Foreign Rights - Getting Published in Other Languages

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In this section:

    I want to publish my book in another language — what do I do?

    We only publish in the English language, though we facilitate publication in other languages by selling the foreign rights.

    We sell about 30 foreign rights a year. Around 360 publishers subscribe to get a mailing from us. Last year we sent out over 500 books for consideration, resulting in 35 foreign rights contracts.

    How do you sell foreign rights?

    About half our translation sales rights we handle directly, half through agents. We work with ten of these in different language territories.

    Agents take 10% or so of any income before it comes to us. We then send you your share when your royalties are due. For this reason, along with bank charges, the sum we receive does not always exactly match the advance given in the contract.

    We do not attend the major international book fairs like BEA (USA), Frankfurt, though we go to the London Book Fair. We choose where we spend our money and fairs aren’t one of the big choices. Our distributors and agents are there.

    How do I know if the foreign rights to my book are sold?

    When we sell the foreign rights to your book you’ll be informed by an email notification.
    The event will be recorded in Marketing Activities on your Marketing page.
    We record the terms of the contract in the FOREIGN RIGHTS SALES section on your Financials page.

    Do you sublicense English editions of my book?

    No, we do not sub-license editions of your book to other publishers in English, with the exception of sales to India (their retail price is equivalent to our cost price).

    Someone wants to translate my book to another language. What should I do?

    If we have the translation rights (the case in around nine titles out of ten), to avoid confusion please log translation queries in the Rights section of the Author Forum.

    Do not sell your rights if we own them!

    The financial penalties involved in mistakenly selling translation rights to two different publishers in the same country can far outweigh income gained from selling any number of rights.

    When will you sell the foreign rights to my book?

    We approach other publishers for rights sales once your book is in print. Though some ask for PDF (proofs) by email, most want a physical copy of the book in their hands before they’ll offer a contract, unless you are a well-known author.

    If a publisher contacts us asking for copy of a book before it’s published, we send a hard copy if we have stock, or we send a PDF if it’s ready.

    How much money will I earn from a foreign rights sale?

    If you’re not a recognizable name, or if we haven’t sold 10,000 or so copies of your book, the chances of rights sales are not high.

    When we make a sale most advances are at the level of €500–1000, and many are in the hundreds, or in places like Vietnam or Indonesia many are sold with no advance.

    €5000 is generally a good advance, though it doesn’t happen very often.

    If you sell foreign rights to my book, how long will it take before I see it in print?

    Occasionally an overseas publisher will bring out a translation quickly, but this is the exception.

    Your overseas publisher will have to:

    • Translate the book (possibly a year or longer).
    • Produce the book (at least twelve months between finished manuscript and publication).

    Where can I get the contact details of my foreign rights publisher?

    Look up the publisher you wish to find in the Contacts Database.

    Do I get author copies of my translated book?


    We will send you two copies of the translated book when we receive them from the publisher.

    We don’t get involved in detailed correspondence in this area. We do not chase up overseas publishers asking if or when they are going to publish, or how many they are printing.

    Issues with selling foreign rights sales

    Publishers overseas prefer to work with authors in their own market, who can promote in their own language, and avoid the very substantial translation costs, which effectively double the investment (which is why we have few translated books on our own list).

    Some markets, like self-help and health, are simply too crowded.

    In many countries, like India and the Far East, retail prices are anything from one tenth to a quarter of those in the West, and the costs to us of processing the transaction are disproportionate. It does not generate substantial income, being often outweighed by the cost of getting it.

    If there are illustrations in the book a good proportion of this is taken up with the costs of administration. It can take months, or even years, trying to sort out the complications of double taxation between different tax offices in different countries, with documents needing to be stamped in the original by Inland/Central Revenue Departments, and occasionally it simply doesn’t get sorted.

    Can I do anything to help the foreign rights sales of my book?

    Yes, you can help the foreign rights sales of your book.

    Approach overseas publishers direct, either contacts already on our database who have published our titles before or others that you know of. We are easy to work with on the agreements. Encourage friends/colleagues in other countries to do the same. It makes a difference if a publisher knows that there are already people in their market keen to see a book.

    If they are interested, ask them to contact Lisa von Fircks, our Foreign Rights Manager. ([email protected]).

    I know a good translator for my book. Can they do it?

    Authors sometimes have friends/contacts who want to translate the book into their language. Or are bilingual and can do it themselves. Which is great, but we cannot get directly involved with that, in terms of publishing the translation. Effective publishing means finding a local-language publisher in that market. Encourage them to find one.

    How can I evaluate the translation of my book?

    We don’t get involved in correspondence as to whether the translation (including the title) is accurate or not.

    We don’t speak the language, we have to leave it to the local publisher. They’re the ones who are investing in the work.

    Similarly, if a publisher wants to shorten the text, we leave it to their judgment.

    This may happen particularly on longer books, and especially with languages like German which bulk to one third more than English.

    There may be passages that are more relevant to an English audience than overseas one, and they want to delete those. Or convert them to a local example. We give permission for the publisher to do this, without getting back to you, unless you ask us to do so in advance.

    Retain your own copies of your illustrations, photos and pictures

    Please note: If you have supplied supplied us with pictures or illustrations make sure you retain your own copies.

    We can’t guarantee to make these available to an overseas publisher in future years.

    The reason is that application software gets updated as the years go on, and earlier jobs reflow when opened up in newer software. It’s often simpler to produce new photographs or illustrations rather than sort the software out.

    When should I get in touch with my foreign publisher?

    Feel free to contact them directly:

    • If you want to buy copies of the translated edition.
    • If you want to run workshops/events in that country.
    • If you can provide marketing contacts.
    • If you want information on timings.


    Please note: We do not forward statements on sales from overseas publishers.

    We do record the advance paid to us, with subsequent royalties.

    You can make a rough calculation of the numbers sold from royalty received, but we do not track sales of translated titles like we track our own sales. We do not chase publishers for royalty statements. It may be a few years before you receive anything other than the advance. This is because it can take two or three years to translate and publish, and some publishers do not send us a statement until the book has earned through the advance. Different publishers send us statements covering different periods, one might be six months, another once a year.

    You can find this information in your Financials page.

    As soon as we receive the income, it will be paid over to you in your subsequent royalty statement. We do not pay over your percentage of the advance as soon as the contract is signed, because sometimes it can take six to twelve months to come through, sometimes it does not come at all, and we have to cancel the contract.

    Sample contract

    There is a sample foreign rights contract in Appendix 2.

    Publisher story

    Most sales of foreign editions tend to be considerably smaller than those achieved in the home market, and they die down quickly. Which titles are picked up where often seems random, and sales sometimes seem inexplicably low, or more occasionally high, with little logic behind them, unconnected with the clout of the publisher. Our most successful foreign rights title is a seemingly obscure little hardback called God Calling, which was actually first published in 1935, and to which we bought the rights some fifteen years ago. Sales are still steady in the UK, at a few thousand a year, but overseas sales run into the many tens of thousands a year. Norway manages to sell more than we do, but we can’t sell it to Sweden or Finland. Go figure…

    God Calling is one of our most successful books in terms of foreign sales

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