Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Category: foreign rights

What To Do If Your Books Are Popular In Iran?

The short answer is nothing. There actually isn’t much you can do.

Rarely discussed in publishing is the fact that certain countries don’t recognize or honor copyright law. Persian countries (including Iran and Iraq) are an excellent example of territories that don’t. Persian publishers will often translate popular novels and publish them in their countries without a license, and the author does not receive a dime as an advance or royalties.

Kind of shocking, isn’t it?

This situation has happened a number of times for my authors. We usually find out about unlicensed editions when an author receives fan mail or a lovely note from the translator. Even though the Persian publishers don’t feel much obligation to the author, we have found over the years that the translators actually do. And often they will reach out to the author and ask permission to do the translation—even though they know (and are quite apologetic) that the publisher has no plans to compensate the author in any way.

I have a special place in my heart for these morally centered translators.

So what can an author do when it becomes apparent that his or her books are being translated and published in countries that don’t honor copyright protection?

My answer is this. The author should offer to write a special foreword for the edition in exchange for a nominal fee. It’s my attempt to get the author at least some compensation. Yet so far no Iranian publisher has taken me up on this offer.

But I’m hopeful. Someday…

Photo Credit: Peta de Aztlan


Like Finding Loose Change in the Sofa – Kind of

So just this week, we received an outstanding Australian royalty statement for one of our clients that had been missing. Because we actually track, review, and audit our statements, even foreign ones (and let me tell you what a nifty trick it is to do the Japanese statements…) we immediately spotted one rather large problem.

Oddly, there were no ebook sales listed anywhere on statement. Dating back since 2013. Not a single ebook sale in the last 2 years is a bit hard to believe, so we pinged the publisher.

Sure enough, the ebook ISBN wasn’t linked to this title in their accounting system. It was there but floating out in the ether with no title to attach to. Once it was appropriately linked, voila, almost $1000.00 was owed to the author.

And as my client so aptly replied to me, like finding loose change in the sofa!

Kind of. 😊

Even if the publisher controls the World Rights, we ask for the statements so we can review. Because I’m pretty certain that given the deluge of statements the internal publishing rights team receive, they aren’t paying super close attention.

Want to know how to audit royalty statements for yourself? We start you off easy by tackling U.S. royalty statements first. Our contracts and royalty guru Angie Hodapp is showing you how on July 30, 2015. Be a smart and savvy author. Auditing royalty statements. Only a couple slots left as there is a cap on attendance.

Photo credit: Branko Collin


The UK Contract – Now Equally As Important As the U.S. Contract

In today’s global digital publishing environment, negotiating a UK contract has now become equally as important as the home-court US contract. So if you want to think like an agent, spend as much time reviewing your UK contract as you do your US one.

Now that used to be easy. UK contracts traditionally have topped out at twelve or thirteen pages. A veritable reading breeze in comparison to the 25+ page marathons you get from US Publishers.

Not so any longer, from what I can tell. I’ve negotiated several UK contracts that are giving the US a run for its money in terms of length.

In fact, one UK contract’s out-of-print clause (a.k.a. the OOP) recently made me burst out laughing. The clause stated that a book would not be deemed out of print until earnings for that title, in all formats, added up to less than 75 pounds in two accounting periods.

Seventy-five pounds during a one-year period.

That is laughable, but I don’t think this publisher’s intent was to be funny.

Depending on the price point of the title (and let’s just say the average price in the UK is ten pounds), that would be the equivalent of selling something like eight copies, in any format (which would include high discount, special sales, premiums, book club, audio etc.) in one year.

Sheesh. I think a publisher would really be messing something up if they can’t sell eight copies of a particular book in a twelve-month period. Typical UK contracts set an out-of-print threshold of several hundred copies, so if you were going to do an earnings equivalent instead, it would need to be around fifteen-hundred pounds to be reasonable.

Definitely not a number you want to overlook!



Why Bring An Author to Bologna?

STATUS: Still time to sign up to learn how to craft the perfect pitch paragraph for your query letter. The video webinar is tomorrow, Thursday, March 28 at 6 pm MST. It should be a blast to give.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ONLY A MEMORY by Smithereens

In general, the whole purpose of Bologna Children’s Book Fair is to pitch your rights list to scouts and foreign publishers in order to generate interest in upcoming titles so as to promote foreign sales. And I certainly did a lot of that while there but for the most part, I have a foreign co-agent who handles that on our agency’s behalf.

So what’s Frankfurt or Bologna all about when I visit a Fair with a client in tow? It’s about face-time. It’s about making the foreign publisher feel like an important part of an author’s career. It’s about marketing dollars and inspiring the foreign editor to choose our clients’ books if it’s a choice between two.

