The Best Country for Each Book
Celeste Fine, senior vice president and director of subsidiary rights at Folio, says: “Every time we sell a book in the U.S., we discuss the book’s potential in foreign markets. For instance, a business or science book has tremendous potential in Asia. Ten years ago, Japan was a major market, with sizable advances and consistent acquisitions. Today, Japan’s economic situation has made it a less active territory, and we look to Korea to acquire books early with strong advances.”
On the other hand, while some books travel well across borders, Fine notes that other things can be lost in translation: “While celebrity and television tie-ins do incredibly well in the U.S., they are harder to sell abroad unless the figure has a major global presence.
It doesn’t help that readers are tightening belts around the globe. As fine notes, “Literary fiction does well in France. Italy is good for women’s fiction, but they, too, have been hit hard by the economy.” In other other countries, however, readers and publishers are still eager to open their wallets for promising titles: “Brazil loves dogs and inspirational books, and they have been buying early and aren’t shy about six-figure advances for the right book. Turkey has also been doing well. Basically, look at the country’s economy, and you can tell how publishing is doing.”
E-rights abroad are not yet a factor, because the Kindle and other e-readers are either not available, or not yet popular in many foreign markets. “It’s like 2007 when it comes to e-rights,” Fine says. “Yes, they exist, but they aren’t paid much mind.”
The Downside. . .And the Up
Foreign rights sales can be complicated by the fluctuating currency exchange. “When my debut thriller was bought by Bantam UK, the Canadian dollar was low and the British pound was high,” explains Canadian author Grant McKenzie. “Then the Canadian dollar began to climb, while the pound and euro faltered. When I received the second half of my advance upon publication 12 months later, it was considerably lower. My second book was purchased for the same amount as my first, but the new exchange rate meant I was actually making between $10,000 to $15,000 less — a significant amount when you consider how little most first-time authors make.”
But for most authors, the advantages of foreign sales far outweigh any drawbacks. And for authors exhausted by the seemingly endless book signings, interviews, blog tours and other nonwriting activities that have become an essential part of book promotion, foreign rights sales are doubly attractive. When it comes to promoting their foreign editions, because of distance and language barriers, authors are off the hook.
“I had to agree to a film crew coming over for a weekend and making a video about me, and that was it,” says Graham of her German publisher’s marketing efforts for her first novel. “They spent a lot of money on TV advertising. It was an eye-opener! But I didn’t have to do anything else, no blogging, chasing reviews, etc. Very spoiling.”
Reprinted from Karen Dionne’s blog who is the internationally published author of the environmental thrillers Freezing Point and Boiling Point. The co-founder of the online writers community Backspace, she also serves on the board of directors of the International Thriller Writers. Visit Red Room to find out more about her books and to read her blog.
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