Friday, December 14, 2007

Sub-Rights--Or Yet Another Reason You REALLY Need an Agent

Alright, today we're talking about Subsidiary Rights, which I know much less about than my agent. On top of that, my brain is kind of foggy because I have the worst cold ever . . . so if none of this makes sense, it might just be me . . . or it might just mean you need an agent.;)

Sub-rights really are fairly complex, but we'll try to simplify it a bit. And we're going to assume we're talking about books rights, since this is my blog and I can, Ha!;) Let's assume you have an agent who is shopping your book and you've received an offer from a publisher. This is where sub-rights start. As anyone would, the publisher wants as much of your book as they can get for as little as they can pay. (I'm not saying this is bad, it's just business.) So generally the publisher will submit a ground-level offer and ask for world rights.

Now you have a choice. First off, you might be asking, what are these World Rights of which you speak? World rights means that the publisher has the right to print your book anywhere in the world and in any language. Sound good? Maybe it sounds bad? Either way, you're right.:) A lot of deals get made for World Rights. It really can be a great deal. The publisher will usually pay more for World Rights and more is generally good:). Also, if you are with an agent who is either part of a very small house or runs a solo operation, they may not have enough foreign rights connections to exploit your translation rights as profitably as the publisher can. (Note, this is not always the case--many solo agents have awesome foreign rights connections.) World Rights are also a great way for your agent to negotiate a higher advance, or maybe more upfront.

However, you don't want to offer World Rights without a good reason. Those are your rights and you should be compensated for them. Several authors I know have sold either North American or World English Rights and been able to sell Foreign Rights so profitably they doubled their original advance from their English publisher. *Story Time!* When HC made their original offer, I didn't even think about World Rights until Jodi said that they had asked for World Rights and she advised me not to give them. Hadn't even crossed my mind. (Personally, I'd have jumped at the first offer and given them whatever rights they wanted. Thank goodness for Jodi.:)) But Writers House has an excellent Foreign Rights department and Jodi didn't think HC had put enough on the table to justify World Rights in light of that, so she advised me not to give World Rights.

So what can you give them if you want to keep your World Rights? The standard answer used to be North American Rights. (That's the NA you see at the end of a lot of Publishers Marketplace announcements.) Jodi surprised me again and told me that she has been doing a lot of deals lately for World English Rights. That means that the publisher can print your book anywhere in the world in English and you are left with all translation rights. Basically that clears up any misunderstandings regarding where the UK is officially and where Canadian rights end and Australian rights begin and other silly things.:) North American Rights are just what they sounds like: the US, Canada, and Mexico. (I'm not sure if this includes a Spanish Translation for Mexico, so if anyone knows that for sure, they can chime in.:))You can also offer things like Audio and Electronic rights (not to mention movie rights), but we'll get into that next time.



brian_ohio said...

Believe it or not... that made sense.


Maprilynne said...

Yea! I made sense!

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting to me. I've just been taken on by an agent and she has mentioned keeping specific countries out of the rights; countries where she thinks my novel would sell particularly well and therefore she thinks we would be better off making specific deals. I got the impression that she would sell North American rights, then possibly 'rest of the world apart from X, X and X'. This is vague even in my memory and I know we need to talk about it more (submission won't happen until next year), but I guess it's just a different approach.

ORION said...

North American English rights in my contract are Canada and US. Actually though the US publisher does sell their english version all over the world. You can order my US LOTTERY on amazon anywhere- When the UK bought LOTTERY they do an export version to australia and new zealand and of course their own cover and release.

Carrie said...

Also, if you do sell world rights, you're not necessarily giving up the chance to get more money. My understanding (or at least the way my contract works -- and we sold world rights while reserving some countries) is that selling the sub-rights is now in the publisher's hands, not mine or my agent's.

So, my publisher's sub-rights department can sell my book to the UK and Spain, and any advance they negotiate goes towards my US advance (my contract specifies the percentage of each country's advance I get and what percentage my publisher gets). Technically, if my publisher sells enough sub-rights, I could earn out my US advance before my book is even published.

Hopefully that makes sense. I just wanted to clarify that if you sell world rights, you're not always giving up the chance to get more money in sub-rights deals, instead it just works differently.

- Carrie (who is having problems logging into blogger)

Maprilynne said...

Carrie, thank you for clarifying that, I guess I didn't make that clear enough. Either way, foreign rights get sold and the author receives their percentage. One simply has to look at who can exploit those right better. And the reason that you should be able to ask more for World Rights is that they should be worth more in advance if the publisher has confidence that they can sell them well. And author really needs to look at who can do the best job of selling foreign rights.

And of course, the best way to know this is to have an agent you trust who can advise you.

Pat thanks for that additional info!

ORION said...

yeah carrie is right and I guess we didn't make that clear- the thing is you get some money faster if you sell the foreign rights rather than the publisher as you have to wait a year or more for royalty statements and there is the reserve against returns etc...
You ultimately still get a portion of each book sold - just whether you get the money in a lump sum now or peicemeal.

Jamie Ford said...

Another factor to consider is that if you sell your foreign rights to the publisher, they will take a percentage, and then your agent will take a percentage as well.

Your agent and sub-agent will split that percentage, rather than subjecting you to a double-dip.

Church Lady said...

This is very informative! Thanks for sharing!!

Demon Hunter said...

This is sooo interesting, Aprilynne. Thank you so much for sharing this process with us! It's good to know! :*)

Carrie said...

Just to comment on what Jamie said, your agent won't take a percentage of the publisher-sold foreign sale advance until you earn-out your first (US) advance and start earning royalties. Before that point, all of the foreign sale advances go towards your first sale advance and the agent does not take commission on that (or rather, has already taken commission on the advance).

They way I look at it is that the agent takes commission on any check the publisher cuts for me. With a foreign sub-rights sale, the publisher isn't cutting a check for me until I earn out and start earning royalties.

Does that make sense? :)

Holly Kennedy said...

Isn't the writing world fascinating? Unless your book goes for a big advance you're always better off selling your foreign rights separately. All three of my novels were sold for NA rights with foreign rights selling after.

I recently put together a spreadsheet to track which book has been sold where and when each contract is up with each country (a good problem to have).

Again, congrats on your wonderful news!!!!!

Vera said...

Do you know what happens if the author provides a translation of his/her novel? Let's say the author is bilingual and has also written the same novel in Spanish. How--if at all--would that change anything?