Thursday, July 22, 2010

How the heck to foreign rights sales work?--Repost

I'm still on an airplane to Singapore (no joke) so this is a "best of" post. I took you through all the machinations that a manuscript goes through between the book deal and the shelves on Monday. Today, I'll clue you in on something else I was clueless about until I went through the process: Foreign translation right sales. Here's my 3/25/10 post on the topic:

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair is this week in, you guessed it, Bologna. My stomach is there, even though my body isn’t. There’s no better food to be had anywhere on the planet, and the Bolognaise are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.

This week, publishers and agents descend on the lovely Bologna to hawk their wares—or, in other words, to sell foreign rights to their children’s books. We’ll be hearing about a lot of foreign rights deals on children’s, MG and YA books in the days/weeks following Bologna.

When my agency went on foreign rights submission with my book a few weeks back, the whole foreign rights thing had me completely baffled. I had no clue how that process worked. But since then, I’ve gained some insight, and, for those of you as clueless as me, I’d like to pass it along.

So, in honor of the Bologna Book Fair, and my growling stomach, here is the little bit of knowledge that I can impart to others in my position. Keep in mind that this is all wrapped up in a fairly simplistic nutshell.

First, who sells foreign rights to your book depends wholly on who owns them, and that’s determined at the time of your initial book deal with your US publisher.

World rights:
If your contract is for world rights, then your publisher owns ALL the rights to your book, including translation, so it’s up to them to submit to ALL foreign publishers. The portion of whatever advance on royalties they are able to negotiate that goes to you is dictated by your contract with them (usually on a percentage basis). If your US publisher has paid you an advance, your percentage of your foreign advances will be applied to earning out your advance with them. Any additional royalties will be paid to you at the negotiated percentage and disclosed in your normal royalty statement from your US publisher. In other words, the foreign publisher pays your US publisher and they pass along your percentage.

World English:
If your contract is for world English rights, then YOU own all translation rights, so it’s up to your agent to submit to foreign publishers for translation. Your publisher owns rights to English editions, which would include the UK and Australia, so they will submit to publishers there and the same terms apply to those sales as described above. Any translation sales your agent is able to make are totally separate from your US publisher, and any advance and royalties will come directly from the foreign publisher.

North American:
If your contract is for North American rights, then you own ALL foreign rights to your book and your agent will submit to ALL foreign publishers. In this instance, all advances and royalties will come directly from the foreign publishers and your US publisher is in no way involved.

Michael Stearns, from Upstart Crow, recently posted on the benefits of holding on to subsidiary rights. There are benefits to either scenario, really. It is often easier to negotiate a better deal with your US publisher if you concede to world rights, especially for a debut author, so you and your agent need to decide what’s in the best interest of your book.

Hope this helps some of you lost in the foreign rights jungle to see the light.


  1. rights have been sold in Spanish?

  2. Annon--If you're asking about Personal Demons, yes, it has sold in Spain and will be translated. I don't know about Latin America yet.

  3. yayyyyyyyy!
    thank you Lisa!!!! :D
    i can't wait for read it!