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Self-Published Books and Foreign Rights Deals

Best practices for working with self-published authors to secure translation rights.

By Edward Nawotka

binary digital globe

Today’s feature story on “The New Midlist” — which discusses self-published e-book authors who are earning good money — notes that numerous authors have been able to attract attention from foreign publishers. One author, Michael J. Sullivan has produced more than $150,000 worth of foreign rights deals. The opportunity is there for foreign publishers to discover new voices — and potentially pick up the rights to their works for much less money than they might when working with a traditional publisher or agent. (Though this, too, may be changing as more agents are also getting into the game of consulting with self-published authors.)

Self-published Authors: Have you pursued foreign rights deals? Have you sold any of your titles for translation? If so, what best practices would you suggest to other authors? For example: Did you have a sample translated into another language? Did you work with an agent or directly with overseas publisher? And if so, how did they find you?

International Publishers and Readers: Assuming that a self-published e-book has attracted your interest, is there a base level of sales where you begin to consider it as a serious prospect? Is it 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 sales? Do you take solicitations for rights deals directly from self-published authors and do you handle them differently than those coming from publishers/agents/scouts? Are you impressed or dissuaded by self-published authors who aggressively pursue your interest?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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  1. HBrumfield
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    We operate/own a publishing company in Japan, now in our 23rd year, and are on the lookout for already successful (or should be!) romance titles for the rapidly growing yet still uncrowded ebook market here.

    Translation is quite expensive but we can work out revenue-sharing arrangements with talented translators.

    If this interests you as an author, I can be contacted at this address: Hunter Brumfield

  2. HBrumfield
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    ftf [at sign] gol [dot] com

  3. Posted June 27, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Small correction: the author in question is Michael J. Sullivan, his wife is Robin Sullivan – hence the confusion.

  4. Posted June 27, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    For us, we didn’t go “looking for them” they came to us. We were regularly getting requests from what I belive to be “scouts” of foreign publishers inquiring if the rights were still available. Once we had several overseas offers we hired an agent who specializes in foreign rights and let her do the negotiating. I’m not convinced that they are paying less than “traditionally publshed authors”. We recently received an offer for a new country, and the agent said it was for more money than any other deal she did in that country…excpet one…Dan Brown. I’m happy coming into second to him. ;-)

  5. Posted June 30, 2011 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    I’ve had sales of 33,000+ so far (two books), mostly in the UK. I have been approached by Könyvmolyképző Kiadó about a Hungarian edition of my first self-published novel, Remix, hardback, paperback and ebooks. The contract was straightforward and fair, and I didn’t feel the need for an agent to go over it before I signed.

    Könyvmolyképző Kiadó contacted Amanda Hocking when she had only sold 10,000 books, so they seem to know what they are doing – rather more than UK publishers, who haven’t yet wised up about the Kindle charts being a good place to find saleable new novels.

  6. Posted June 30, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Looking for foreign publisher for two books published by my small indie publishing line

    THE MEMOIR OF MARILYN MONROE, a novel by Sandi Gelles-Cole-Alternate history Presumes Marilyn did not die but instead went on to live a varied life. She is starting the book on her 85th birthday. Lots of good research. Amazon, B&N, Ingrham, Smashwords, Lulu, all ebook editions

    CHILD OF MY CHILD: Poems and Stories for Grandparents 62 contributors national and international, Amazon, B&N, Ingraham, all ebook editions

    See the fb page for both these titles

  7. Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I just self-published a book of travel adventure / coming-of-age memoir / narrative journalism about my time as a young journalist in the Holy Land called Fast Times in Palestine: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615456243

    It’s been selling pretty well and getting fantastic reviews. I went to the book bloggers convention at BEA a few weeks ago, where I met an author who liked the premise of the book and said she would recommend it to her agent, and an agent who specializes in foreign rights sales and is reading the book now.

    Wish me luck. :)

  8. Posted July 6, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Interested in foreign rights for my novel “WOLD In Cincinnati” about a boomer reporter reinventing herself in middle age covering antics of rich retirees at a revolutionary radio station WOLD where they laugh, love, lust and dabble in crime.

  9. Kailin Gow
    Posted July 12, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations on your success, Robin! I’ve had foreign rights agents approached me from all over for most of my book titles. My books have consistently made the Top 100 Amazon bestselling Teen list and 1 made the Top 100 Overall Bestseller list recently. Like you, I’m weighing my options with the foreign rights offers, and have decided to use a foreign rights agent to represent me. How did you choose your foreign rights agent?

    And everyone – good luck on your books :D

  10. Posted June 6, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Good day. I need a traditional publisher for my Xlibris, UK published book available at http://www.xlibrispublishing.co.uk/bookstore/bookdisplay.aspx?bookid=302725

  11. Posted October 4, 2012 at 4:11 am | Permalink

    We have a link with London based literary agent AM Heath who represent our members books for translation rights. It is difficult for an independent author to keep track of foreign territories, different rules, contacts, contracts etc. It is our aim as an organisation to help indies do what they find most challenging to do for themselves. Thanks for investigating this important issue.

  12. Posted October 4, 2012 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    I should of course have said that ‘we’ is The Alliance of Independent Authors, a nonprofit association for self-publishing writers.

  13. JL
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    I’m just starting out, books not even written yet (but ideas and projects in mind and draft) and foudn this a most interesting article. Since I live in Europe (France to be more precise) and am bilingual, the thought of having my future books translated is very important. I’m considering self-publishing, but really could use some simple advice (via a book or even hear) and how to just “do it”. Whether to go the route of traditional publishing (but where would I have the most publishing control)? At what point to consider an agent (foreign rights included, and is this based on reaching a certain number of sales, as implied inthe replies?) Any advice, all appreciated! Note that my books would fall into the Children’s and Inspirational fiction and non-fiction categories (as I presume I should consider publishing based on where to best reach my audience depending on my genres.)

  14. JL
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    And please excuse the mistakes! Arghh!! No editing possible ;)

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