Have You Considered Selling to the Global Market?

May 01, 2020

If you’re a first-time author you've probably just been focused on getting your book published and if you’re a veteran writer you may have been focused on building your domestic audience and your sales base but an important consideration for both is international and foreign rights. This applies to whether or not you’re publishing with a traditional publisher or if you’re self-publishing. 


There is a difference between international rights and foreign rights and it’s important to know this distinction before you sign a contract. Let’s say you’re an American author, international rights include English language outside the U.S. (UK, Australia, Hong Kong, etc.).  Foreign rights means languages other than English (if you’re American).


 The demands and trends of foreign markets and readers are constantly changing and thus a network of global publishing contacts is invaluable--and that means a foreign rights agent. For example, changes I’ve witnessed are industry trend shifts such as digital vs audio, bankruptcy of a publisher, local recession, and publishing houses merging.

Often, these networking events and meetings take place face-to-face at book fairs in places such as Beijing, Frankfurt, London, and New York City. You could do it yourself IF you have unlimited resources (both physically and financially). 

As I have attended book fairs I will occasionally see an author trying to sell their book by themselves. Maybe some have had some luck--personally I’ve never seen that happen. Most foreign rights agents are NOT acquisition agents--even if they take your manuscript the likelihood of it getting to the right people is minuscule. They are busy focusing on sales and responses and promoting their own authors. 


A foreign rights agent studies and researches foreign markets to determine whether the book at hand will be unique in the market or one of many similar titles.  An agent is reading the publications, following the news, and is familiar with economic trends in the regions. The same marketing research rules apply when selling internationally as when selling domestically.

A foreign rights agent’s work does not stop after translation rights are sold. The foreign rights agent plays the role of a mediator and "marriage counselor." Agents serve as liaisons between foreign publishers and rights holders by facilitating contract signatures, ensuring that publication schedules are met and payments received according to the terms of the contract. Based on your agreement, the agent often has to become the collector of monies and royalty statements--they get paid when you get paid. 

 Foreign rights agents require a unique skill set. Agents have to know which books are a good fit in which market and with which publisher. They must also have an intimate and deep understanding of people, cultures, publishing industry, geography and global markets. And as much as they love reading, they must love people. 




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