the publishers you are working with. Publishers in Asia and Eastern Europe can be more problematic, depending on their size and reputation and how they treat international copyright agreements.

Even if the publisher does comply, they send the money to the agent, who is supposed to send it on to you, so there’s an extra layer of opportunity for graft. They know that you have no leverage; who’s going to spend thousands of dollars hiring lawyers in a country halfway around the world unless there are clearly large royalties at stake? The only leverage you have is if you have an American co-agent involved because the foreign co-agent’s reputation is at stake within the international agent community. Even then, many American co-agents expect only to receive their share of the advance and spend little, if any effort to collect royalties unless they are substantial. The moral of the story: The larger and more established the agency and publisher, the better chance you have of getting paid royalties when your advance is depleted. Try to get the highest advance possible and rather lower royalties.

Before you sign the publishing contract:
Morris Rosenthal gave in his guest blogging article “Publisher Book Contracts” at the following advice:

“Most new authors fail to retain legal counsel before signing their first book contract, and actually depend on the acquisitions editor to tell them what’s fair and normal for the publisher to request. This creates an excellent negotiating position for the publisher and a horrible one for the author. Unfortunately, publishers really take advantage.

Author advocacy organizations can be a good source for publishing contract advice, but the catch is you usually have to be a published writer before you can join. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of joining a prestigious author guild after publishing a trade book, sending them the publisher’s book contract for your next edition for free legal review, and hearing something like, “Oh, you never should have signed the first contract. Now you’re stuck with it forever.”

“The contractual relationship between the author and the publisher is based on what’s written in the signed book contract, not on implicit understandings. Even experienced authors and agents sometime make the mistake of concentrating on the money and not paying enough attention to the clauses that protect the author’s rights. All contract terms are negotiable, though acquisitions editors like to pretend they have a standard publishing contract that all their authors are happy to sign. A brief summary of standard trade publisher contract terms follows, but it’s by no means all-inclusive: I advise everyone who is looking at a contract signing to consult a lawyer.”

There are some things to watch when negotiating foreign rights deals – hopefully an agent will keep an eye on these, but it’s worth having some idea yourself:

  • Term of the deal.
    Five years is most common, anything longer then you should be expecting a premium from the publisher.
  • Country / Territory for the contract
    You might sign away Portuguese language rights without realising that it will include publication in Brazil (and Mozambique, Angola, Macau, Cape Verde etc). Also, giving worldwide Spanish language rights could cause friction with any United States publishing deal, as there is a large Spanish reading audience there.
  • Tax situation in your and the potential publishers country.
    While there are now many treaties which allow for uninhibited flow of monies between nations, you could be badly caught out in some cases, and lose most of your advance to a foreign government’s tax.

John Kremer has a bunch of helpful lists and reports for authors, first of all an e-book for an extensive list of foreign book agents (300+) as well as more than a thousand literary agents in the U.S. and Canada. It’s an immediately downloadable report covering 1,400 agents (with address, phone, email, website, notes on some books they’ve sold rights to, etc.).  Instead of spending time researching foreign rights agents, you can order it for only $6.00, download it right away, and go to work, contacting the best agents in every country.

Foreign Book Distributors, Wholesalers, & Sales Reps — This report features more than 345 companies that provide foreign distribution or sales representation and also includes a sample of a foreign distribution contract.



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Great Opportunity for Authors: Foreign Right Sales


Part 1:   A potentially lucrative market that self-publishers often overlook are Foreign Rights Sales. Foreign Rights Sales and royalties are one of the best deals a writer can get.  Sometimes a foreign rights deal is more lucrative than what your books could earn in your home country.  Even smaller deals can make a big difference in your finances and profile.  And you don’t have to write a single new sentence.

The right to translate and sell a book in another country falls under the umbrella of sub-rights, which include film, merchandising, audio and electronic version, enhanced e-book and multimedia.

For most self-published authors, determining what kind of books sell best in which countries, which publishers are most reputable and which contractual terms are reasonable is pretty difficult. Get the help of an intellectual property attorney who specializes in publishing matters and who drafts one that suits your needs.

A foreign rights agent who has detailed and specialized knowledge is another option. They are attending major international book fairs, especially the Frankfurt, Germany Book Fair, and are in constant contact with international agents and editors to discuss deals and work out contracts.

Royalties can greatly vary from country to country, which makes it important to know what kinds of books will sell in each area. A business or science book has tremendous potential in Asia. Literary fiction does well in France. Italy is good for women’s fiction. Brazil loves dogs and inspirational books, and they have been buying early and aren’t shy about six-figure advances for the right book.

Even if you self-published your e-book you can offer the manuscript to a literary agency for consideration of international rights. One prominent literary agency, Folio Literary Management  has an active foreign rights department that does hundreds of deals for their clients every year.

Foreign rights sales can be complicated by the fluctuating currency exchange. But for most authors, the advantages of foreign sales far outweigh any drawbacks. And for authors exhausted by the seemingly endless presence at social media sites, book signings, interviews, blog tours and other non-writing activities that have become an essential part of book promotion, foreign rights sales are the more attractive as their foreign editions are promoted by the publisher who bought these rights.

Being successfully self-published opens the door to foreign sales and also provides a better chance of being signed by a major publisher since you already have an established audience – which is so important in publishing today.

Another option is to translate (if you are bi-lingual), or let your book translate by a professional (give it to an editor afterward in order to have it polished) and sell it directly through Amazon in these countries – generating totally new markets for your book. As of this writing, outside of the USA, Amazon books and Kindle Readers / Tablets are available in Canada, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, France, Austria as well as in Japan, Australia and China.

Find and pitch your book to a foreign rights person.
Contact agents or publishers for foreign rights / translations in your home country or attend the world-biggest and most important annual Frankfurt (Germany) Book Fair and establish connections to publishers / agents from all over the world.

To find names, addresses and other information about publishers worldwide refer to

The listings are sorted by country, language, subject etc. and you can contact these publishers instantly and without incurring high cost or set up an appointment with them at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Foreign publishers have the opportunity to discover new authors and potentially pick up the rights to their works for much less money than they might when working with a traditional publisher or agent.

Benefits of an agent
Publishers rely on them to sort through all the contract work and know that books sent to them by good agents are worth their time considering. But most importantly, agents know what a book is worth and will negotiate the best deal for you. There are instances of publishers working directly with authors, but it’s a long shot. Publishers know authors are inexperienced in negotiating and desperate, so it’s highly likely the authors didn’t get the best deal possible.

Agents work on a commission basis, usually 15% of advances and subsequent royalties. The author pays nothing up front; the agents only get paid if they produce.

Most foreign agents work with a co-agent in the author’s country, who feed them books to market, which already have a proven sales track record in the author’s country. In these cases, the two agents usually split a 20% commission.

Don’t miss Part 2 within the next days



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$ 15.000 Advance? Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition


No Entry Fee !, in partnership with Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace, has announced the fifth annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, an international competition seeking the next popular novel.

The competition will again award two grand prizes: one for General Fiction and one for Young Adult Fiction. The 2012 competition is also open to novels that have previously been self-published.

Each winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance. Hurry up!  Open submissions for manuscripts begin today, January 23 and continue through February 5, 2012.  Don’t delay–only the first 5,000 entries will be accepted in each category.



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