#14: TRANSLATION RIGHTS! Everybody Wants To Rule the World!
Today in the BOOK DEAL BOOT CAMP, we're going to be talking about foreign sales and translation rights. But first I want to thank you for checking in! I've been out of touch editing HUNTER'S MOON.
After a full 6-week break from the manuscript (recommended by many successful authors, though I gleaned the tip from Stephen King's ON WRITING), I wanted to get back into the story and stay focused on it.
But I really should improve my multi-tasking skills! Because whether you're an indie author or a traditional one, it's important to stay connected! Okay! Next on the agenda: TRANSLATION RIGHTS!
Chances are, if you're a North American author who's offered a deal at a big publisher, it will be for the U.S. and Canadian English-language rights. Your contract may also stipulate UK rights, though your agent may negotiate to sell those independently to get you more money from a British publisher.
One way or another, a good agent will be trying to sell the foreign rights to your book right from the start.
He or she will probably have one or more 'co-agents' in other countries who are familiar with those markets and those people will do most of the legwork.
I know getting your book published around the world sounds enticing, and that it seems most books you read have been 'translated into 85 languages!' or whatever. But that's because we're usually just exposed to books that are successful (i.e. the ones that sell!).
The truth is, it's very difficult for an agent to sell the translation rights for a debut novel in other countries.
Non-fiction books are always easier to move so it depends on what kind of market your topic would have globally. But as a first-time novelist, unless you've got serious promotional money behind you, you've hit the bestseller lists, signed a movie deal, have an engaging personal story or platform, or have attracted great attention in some other way, chances are foreign publishers will turn their noses up at you.
At least until they see what kind of traction your book is going to get after it's released in English.
To give you an idea: there were no foreign translation rights on my second novel - and only one international sale on my first book, to a German publisher - Knaur. (They called the book a cross between Sex and the City and Faust. I loved that!)
At the time I was paid 5000 Euros for the deal.
Pretty good! As opposed to my advances with Simon & Schuster or St. Martin's Press - which was divided into three payments - I received one lump sum after all the paperwork was cleared up. This included having to fill out tax exemption forms so that I wouldn't have to pay taxes on the income in Germany and at home.
As for dealing with the German publisher, there were a couple of phone calls with a polite, English-speaking representative from the marketing department, as well as a few nice emails. But I mostly dealt with the UK co-agent on this deal.
I was actually very lucky to sell any foreign translation rights at all.
Book markets are not necessarily homogenous and what sells in America might not be what's selling elsewhere.
To give you an idea of how different international markets can be, all you have to do is check one of your favorite authors - you know, the ones who actually do get translated 'into 712 languages!' - and you'll see that the cover design in non-English speaking countries is probably different from the North American edition.
I actually loved the German cover art for DEVIL MAY CARE.
I thought the redhead looked funky and intriguing and that the design in general was modern and fun. I was really flattered the German publisher would choose such a cool look for the book.
As I mentioned in my post Cover Story, the publisher really does have complete control over the design of your cover - and this was the case for the German edition too. I wasn't consulted about this cover at all.
When the book was published in Germany about a year after the English release, I just loved getting a handful of those groovy German paperbacks in the mail. I was even able to give a copy to a German-speaking friend of mine! It made me feel big time, as if I really was one of those authors who regularly got translated into 789 languages. Or whatever.
btw about that German cover I liked so much ... quite a few years later, I realized it wasn't unique! I stumbled across the same design for a Dutch translation of a different chick lit novel. I forget the name. The only difference was the girl's hair was blonde - not red.
Otherwise, it was the exact same shot - just with a few tweaks.
Meaning that traditional publishers, like indie writers, often use stock shots to cobble together a cover design.
But here's a newsflash for me:it appears that Knaur changed the title too!
I just looked up the English/German translation of 'devil may care' - and it's Teufel Kann Pflege. Obviously, the translated title on the book has more than three words! So I did a reverse-translation and the title actually means: "You Do Not Sleep With The Devil."
How interesting ... As I said, I'm actually just learning this now, so - obviously - I wasn't consulted about the title change either!
Honestly, I'm not really disappointed or surprised.
Because foreign publishers know their markets much better than anyone else. Plus the further I get into the world of independent publishing, the more respect I have for all the work that goes into a traditionally published book too. It's not an easy process!
While we're on the topic of translation rights, I want to introduce you to the wonderful Jennifer C. Lopez!
Jen was one of my very first Twitter friends and she's been one of my favorite tweeps ever since! She's a great teacher, author, designer, translator, mom - and more!
The Lovely Jennifer C. Lopez @thejennieration
Because Jen is a professional translator, I wanted to consult her about one of the characters in HUNTER'S MOON: a powerful Latina witch named Delia.
My great cover! Design by theCoverCollection.com
Delia had a few Spanish phrases in the book and I wanted to make sure I got them right, so I sent the English versions to Jen - and she did an incredible job translating them into Spanish - in about ten minutes flat!
Jen has also been doing something called Mini-Bitty Spanish Lessons on her blog.
In her last post, she used Delia as inspiration for her third lesson. It's absolutely brilliant how she's able to explain grammar - in Spanish - so succinctly and clearly! Because even English grammar lessons can throw me for a loop! ;)
I'm also so flattered by all the wonderful things she had to say about me in the post. She's an absolute doll as a person, a brilliant woman, an avid reader - and an author herself.
Jen is teaming up with M Lemont to co-write a new book. M LeMont is the bestselling author ofHow to Gain 100,000 Twitter Followers- a book I'm reading and that I'd recommend to anyone learning the Twitter ropes - even if you don't want 100,000 followers (which LeMont won't believe anyway!).
M LeMont's bestseller @mistersalesman
As I said, Jen and M LeMont have co-written a new book due out soon - it's called:
"WRITE LIKE YOU'RE ALREADY FAMOUS"
Isn't that a great title? Something we should all be telling ourselves to get past the inevitable doubts. Can't wait to read it!
Incidentally, getting back to foreign translation rights, you bet that I'll be having HUNTER'S MOON translated into Spanish by Jen.
I might not be able to do it for the launch, but it's a definite plan for the future.
The Spanish-speaking market is a huge, global one.
Not to mention the fact that almost 40 million people in the U.S. speak Spanish at home. This market has a voracious appetite for books and entertainment, so don't overlook potential readers there!
And make sure you check out the rest of Jen's services too, from tutoring to graphic design. She's a great person with a really inspiring attitude toward life and learning. She's also a very supportive Twitter friend! I can't say enough great things about her!
Thank you, Jen! You're such an inspiration! Wishing you so much luck with all your worthwhile projects! And good luck to you and M LeMont for WRITE LIKE YOU'RE ALREADY FAMOUS! Looking forward to it!
Next time on the Book Deal Boot Camp ... Should you fire your agent? I did. And you won't believe what happened. Oh. My. God. Do I really have the nerve to share this story? We'll have to see!
Thanks for stopping by! Subscribe to the blog to make the most of your big break in the publishing world! Don't worry - I won't be spamming you with emails. I don't even know how to do that! ;)