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I'm excited about how the opportunities for selling our books around the world keeps on growing!
I've covered how it's not just one book, and how your manuscript can be turned into multiple products. We've also looked at some of the international possibilities for your book. In today's article, Tom Chalmers from IPR License takes this even further.
International rights are free money. Well, sort of. You’ve already gone to the trouble of writing a book, so selling rights enables you to get paid for it more than once and reach an audience around the world.
It’s a big, wide world of opportunities.
You could be big in Japan – or Germany, Brazil or Latvia for that matter – and some authors are better known overseas than in their own country. But then again, it’s also a world of choice for international publishers: they can, and do, scour the world looking for the perfect book for their list.
Having said this if you believe in your writing and want to turn it into a career maybe now, with the huge impact of self-publishing, is the time to make that investment in your own work.
There are huge opportunities to be had for authors to both increase readerships and make money from potential advances and on-going royalties in foreign territories (not to mention publishing in different formats, TV and Film, media rights, permissions and so on). The key is being switched on to all the potential opportunities.
The most successful indie or self-published authors have embraced being a small business as opposed to being ‘just’ a writer.
Of course the writing will always be at the epicenter of this business but it’s vital to be aware of the bigger picture. And the bigger picture, especially on the sales side of the business, is rights and licensing – internationally as well as domestically.
Rights and licensing is still largely perceived as being a complex market, full of the dark arts and mysterious forces.
When mentioning rights and licensing you can see many authors suddenly break out into a cold sweat. And then when you throw in the word international – while their eyes immediately light up at the prospect – a realization/fear swiftly follows regarding how intimidating it can be to break into the unknown, in this case an unknown country.
The reality is that rights and licensing remains a grey and somewhat scary area for far too many authors. Not that it’s necessarily their fault.
Historically these areas have been boxed off by traditional publishing houses without authors having to be involved. Essentially these have been managed by in-house rights people with contacts all over the world to handle all negotiations and the placement of work in different territories across different mediums.
But times have changed.
Rights may not be a physical product but they can hold within them a huge and renewable revenue stream.
The fact is that many indie authors don’t just own a potentially valuable book, they own the rights to their work and these can be licensed to produce the same book, in English, into different territories around the world – whether US, Australia or India.
And rights can also be licensed for the book to be published and translated into different languages – French, Spanish, German and, back to India – Hindi, Marathi, and many more besides.
So let’s break down a few international boundaries.
We compile a regular report for the Publishing Perspectives website on how territories are performing and any hot trends from a range of industry experts. Below are a few snippets from these reports to help gain some further insight across a selection of foreign territories.
Italy – “Fiction and memoirs related to World War II continue to sell well. In addition, the market is opening to new adult fiction, with acquisition of the translation rights of best-selling self-published books, mostly from the US.”
Spain – “Science fiction and fantasy has been one of the few notable growth areas, with new imprints springing up in response.”
Sweden – “For the first time in years the best-seller lists are not dominated by crime. Instead wry humour, erotica and upmarket women’s fiction have come to prominence.”
Russia – “‘Light and fluffy’ detective novels, are being treated more snobbishly by critics but nonetheless sell in the millions.”
Israel – “Historically a literary market, Israel has recently begun to embrace thrillers and Scandinavian crime. In general, publishers in Israel look for enduring, high quality books.”
South Korea – “With a quarter of the market made up of fiction in translation there is huge potential to for international authors/publishes to forge closer links with their Korean counterparts.”
Arabia – “When it comes to printed books, the best-sellers are religious books about Islam followed by novels, both Arabic and in translation. Authors such as Dan Brown continue to sell very well.”
But the question remains how authors can breach these boundaries?
The first important point to make is that:
It’s vital to understand what rights you hold to your work
… especially if you’re considering signing with a self-publishing company rather than going independent. Check out this post if you are unsure on the rights you have already sold or exploited.
For example, if using a self-publishing company to print a book in English in England, make sure you don’t let them have world rights, including all languages, as this will allow them to profit from your work internationally where you could have sold the rights directly and retained 100% of the revenue.
Technology and the internet in particular is proving itself to be a great leveler for authors.
Research tools, useful resources, platforms on which to showcase your work, social media interaction, Skype, email and other communication methods have all made the world seem a much smaller place.
Following specific rights related news is also important in terms of knowing which types of books are selling in which areas. Above are some examples but publishing markets around the world fluctuate frequently based on trends hitting at different times and cultural differences meaning that (for example) while Germany may not currently be buying anything other than paranormal romance, India might be desperate for historical fiction.
And it stands to reason that domestic and international publishers can only buy the rights to your work if it is visible and they know exactly what’s available. Again technology can help make this happen.
If using a digital platform to showcase your work on a global scale, upload and add all possible information, previews and rights available. Also ask that your book be put forward for any platform bulletins or other promotions.
If you’re aiming to sell direct then start generating a strong list of relevant potential publishers worldwide and begin the contacting process. And at all times it vital to remain professional and accept that rejections are going to come.
A question we frequently get asked is – should I adapt my work to fit international markets?
There is no definitive answer to this. A general rule of thumb is to write the book you want to write and if it proves relevant to a particular international audience then great.
The next prudent step is to make a list of a) the rights you own and b) why your work might appeal to different territories, languages, formats etc as appropriate – Think about the places that feature in your book, the origins of your character, anything that might connect your work to other countries.
Then take a step back to evaluate this list and use it to target some potential publishers, rights agents who act in these particular fields.
Alternatively you could join a platform such as IPR License and let us do some of the work. But whatever route you’re considering, internationally or domestically, know your rights and investigate the various ways to get your work to the widest possible audience. And the best way to do this is by maximizing and monetizing the world of right and licensing.
Do you have any questions or comments about international rights or specifically around IPR License? Please leave a comment below.
Tom Chalmers is Managing Director at IPR License. IPR License was launched in 2012 and is the global, digital marketplace for authors, agents and publishers to list and license book rights. You can contact Tom directly: tom.chalmers AT iprlicense.com or tweet me @Tom_Chalmers.
Top image: Flickr Creative Commons globe by Judy Van der Velden