Saturday, April 07, 2012

Foreign Rights Redux

So, my last post was long on narrative, short on detail. I had such a wonderful time in Italy! But it was, in the end, a business trip, and I thought I would say something about that. Besides, it's been a while since I talked about the business of writing. :)

Wings now has 32 publishers around the world, publishing in 28 languages--there are two English editions, two Portugese editions, two French editions, and a simplified as well as complex Chinese edition. Not every country has its own bestseller list, but I am aware of my books hitting bestseller lists in Brazil, Germany, and Italy for sure, and several of my international publishers indicated that the series is doing well all over the world. In fact, Illusions was on the children's bestseller list in Italy while I was there!


(See all those Jeff Kinneys on there both above and below mine? Oh yeah.:))

Foreign rights is something I've talked about before. Some authors sell "world rights" to their publishers, and after that, don't give it much thought (except to post the pretty pretty covers on their websites!!!). Some limit the scope to "North American English" (so their publisher can only sell books in the U.S. and Canada). As I've said before, which rights you try to hold onto depends partly on where you think your book will sell, and partly on the terms your publisher offers--for example, if your publisher only offers 50% on subrights (honestly I've heard numbers all over the place, but 50% is not great), but your agent does them for 20%, keeping your world rights is probably a good idea

If you think your agent can sell them!

Fortunately, Writers House has a fabulous foreign rights team. Even so, early in my career I was warned that I should think of foreign rights as "found money" and I certainly shouldn't expect to collect royalties beyond my advances.

So that's sort of where my thoughts on the matter sat for a while.

Then one day I was talking to the hawt and fabulous Jamie Ford about his trip to the Frankfurt Buchmesse. He told me that he felt it had been a worthwhile experience for him, because he had several foreign publishers.

I thought, I have several foreign publishers...

But then Jamie went on to say that, for children's books, the real place to be was Bologna, Italy.

I thought, I would like to go to Italy...

The general tone of these international book fairs is very business-oriented. It is not like BEA where you have authors doing signings and all the publishers are giving away free books. In fact, very few authors go to these things because even if they have a lot of foreign publishers there's simply not much for an author to do. It's agents pitching books to publishers and making deals and just generally doing all the things agents do because authors can't, don't know how, or simply don't want to. It's one of those places where agents really earn their cut, and they seriously work like crazy. Like. Crazy.

Well, Jamie had inspired me, and I decided I would ask my agent her opinion. She passed along the idea to the foreign rights people, and they supported the idea. Supported it with a lot of exclamation points.:D

So I went to Italy!

My amazing sub-rights agent arranged for me to have a brief meeting with every single foreign publisher I have that attended the fair. In these meetings I had the opportunity to pitch books they hadn't already bought rights to (new books, but also, some of them have only purchased parts of the Wings series, for example), and got to hear about how my books are doing in their countries. It was super-productive for me, but again--if I didn't already have a bunch of foreign publishers, I can see how there wouldn't have been much for me to do there. As usual, Jamie was right. :D

I got to learn things like: there are no cheerleaders outside of America! Or few enough that most countries don't buy books about cheerleaders. I saw firsthand how many books that are popular in the United States are not very popular outside it... and vice versa. At least until there's a movie, then it pretty much gets popular everywhere. :) I got to learn a bit more about the workings of the industry and see some foreign rights agents in action.

So in addition to all the fabulous food, architecture, language, events, and ambiance... it was a very interesting business experience. I guess the only thing better than a trip to Italy... is a trip you can write off your taxes. ;)

Will I go back someday? Absolutely! Next year? No. The timing was perfect for this year because I had several new books to pitch. It will be a few more years before I have new books to pitch again. (Ah, the downfalls of writing mostly series-es.;)) But when the time does come, absolutely I would go back! In a second!

Now, I have to refocus and get my head back into launch season! Less than a month to Destined! So much to do! So little time! And I haven't given you guys nearly enough teasers... I think I should post the first chapter soon, don't you?



C. Issy said...

I travel to Portugal yearly (for family) and I love hitting the bookstores and gawking at/picking up copies of my fave English books in Portuguese, so I'll be happily hunting for Wings this year! (And my cousins would agree on the cheerleader thing. Those, yellow schoolbuses and fancy mailboxes were the top things that they were dying to see during their visit to the US!) I hope that you had a lot of luck in Bologna this year!

Heather said...

Congrats on the trip to Italy, and on hitting the bestsellers lists in so many countries! That's fabulous!!! Sorry I haven't been by in a while. Though I haven't trekked to Italy, I've been crazy busy. I have been reading your novels and recommending them to everyone I know!

Jo Schaffer said...

Super exciting. (=

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Simmons Family said...

Oh I can't wait for some teasers!!!

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