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Author Topic: Foreign Rights  (Read 6225 times)

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Foreign Rights
« on: October 03, 2006, 03:29:29 PM »

Topic: Foreign rights? (1 of 24), Read 79 times
Conf: Publishers
From: Karen Irving (
Date: Thursday, July 01, 1999 08:21 PM

Does anyone here have any experience with selling foreign rights? My publisher holds North American rights for Pluto Rising, and I knew they were planning to take it to Frankfurt in October to sell subsidiary rights, but yesterday I got a note saying that a British publisher has expressed interest in buying British rights. I am totally up in the air about this -- don't know what to expect at all, and am torn between elation and apprehension. Any ideas?


From: Dale Flanagan (
Date: Thursday, July 01, 1999 10:24 PM


I don't understand your question. If your publisher only has NA rights, he/she can't sell the foreign rights. They belong to you, not them. Check your contract.

If the publisher has foreign rights or can sell foreign rights, the contract will specify the royalty percentage you get from the sale. You have to do nothing.

If you own the foreign rights, then you or your agent has to market them, not the publisher. Most agents use foreign sub-agents to sell foreign rights, btw. Both agents take a cut from sales (usually 10% each, for a total of 20%).

My first book just came out in Japanese, and my first two will come out in German soon. My agent handled the sale through sub-agents, but I own all rights other than NA first publication rights. Since my publisher would get nothing from a foreign sale, they obviously didn't get involved.



From: Dale Flanagan (
Date: Thursday, July 01, 1999 10:31 PM

PS - The agent or publisher will handle all foreign currency conversions for you, so you get a check in US dollars. Sometimes the offer is made in local currency, btw. I got real excited by my German offer until I realized the quote was in Deutschmarks! The actual offer was about 1/2 what I thought when I assumed US dollars. Still nice, but not as nice as I thought!



From: Karen Irving (
Date: Friday, July 02, 1999 07:28 AM

Dale -- my publisher is handling foreign rights, and I get 70% -- but my question is, 70% of what? Retail price in the foreign country? And how long do these rights last? It's useful for me to hear that the offer will be made in the foreign currency, but I don't know if I get a separate statement from the foreign publisher, or if it goes through my own publisher? Loads of questions like this are parading through my brain...


From: Kathleen Taylor (
Date: Friday, July 02, 1999 07:47 AM

On 7/2/99 7:28:46 AM, Karen Irving wrote:
>Dale -- my publisher is
>handling foreign rights, and I
>get 70% -- but my question is,
>70% of what?

This is odd Karen. Most publishers don't concern themselves with foreign rights. My contracts give Avon the OM (open market) rights, which includes English Language edition sales in Canada, the Phillippines, I think Mexico, and all US territories. They will ship their copies to anyone in the world who orders them (some are on sale in Japan, I know).

But they have nothing to do with translation rights or British rights. Obviously this division of funds is already in your contract and there's nothing you can do to change it now, but I'd think carefully about signing another contract that gives foreign rights to your original publisher.

BTW- 70% means that you get 70% of whatever money comes from the foreign publisher, and your publisher gets to keep 30% (which is double what your agent would have gotten if he or she had done the negotiating with the foreign publishers- though your agent will get a cut anyway, so you will eventually end up with even less money).

Kathi, who is speaking hypothetically since she's never sold any foreign rights

From: Dale Flanagan (
Date: Friday, July 02, 1999 08:45 AM


1. Kathi is right. You'll get 70% of whatever the publisher gets. The deal they cut with the foreign publisher is up to them.

2. The deal with the foreign publisher will last as long as the agreed upon terms of their contract. You should check YOUR contract, to see if you have any say on this (e.g. right to refuse the deal if you don't like it, etc.), or if you've given away all rights to your US publisher to make the deal.

3. Kathi is also right that 30% is larger than most foreign rights deals (20%, with 10% going to your agent and 10% going to the foreign sub-agent, is more common). Your current agent will also get his/her cut of your 70%, too. Obviously, this is not advantageous. On the other hand your current agent may or may not be in a position to market the foreign rights successfully, so this could all be found money.

4. The quote you get will probably be converted to dollars by your publisher. My agent sent a copy of the original German offer for my first two books (which was in English, btw), which is why I got excited about a DM quote!

5. Payment will be through your publisher, just like normal royalties on the book. Again check your contract to see if subsidiary rights sales go against your advance or are accounted for separately. You may not see the advance for a foreign sale at all if the money is booked against your NA publisher's advance. Of course, the book will earnout faster, but it's nicer to get the money up front.

6. It's too late with this book, but in future contracts you should pay special attention to subsidiary rights, including foreign sales. On my first book, I made a lot more off subsidiary and foreign sales than the original NA sale, because my agent kept all rights for me, and aggressively marketed them.



Addendum from Lauri Hart:

When I worked for a computer book publisher, the scenario of the publisher selling foreign rights for a 70/30 split (approximately) was common. It appears that it is more common in the technical/non-fiction publishing realm than in fiction.
Bob Mueller
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