global partnerships

Selling Rights vs. Translating It Yourself, The Debate Continues

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

Translating and selling a book directly abroad is an interesting amplification of what we’ve already seen in the past.

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

global partnershipsTwo schools of thought are emerging about how to handle sales of your books abroad. Should you a) go the traditional route and sell the rights to publish your book to a local company who will then handle translation, distribution, sales and marketing, or b) should you consider translating the book on your own and then working with local booksellers and platforms abroad to accomplish much the same thing?

The answer to the question, naturally, depends on each individual book and each individual publisher.

In two recent examples, Bastei Lübbe went ahead and translated Apocalypsis its 2011 bestselling digital-first novel into English, and began selling it in the US and UK in June (as discussed in today’s feature story). Barcelona eBooks is the new English-language program of Spain’s Roca Editorial, which is being distributed in the US by Open Road Media, a US e-book publisher.

One company is quite large, the other is more modest and medium-sized. But in both cases the firms had the vision to exploit their existing content in a way that has largely been unseen before today. Where previously they would have likely taken a fee from a US publisher to get their content into the rich American market, today they are banking on their own content to find the market on its own (with help from those local partners, be they platforms, developers or booksellers). Not only does this indicate that the publishers now have this opportunity to begin with (largely due to the advent of digital), it’s a further demonstration of their own confidence in that material. After all, they are taking the risk upon themselves to make it work overseas.

It’s an interesting amplification of what we’ve already seen in the past with authors who have taken it upon themselves to have their work translated into English — a key gateway language — in order to get it into the hands of publishers abroad. Self-publishers too are picking up on this practice, albeit the opposite way, and are assuming the cost of translating their English-language originals into European and other languages in order to sell abroad. (See the article by Bella Andre in our London Book Fair Edition.)

What works best for you depends on your confidence level and tolerance for investing in what might prove to be a risky endeavor. Of course, the upside is that you may very well tap into a profit from a market you might never have ever considered before.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. A widely published critic and essayist, he serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries.