Be Strong on Foreign Rights
by Elliott Katz
One of the lessons I learned while marketing foreign rights for Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants was that human nature is similar in cultures that are very different. What I had thought of as a North American phenomenon is happening in many countries, which made the book a good candidate for international sales.
Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants grew out of my own journey. I wanted to learn more about what it means to be a man in a relationship. Soon, I realized I wasn’t alone. With confusing messages in the media and many absent fathers, a lot of men told me they were also unsure of their role, and I heard women say that men today don’t act the way they expect men to act. (My biggest surprise after the book was published was that, even though I wrote it for men, many women buy it, and the most common question from women is: “How do I get him to read it?”)
My journey led me to insights that fathers and other male role models used to pass along to younger men—insights about admirable traits such as emotional strength, leadership, decisiveness, and taking responsibility, traits women valued and thought that many men today lacked.
The first clue that this wasn’t just a North American phenomenon came after I exhibited the book with IBPA at BookExpo America. I received interest from and eventually sold translation rights to publishers in countries whose cultures are very different from ours. Latin American Spanish rights sold to a publisher in Mexico, Polish rights sold to a publisher in Poland, and rights for Ibo (the native language of Biafra) sold to a publisher in Nigeria.
Stimulating Sales Worldwide
If publishers in such different countries wanted the book, I thought I might find interest in more places, and I started contacting literary agents in Asia, Europe, and South America. Through these agents, translation rights have so far also been sold to publishers in Korea, Japan, Brazil, Romania, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Serbia.
Here’s the nine-step system that I used to market foreign rights.
1. Prepare an exciting email pitch that sells the book. Include details that will make an agent enthusiastic about the book, such as:
information about successes to date, including sales figures and reports of foreign-rights sales and distribution agreements for the English-language edition
an offer to send a copy of the book, with a request that the agent send you a mailing address
a short summary of the book
the text of and/or links to several reviews of the book
a link to the book’s Web site and/or its page on Amazon.com
endorsements the book has received
links to radio and TV interviews about the book
the book’s table of contents
2. Compile a list of foreign-rights agents. Good literary agents know the editors and publishers in their markets, including people at new houses that may be especially interested, and publishers are likely to pay attention to submissions from agents they know.
You can find a list of foreign-rights agents in International Literary Market Place, which is available in the reference section of many libraries and online at literarymarketplace.com/lmp/us/index_us.asp. I started by using it and then found many other foreign-rights agents on the Internet. When I Googled “foreign rights agents” and “foreign rights,” results included major publishers’ Web pages with lists of names and contact information for their foreign rights agents in countries all over the world.
To find agents that specialize in a certain genre, such as children’s books, you can go to the sites of major companies publishing in that genre and look for their lists of foreign-rights agents.
3. Contact agents. Send selected agents the email about your book.
4. When you receive a positive response, send the book with hard copies of reviews and anything else that agents can copy and send to publishers to stimulate enthusiasm.
Most foreign-rights agents charge 10 percent commission on the advance and royalties. In many countries, it is possible to have several foreign-rights agents represent a book on a nonexclusive basis. Some agents may ask for exclusivity for their market. If you do agree to exclusivity, make sure it is for a limited period, such as six months, renewable by mutual agreement.
5. Support your agents’ efforts. Send updates on other foreign-rights sales, reviews, and other media coverage of your book. Suggest that agents forward these updates to publishers considering the book.
6. If you have more than one agent marketing the book in a country and an agent there generates an offer, inform the other agent(s) about it and suggest contacting publishers considering the book to find out whether they plan to make offers. This will let you review all offers at the same time.
7. When you receive an offer, negotiate the contract. An agent may encourage you to accept the first offer, as they have longer-term relationships with publishers. Foreign-rights contracts usually grant the publisher only the right to publish the book in its language. All other rights, such as serial rights, are usually retained.
It’s common to ask for the royalties from the entire first printing as an advance, using the first printing quantity, the proposed retail price, and the royalty rate specified in the offer. Since translation and design expenses are usually covered in the first printing, it is also common to ask for an increased royalty rate—often an additional 1 percent—on second and subsequent printings. To learn more about negotiating foreign contracts, see the Independent articles archived at ibpa-online.org.
8. Find out about taxes. In many different countries, governments withhold taxes. Ask your agent about the amount of the withholding tax. It’s usually 10 to 15 percent. You can also check tax treaties with specific countries. Go to irs.gov/businesses/international/article/0,,id=96739,00.html, or, for Canada, go to fin.gc.ca/treaties/in_force-e.html. Article 12 of the treaties usually deals with Royalties.
9. Thank your agent. Once you make the deal, express appreciation to your agent. The agent will appreciate it. It’s human nature.
Elliott Katz is the author of Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man. You can contact him at ElliottRKatz@aol.com and via BeingtheStrongMan.com.