Pub Rants

Вы говорите по-русски? (Vy govorite po-russki)

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STATUS: Ready to call it a day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? 1812 OVERTURE by Tchaikovsky [Chicago Symphony Orchestra]

I’d say, on average, our agency does at least one foreign rights deal a week. Hey, we only have about 30 authors total so that’s pretty darn good.

And selling foreign translation rights is just fun. I mean, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see their work published in Slovene? (Exactly, I figured it was in the general area of former Yugoslavian Republic but I did have to look it up). Or in Indonesia (which has an interesting alphabet and great covers). Oops, was thinking Thai! Thanks for the catch in the comments section.

But as good and fun as the foreign deals are the one drawback is the rather untimely payments. I think the word I’m looking for here is glacial—as in the pace of the payments.

If I close a foreign deal today, I can expect signed contracts and on signing payment to come at least 6 months from now. Eight is not unusual. Twelve is ridiculous.

And that’s what I’m currently facing. Sure enough, I have a foreign publisher who has not paid up and the contracts were signed in March 2008. This is too much. Time to get tough.

I’m interviewing big burly guys with Slavic accents and unpronounceable names. Must be fluent in Russian…

20 Responses

  1. Don said:

    Russia is notorious for non-payment of royalties in all creative arenas. The choice is really whether one wants a modicum of input in the product with a negotiated deal which will never pay, or gives up and a pirated edition is printed instead.

    As for Slavic names being unpronounceable, I resent that (but then I grew up in a Chicago neighborhood where the folks with names that ended in -son were the oddballs). As a half-Slovene, it is a bit amusing to discover that my heritage is so exotic.

  2. Just_Me said:

    I have a Russian text book and a character who is big, burly, and speaks a form of Russian (circa 2373). Would that work for you? He comes with military training.

  3. Marie said:

    I write content for various publishers, and I’ve had trouble getting ANYBODY to pay lately. I have to ask 2 or 3 times. I figured it was the economy making people wary to pay.

  4. Peter said:

    As a Certified International Credit Professional (glorified and pretentious way of saying ‘credit and collections’) I can tell you that receivables are slow world-wide, and unless you really want to spend a good sum of money to hire locals (both agents (not in the lit sense) and legal talent) to represent you if the amount due is large enough, a good number of businesses in some countries are assuming you’re not going to be able to do anything about their untimely (or non-existent) payments. Welcome to 2009.

    If you’re intent on collecting, there are companies that will purchase your receivable (for a percentage of the total due) at which point you’ll have received ‘something’ for your trouble and collecting the actual ‘receipt’ will be 100% out of your hands. This usually means you’re not ever planning on doing business with the company that owes you money again (disclosure: I do not work for one of those companies).

    Just my $0.02…I won’t try to collect that. Keep up the great work on the blog and good luck!

  5. ICQB said:

    Ha! That’s the one phrase I remember from my college year of Russian (all those decades ago).

    Good luck with the tuff stuff! Show ’em who’s boss – even if they are big and burly.

  6. Marianne Mancusi said:

    My record was 3 years to get a check (from Australia.) Since it was rights granted through the publisher I was pretty powerless to do anything but wait.

    Then again, getting a check out of the blue on an advance I’d forgotten all about was fun! 🙂

  7. Amy said:

    Every time you talk about selling rights to Slovenia, I giggle. My husband’s family is Slovene. We go back every five years or so, and I always hit the bookstores to see if any of my friends have books out.

  8. Anonymous said:

    Да, я говорю по русски! (Yes, I speak Russian!)

    What fun to see a Russian phrase as your title! Good luck collecting those payments…

  9. Criss said:

    Slightly-random-but-kinda-not question… Who translates the books? Do the publishers have their own in-house translators, or do they hire freelancers? Or does the author or agent find a translator, then approaches the foreign publisher with the already-translated work?

    (My real question is: How do I get the translating gig? Would I need an agent to sell my translating services? Should I approach agents to see if they want their clients’ stuff translated, or do they not mess with that? I tried asking these questions at a literary translators conference, but I couldn’t get more than, “Yeah… sometimes… it depends… my friend asked me to do this book for her.”)

  10. Belynda said:

    Remember… the men don’t need to be fluent in Russian, only fluent in intimidation. A burly guy with a bat can basically speak any language he wants.. if he’s coming at me? He can have the money. No questions asked- in English or Russian.

  11. Kristin Laughtin said:

    Waiting for payments has got to be frustrating both for you and for the authors you represent. Were I in your situation…I’d hope my domestic earnings would be enough to keep me afloat and just bask in the prestige of having my book translated while I wait (and possibly grumble).