1) Foreign editors rarely get to meet the authors for whom they are translating. It may or may not translate into more sales but I know from experience that a foreign publisher who has met an author in person is more likely to do a promotional push for that title in translation.

2) Those meetings give us valuable information that we might not hear otherwise (or not hear in a timely fashion). Marie Lu’s German publisher is making LEGEND their big lead title for fall and sponsoring a German tour! Would this have happened without a Bologna visit? Certainly (as we would have been looped in eventually) but now we are in the know months earlier and can actively help them. Also, they are 10 times more excited to have this big push after we had a lovely sit-down dinner with them and relayed all the latest promo news while in Bologna. We’ve confirmed they are making the right decision.

3) Targeting a Fair allows an author client to make stops in other nearby countries. When Simone decided to come to Bologna with me this year, she was invited by her French publisher to stop in Paris to participate in a book festival there. Her publisher warned her that maybe 25 or 35 people might show for the signing. Imagine everyone’s surprise when more than 200 people came and Simone had a signing line more than 2 hours long! You think her French publisher is going to be paying closer attention to her next release? You betcha. Nothing inspires publishers more than seeing first hand fan enthusiasm for an author.

4) Finding out early that an author is selling like mad in a territory. (ie. The Perfect Chemistry Series is going gangbusters in Germany).

Other benefits of Fair participation include getting the latest gossip about what has sold recently. About what might be hot next. And simply connecting with the UK editors whom I don’t see as often. It gives an agent a global perspective of what works–not only in the US but around the world. Or maybe even more importantly, what doesn’t work in other territories.

Does that shade what I might take on next in the US? To some extent but it’s certainly not the end all be all in making a decision to offer representation but it is part of the big picture.

More pics from 2012 Bologna!

Marie Lu and me in Agent Centre

Simone with her editor Katrin (on left) and her Publisher Suzanne (Random House Germany)

Marie’s Bologna dinner with her US, German, and UK publishers!

Simone & Kristin in Venice! Rumor has it that if you kiss under a bridge while riding in a gondola, you’ll have good luck all year. I told Simone that even though I was a full service agent, that’s where I draw the line. *grin*


2012 Bologna Children’s Book Fair – Next Hot Thing?

STATUS: Meetings every half hour and running on 6 hours of sleep a night on average. Yep, that’s Bologna!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? I PUT A SPELL ON YOU by Bryan Ferry

Three days at Bologna and here’s what I can tell you.

On the plane over, people were talking about the next hot trend being about geeks in young adult fiction. Geeks transforming. Geeks not transforming but still winning the girl or the day. Geeks in love.

Do I think it’s the next hot trend? I haven’t got the faintest idea.

It’s definitely clear that foreign editors are feeling the drain of paranormal romance in YA being hot for so long but even with that, they say it’s still selling well in Germany, UK, and France. Editors don’t seem to be buying a lot of it at the moment though.

Since I’m here with Marie Lu to meet with her very excited foreign publishers (the trilogy has been sold in to 22 territories and counting), we are, of course, asking if dystopian is hot abroad.

The verdict is undecided. HUNGER GAMES fever is definitely sweeping the world but whether that will translate into other dystopian novels also becoming hot has yet to be proven. Well, I’ve got my fingers crossed for June and Day…

Hands down, for middle grade DAIRY OF A WIMPY KID works amazingly in every country but Russia. Guess they like big burly guys instead of wimps?

*grin*

Some pics!

Anita and I at entrance of the Fair.

Me with Sara’s amazing client Stefan Bachmann and the brand spanking new cover for his wonderful middle grade gothic steam punk: The Peculiar

Marie Lu and her Taiwan Publisher Sharp Point! Marie was a rock star. She did the whole meeting in Chinese. (Marie is second person from right.)

Marie and I in the Penguin Bologna Stand.


UK–How Stubborn You Are

STATUS: Have to run out the door in 15 minutes.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HARD TIMES by David Newman

Not to put too fine a point on it. The book selling market in the UK is between a rock and a hard place. Booksellers in trouble. Publishers selling half the books sold at high discount levels, etc. Consequently, UK publishers aren’t buying that much. As of late, it’s one of the hardest territories to sell into unless a title sold for a lot of moolah in the US.

We are struggling to land a licenses there.

In fact, it’s probably why a lot of UK booksellers are buying US stock wholesale and offering it for sale there (and this would maybe show on a royalty statement as an export sale). It would be hard to track down.

So when we sell North American rights only and then request that the US publisher pull down their edition from the UK market, we aren’t looking to screw UK readers. It’s simply that the author might not get legitimately paid for those copies. If it’s not in the grant of rights and not showing up on any royalty statement…

But authors who haven’t sold into the UK are getting creative. In fact, some authors are taking matters into their own hands and are making their titles available electronically through the different ebook venues in the UK.

