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Publishing Front News January 2007 Issue

FOREIGN RIGHTS: WHAT ARE THE BASICS?

By Kathe Gogolewski

 

You’ve exhausted the domestic market and have started eyeing the possibility of selling your book in another country. Maybe you think your book about bullfighting might fare better in Spain. Or perhaps your Melbourne murder mystery might sell like hotcakes in Australia. Whatever the reason, you are now wondering about foreign rights. What’s involved, and do you need a lawyer? Should you let you publisher handle it? The answers, in order, are: a lot, probably and maybe.

 

This article does not pretend to take the place of your publisher or a lawyer, but as it pays to know the basics before even starting the conversation with one or the other, I will attempt to offer just that: the basics.

 

To begin, it’s important to know who owns the foreign rights: you or your publisher. Original copyright belongs to the author, of course, but this right can be “sold” to a publisher. Other parties may also be included in the “rights” package, including illustrators and editors. All of this needs to be reviewed prior to negotiations.

 

There are two types of foreign rights deals. The first involves the translation of your book into another language.  The owner of the foreign rights, whether it’s you, your publisher or your agent, can license the translation. The second type of deal involves the English reprint of the book for sale in another country.

 

In both cases, initial negotiations are centered around royalties, and if the book has experienced a level of success in the US, the royalty may be larger. Hopefully, an advance against the royalty will be included in the contract. The equation will also include the size of the territory, or country. A smaller country with fewer resources, such as Belgium, will likely negotiate for smaller royalties than, say, France. This also applies to translations: the more resources available to the foreign agent, the greater the possibility for larger royalties.The advance, if there is one, will likely be based on the retail or cover price of the book. Sometimes, this can get complicated. For example, royalties for foreign book clubs and license fees are sometimes included, which reduces the royalty to the publisher and author.

 

Other considerations:

 

1) The foreign publisher needs to understand that the right to export or distribute to other countries is prohibited. Without this language in your contract, a foreign publisher may attempt to sell your book to exporters that are “in” their territory. Language needs to be included to prohibit this.

 

2) Foreign rights may be sold to separate territories with a separate license for each territory, or a single deal can be struck with one license for several territories. For the latter, if the book sells well in one territory, the excess royalties after recovering the advance should not go to other territories to recover those advances. To avoid complications, negotiate this up front. The legal term for it is “cross-collateralization.”  

 

 

3) Be wary of the clause that reads: “The rest of the world is an open market.” This clause may kill other sales for you. What if, say, you have sold to Spain with this clause in your contract. You will likely have a difficult time making a deal in any other country that speaks Spanish, such as the Spanish speaking Latin American countries. You will be competing with the original licensee. It’s in your favor to prevent open market sales in your original contract.

 

4) The considerations in #3 take on added import when dealing with common markets. These include NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), the EU (European Union) with 25 member states, as well as many other trade relationships throughout the world. These unions are formed to create trading blocks that benefit the member states, naturally. Even if the union requires that when a deal is made in one territory, the licensee has the right to sell the book in all member states, this can be prevented with specific contract language. 

 

5) And finally, remember that a separate copyright is created if your book is translated from English to another language. The laws for copyright in the foreign country may be different from yours, and this may require investigation. The ownership of this copyright is another item to include in the negotiations.

 

These are some of the major issues to keep in mind, but there are more. Often the country of interest will generate its own set of specialized considerations. It’s important to protect your interests by using an experienced negotiator. This may be your publisher, but even so, it doesn’t hurt to pass the contract by an experienced lawyer that deals in foreign rights. After the contract is signed by all parties, the deal is set, so you’ll want to do your homework prior to signing.

 

 

 Kathe

 

Amazon Shorts: A Writer’s Perspective

By Kathe Gogolewski

 

A little over one year ago, the Amazon Shorts launched their program with the short stories of only a few dozen well-known authors and much speculation about how the program would fare. Now, in August, 2006, the program is going strong with hundreds of authors representing over 600 stories selling for 49 cents each.  The website boasts “previously unpublished short story literature for sale exclusively at Amazon.com,” and has expanded to include some of today’s “freshest literary voices.”

 

The contract buys exclusive rights for only six months, and offers authors a whopping 40% of the 49 cents in royalties. This likely won't fly you around the world, but it might get you down the block! More importantly, the exposure as a featured author at Amazon offers an exceptional branding opportunity.

 

I decided to try it, but I balked when a writer friend of mine said, “You have to fill out a ton of paperwork before you can submit.” I thought, “What if they don’t want any of my shorts? Then, I’ve done all that paperwork for nothing.”  So, I decided to try it without the paperwork and submitted “Weighing In,” a 2,000 word humorous story about weight discrimination reversed. Since 2,000 is their minimum count, I got in under-the-wire. The maximum is 10,000 words.

 

Several months later, I finally heard from an Amazon representative, who said they would use “Weighing In.” He wanted to know if I had a book on Amazon, which is requisite for participation. Unfortunately, my ebook with Double Dragon Publishing, A Promise to Keep, was no longer featured. However, I had contributed to an anthology called, The Muse on Writing edited by Lea Schizas, and even though I was just one of eighteen writers, this qualified me for the program.

 

Suddenly, all that paperwork felt okay…and yes, it was a ton. They wanted a complete bio and asked a number of promotional questions, such as “Who do you envision as your target audience?”  and “What makes this short relevant today?” and “Why would a customer buy this short?”  By the time I was done with the questionnaire, I had created a complete marketing plan. Not a bad thing at all, because as most authors without an uncle named “John Grisham” eventually discover, successful sales depend on their own efforts. Amazon offers each author a profile page with bio, photo and complete backlist, but other than that, don’t expect Amazon to help.

 

So, is it worth it, you may ask? It is to me. I suspect more people visit Amazon online in a day than most websites in a year…or even ten years! The association with the giant, in my mind, cannot hurt. After submitting my first story, I promptly searched my files and submitted a second, this one a non-fiction story called “The Gold Coin.”  That’s one of the joys of doing this – you only have to complete the paperwork once, and it extends to all your shorts. And I didn’t have to wait three months for acceptance; they accepted it the same day as my submission. I am currently searching my files for another story. 

 

Kathe Gogolewski

http://www.TRI-Studio.com  

A PROMISE TO KEEP/romantic suspense by Ann Durand
Available now from Double Dragon Publishing at
http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.asp?isbn=1-55404-215-1&genre=


TATO/fantasy adventure for readers ages 8 to 13
Available now from Wings Press at
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