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View Full Version : Is it worth it to look for an agent only for foreign rights ?



Grenouille Bleue
08-21-2013, 04:17 PM
Greetings,

I am a french published author, and am really lucky to be doing pretty well in France (got three books published, two more due in January). One of them got an award and sold more than 30,000. It might seem very low for you folks in the US but it's pretty nice for France. At least my publisher seems happy ( ) and it allowed me to quit my job and be a full-time writer.

Anyway, here's the thing: my publisher will be trying to sell the foreign rights to some other countries at the Berlin Fair, and he thinks it might make it in spanish and german. But he told me the english market was much more difficult to penetrate - only the biggest french best-sellers would get a chance to be bought and translated. Obviously, this isn't my case.

So I was wondering how I could be handling this foreign rights stuff in the United States. Should I just drop it, or should I try and get things done ?

I'm wondering whether it would be useful for me to get an agent for the sole purpose of negociating the US rights. Is it common practice, or would it be better to just query the publisher directly ?

As an aside, agents almost don't exist in France and even the biggest shots deal directly with publishers. So I don't have any agent as of yet, and my foreign rights are in the hands of my publisher.

Here's what my press attachée drafted for the Berlin fair:

http://img689.imageshack.us/img689/6607/ivtk.png

So, any thoughts ? Is it worth it ? How should I handle this ?

Thanks a lot for your help :D

Corinne Duyvis
08-21-2013, 06:20 PM
On the surface, I'd say yes, you can totally get an agent to sell your foreign rights, as long as you have a properly translated version of the book to shop.

In your situation, though, if your publisher holds those rights, there's not much an agent can do for you. The rights are already sold; they can't sell them again. As far as I can tell, your publishers would either need to sign English language rights back over to you, or they need to hire an agent with UK/US expertise themselves.

Grenouille Bleue
08-21-2013, 07:34 PM
On the surface, I'd say yes, you can totally get an agent to sell your foreign rights, as long as you have a properly translated version of the book to shop.

In your situation, though, if your publisher holds those rights, there's not much an agent can do for you. The rights are already sold; they can't sell them again. As far as I can tell, your publishers would either need to sign English language rights back over to you, or they need to hire an agent with UK/US expertise themselves.

I see. I thought it was only a monetary kind of deal.

I.e. my agent finds an US publisher who's interested in the book.
The publisher buys the rights from my french publisher.
I get 50% of the deal (that's what's written in my contract) and the agent gets his fee off it.

But yeah, seems more complicated than that because I guess my publisher might have his own idea about how much the foreign rights are worth.

Damn. Thanks for your help, though ;)

Corinne Duyvis
08-21-2013, 07:46 PM
That situation may well be possible--but I've never seen it happening, and don't think it's likely. Since you no longer hold the rights, you can't agree on terms, negotiate an advance, sign a contract, etc. Like you say, the publisher will have their own idea of how much they're worth and the kind of terms involved.

I'd suggest pushing your publisher get an agent to try to sell the book on their behalf. Most major publishers should have existing connections with one or more foreign agents already to make these sorts of deals for them.

Of course, I'm not an agent and not a publisher, so I may be COMPLETELY off the mark. But this is how I *think* it works. ;)

Coupland
08-21-2013, 08:20 PM
A land where literary agents don't exist? Sounds good ;)

I think it depends on what you actually signed over to your french publisher - do you retain any rights to the work? If you don't then there's not a lot you can do, but you could certainly get an agent if you have the right to sell abroad.

Sales of 30,000 is high (to me) so I'd think that would be interesting to english language publishers. Depends how it translates I guess.

Little Ming
08-21-2013, 10:06 PM
I see. I thought it was only a monetary kind of deal.

I.e. my agent finds an US publisher who's interested in the book.
The publisher buys the rights from my french publisher.
I get 50% of the deal (that's what's written in my contract) and the agent gets his fee off it.

But yeah, seems more complicated than that because I guess my publisher might have his own idea about how much the foreign rights are worth.

Damn. Thanks for your help, though ;)

To be absolutely clear, your publisher owns the rights to the English translation? Not just he "represents" you? Or he tries to help you sell those rights? But you actually signed them away in the contract?

I'm not familiar with the French market (obviously :tongue), but, maybe, possibly, because of the lack of agents representing your foreign rights, the publisher takes that role, as in they don't own the rights, they just represent the rights.

Wishful thinking, I know, but do double check your contract. If you still have the rights it will be easier to find an agent to represent you in the English market.

MandyHubbard
08-21-2013, 10:32 PM
It sounds like your french publisher bought world rights, with a 50/50 split on translation. SOME contracts allow for certain rights to be sold by either party (and you both get your share no matter which side sells them), but the vast majority I have seen allow the publisher to sell the rights, and your share of the rights income is accounted for via your royalty statement (in most cases. I've also seen "flow-thru" set-ups if a book has fully earned out its advance).

The bottom line is that most likely, you don't have the right to go sell the book in the US. Your French publisher should have a foreign rights department already that sells the rights on your behalf.

MandyHubbard
08-21-2013, 10:34 PM
A land where literary agents don't exist? Sounds good



Ouch! ;-)

For what it's worth, if I were representing him in the deal, i probably could have retained the rights or gotten him a WAY better split than 50/50. Many of mine are 80/20 or 75/25, up from the 50/50 the pub wanted.

Grenouille Bleue
08-22-2013, 01:42 PM
Ok, I read my contract again.

Loosely translated, it says:

"the author gives the publisher, exclusively and for the duration of this contract, the right to publish, and exploit this work in its book form, as well as the right to reproduce and represent this work, apart from the TV and movie rights.

These rights can be exploited in any language and any country, under any form and presentation."

And, a bit later:

"The publisher will have to give the author, in the case of some other company exploiting his work, 50% of all gross money (i.e. taxes included) the publishers gets".

So, yeah, guess I'm screwed :D

Coupland
08-22-2013, 03:20 PM
I guess that's the sort of deal an agent wouldn't have signed, but on the bright side you still have film rights and I'd gladly swap a publisher holding all my rights and having the book out there selling for it sitting in my agent's desk drawer! :)

Little Ming
08-22-2013, 11:06 PM
"the author gives the publisher, exclusively and for the duration of this contract...

Curious, what is the duration of the contract?


"The publisher will have to give the author, in the case of some other company exploiting his work, 50% of all gross money (i.e. taxes included) the publishers gets".

So, yeah, guess I'm screwed :D

50%, huh?

Good luck, Mr. Blue. :)