Pub Rants

Selling Territories Publisher Doesn’t Have The Rights To

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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 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.

14 Responses

  1. Sara said:


    “Just another day at the office.”

    Ladies and Gentlemen, this is why we need agents. Keeping track of it ourselves wouldn’t leave writers time to write.

  2. Melinda Szymanik said:

    On the other hand isn’t it frustrating that people in the UK want to buy the print version but cannot and must wait for rights to be sold by which time they might have moved on? Obviously the author needs to be appropriately recompensed but this seems disadvantageous to all concerned.

  3. Fiona Paul said:


    Wow. I’ve seen my forthcoming debut listed for pre-order on multiple (unauthorized) amazon sites as well as other foreign bookseller webpages and had no idea this could be problematic.

    Because of you, I have alerted the proper people and they are ‘on it.’

    Thanks for providing such great information.

  4. Keren David said:

    This is very interesting because there’s quite a vogue in the UK now for bookshops to sell American editions of American YA books. And how about sites like the Book Depository which ships for free worldwide?

  5. Anonymous said:

    Please do a post about how this would be handled with digital only books. I would assume digital books are sold all over the world because the Inernet is global? At least I have many books out that are being sold and read globally and I don’t have a clue as to how they are distributed or where the royalties come from.