So even though the physical version might be a hard to find, titles can still reach UK readers.


Selling Territories Publisher Doesn’t Have The Rights To

STATUS: Have morning chai, will work.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LET LOVE RULE by Lenny Kravitz

Late last week, I got an email from a client asking why her latest release wasn’t available as an eBook in the UK. Bemused, I emailed her to say that we had only sold North American rights to her US publisher and hadn’t done a subrights deal for that territory as of yet. The US publisher didn’t have the right to make its edition available in Great Britain. In fact, there shouldn’t be any edition of her book being sold in that territory.

She then sent me a link to amazon.uk where her US book was clearly for sale.

Well, that made her question make a whole lot more sense. No wonder she was confused.

The point of my post? As authors, you should randomly check bookseller sites abroad and if something pops up, then you need to inform your agent and he/she needs to track it down. Because the US publisher didn’t have UK in the grant of rights, this would never show up as an itemized list on the royalty statement.

But if the book is for sale there and we discovered that, then the Publisher needs to do a couple of things. 1) Take the edition down and 2) let us know how many copies were sold and how they plan to account for them.

Another favorite story, which didn’t happen all that long ago either, is when an author received several emails from Italian fans who loved her work but were complaining about the poor translation.

Uh, Italian license had never been done for the book. There should be no Italian edition–badly translated or otherwise. I reached out to the Italian publisher and they were mortified. They thought they had an agreement in place but the contract was never done and the author was never informed.

I give Italy kudos though. When the problem was discovered, they stepped up immediately to make it right and paid for the edition they had published. As it was also out of print, they officially reverted the rights they actually never had. *grin*

All’s well that ends well…

Just another day at the office.


Frankfurt–Day After And Then Some

STATUS: Went to Frankfurt with a cold. Had the cold during all of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Brought the cold home with me. Truly, I like to hang on to things.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SHE’S NO LADY by Lyle Lovett

I figured blog readers would get a kick out of this. Agents Agents! As far as the eye can see… Kind of like Water Water everywhere and not a drop to drink.


Jamie Ford, who was there at the Fair meeting with his many foreign publishers, said it looked like a sweat shop and wondered where the sewing machines were. Rather apt.

It’s definitely not romantic in any way shape or form. Agents sit down with scouts, territory co-agents, and editors to highlight frontlist titles as well as nice selling backlist titles that are available for translation sales. It’s not unusual for a rights person to have 12 to 18 appointments in a day, back-to-back, and in thirty minute intervals. Lunch is often optional.

And Frankfurt is not London, Paris, or Rome (not to offend any German blog readers!) but the downtown area is probably the least charming European city I’ve been to. I imagine outside of the city centre there are lots of nice spots but considering what was available within walking distance of the hotel, it was slim pickings.

To offset the rather bland Frankfurt, a day trip to Heidelberg was in order! From Left: Jamie Ford, Me, Luceinne Diver (also a client of mine) and Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency.


Frankfurt Book Fair – Day 1

STATUS: All last week I was knocked out of commission by a nasty head cold. Winter hasn’t even begun. Like the overachiever I am, just getting it done early.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MR. JONES by Counting Crows

This week begins the madness that is the Frankfurt Book Fair and guess where yours truly happens to be.

For the last three years, I’ve made a point of attending each of the main book fairs: London, Bologna, and now Frankfurt. I have a foreign rights person so it’s not imperative that I go specifically so you might be wondering why I pursued this goal.

You can’t best support someone who is representing your authors until you’ve seen for yourself what the fairs are all about. It’s helps significantly to prepare the rights and press sheets so that foreign editors can best utilize them if applicable to their markets.

Also, if an editor has bought a lot of your clients, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting simply to connect on a personal level.

For this year’s fair, I have two authors with me: Gail Carriger and Jamie Ford. Both have sold tremendously abroad and have been bestsellers in several other countries besides the US.

So what does one do at Frankfurt? Lots and lots of meetings in the agents’ centre which is about the size of two football fields. And I’m not exaggerating here.

The Fair is so big, it can literally take 30 minutes to walk from an appointment at one hall to another.

To put this in perspective, it only takes me 15 minutes to walk from my hotel to the Fair.

Tonight I attended two parties–one at the German publisher S. Fischer Verlag and the other held by Hachette at the Hessischer Hof.

The Hachette party was so packed, I literally walked in and had to stifle the urge to turn around and walk back out. Elbow to elbow. I thought the chances of my finding anyone for whom I might be looking would be slim but oddly enough, it worked.

The undefinable magic of Frankfurt.


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