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Should Self-publishers Handle Their Own Rights Sales?

Increasingly self-publishers are pushing into new aspects of publishing and taking control of their own fate. One of these areas is rights.

By Edward Nawotka


Self-publishers are often an independent breed. Increasingly, they are pushing into new aspects of publishing and taking control of their own fate. One of these areas is rights, be they print, translation, or film — one example is author Alex de Campi’s effort to sell rights via Kickstarter. The issue of film rights can be a complicated one, as we discussed previously in our three-part series on the subject of dealing with Hollywood. (You can read about it here, here, and here.)

Do you think self-publishers are adequately informed to handle their own rights sales? Is there an upside beyond saving on the agent’s commission? Are there pitfalls?

Share your own experiences and opinions with us in the comments below.

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  1. Posted October 26, 2011 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Some people are going a step further. Scott Nicholson is skipping the foreign publishers altogether and instead working with translators on a profit-sharing model (obviating the need for an upfront fee). I’m doing the same, and have just agreed deals to translate one title into French and Spanish.

    If you want to read more about the model, just google “radical solution to translation costs”.

    P.S. The questions at the end of your piece are a little condescending.

  2. Posted October 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Much of one’s ability to negotiate rights sales comes from knowing what the standard terms and typical offers are, and that knowledge comes best from experience over time, not from sources one can find in a library. If a self-published author wants to invest the time in gaining that experience, there is no reason he or she can’t do it; it’s not rocket science. However, even very experienced publishers will often not know enough about how films deals are done, and those contracts require specialized knowledge to negotiate well. I doubt that many self-published authors will want to devote the time and energy to turning themselves into the equivalent of literary agents.

  3. Posted October 27, 2011 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    The reality for many self-publishers is that agents will not represent them, and publishers will not buy their package of rights, which is why they self-published in the first place. This leaves them with little choice but to sell their own foreign and sub-rights. Most of the people I talk to would have gladly paid an agent commission had they found one.

    There are some excellent books on selling rights (Lynette Owen’s “Selling Rights” is essential reading) and plenty of communities that can help with advice, rights promotion, contracts etc – including linkedin, and our own http://www.sparkabook.com.

    I like Sandy’s comment – it is not rocket science, but one has to accept mistakes along the path – it is part of learning. There is no guarantee an inexperienced agent or publisher would not make mistakes either.

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