Last week, I discussed how to get your self-published book translated using various techniques from hiring contractors to using a royalty splitting website. Today I’ll talk about the next logical step in this journey and that is selling your foreign rights to a publisher. Yes, you can sell your book’s rights whether they be digital or print to a publisher in another country. Sounds cool huh? Seeing our books being sold at store overseas is the dream of many authors.
There are several options that self-published authors have, you can find an agent who can sell it for you, or you can try to do it on your own. But before I begin, I have one very important question…
Have You Exploited All Your English Rights?
Did you know you can sell the English rights of your book to publishers in other countries? Just as English language music and movies are sold all over the world, so are English language books. So before you go and get knee deep in translations of your work, make sure you’ve exploited all of your licensing rights. If it’s possible to sell your book’s English rights to a German publisher, why not? In fact, you can sell those rights to publishers in every country on the planet.
Unfortunately, many traditionally published authors stop with selling their U.S. or U.K. rights and that’s absurd. There are many publishers in other countries that would love to do business with you so what are you waiting for?
Can I Still Shop Around My Book To Agents and Publishers?
Yes, if you’re upfront with your agent/editor there shouldn’t be any conflict. However, you must be specific as to what you’re actually selling them. If you’re selling only U.S. English rights you must make sure that’s in your contract. This is important because many authors are finding publishers doing what’s called a rights grab where a publishing company tries to buy up all your book’s licensing rights without paying you adequately for them. Sadly, there are many stories of authors who have mistakenly sold all of their book’s rights for a few bucks and that’s just wrong. A book publisher has no business owning the movies rights to your book!
Here are a just few ways you can license a book:
• Digital (Ebooks)
• Print (Paperback and hardcover)
• Foreign language versions
• Merchandise (T-shirts, toys, posters, etc.)
Unfortunately, in some countries it’s necessary to have an agent if you want to be published with a legitimate publishing company. There are some literary agencies that specialize in foreign rights sales and are happy to help you for a percentage of your royalties. Some of these agents subcontract other agents overseas with whom they split a fee with if a property sells. There are also literary agencies who prefer to deal directly with publishers.
Doing it DIY Style
Recently, several websites have popped up that cater to matching publishers with authors. The most popular ones with indie authors are Pubmatch and IPR License. IPR License has a yearly fee of $79, while Pubmatch, has both free and paid services.
Both sites are relatively new, IPR License was launched in 2012, while Pubmatch was created in 2009 and is co-owned by Publisher’s Weekly. So neither site has been around for a long period of time.
However, I have yet to find any decent reviews or testimonials from either site. There are no Hugh Howey’s or Colleen Hoovers that have emerged from these places. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, I just wouldn’t shell out money for the paid services. Go free and check out the site for yourself then, decide what’s best for your book.
So there you have it, a complicate subject explained as simply as possible. If you have any experience with Pubmatch or IPR License please tell us about it in the comments section. Lord knows, I’d like to know if anyone is having any success.
When KDP introduced its Select program, many authors balked at the idea of giving away their work for free. After all, it took several months, or years to create a decent story worthy of publication so giving it away for nothing seemed like a waste. And I completely understand that line of thinking. I was a freelancer and was very adamant about getting paid for my work. However, I wasn’t a publisher at the time and therefore didn’t have large billion dollar corporations to compete with.
The one advantage indie authors have over the big guys is the ability to price low, very low. In fact, we can go free if necessary but when is it necessary to go free? That’s simple…
• When you want to build your email list.
• If you want to introduce readers to a new series of books.
• You need more social media followers.
A Gift with Strings Attached
Many writers like Hugh Howey and Sylvia Day are using free books to drum up their fan base. And I haven’t seen free books hurt their bottom line, actually, if used properly, everyone gets what they want: readers get entertained, and authors get new fans. It’s a win-win.
There is this myth in the indie community that you can’t go free on Amazon without KDP but you can. However it will take time and patience on your part. First you go to Smashwords and set the price of your book to free. When those prices reach retailers like Apple, or Kobo the Amazon algorithms pick up on this and adjust the price accordingly. If not, you’ll have to log into your personal Amazon account and go to your book’s page. Scroll down to the Product Details and click on the tell us about a lower price link and send them the link to Apple or Barnes and Noble.
Be warned: This may not work the first time, in fact, you may have to enlist some friends to help you.
Should You Promote a Free Book?
Why not? There are tons of places that will allow indie authors to advertise their free books for absolutely no cost. In fact, here are just a few:
Keep in mind that paid services are usually more effective but not always, so be sure to do your research before spending your money.
If you have a plan, then giving away a book should help your cause whatever that may be. Don’t make the mistake that I did and give away a book with no real reason. If you don’t want to get a bigger fan base or need a exposure then, don’t do it.
It’s a subject most self-published authors avoid and I don’t blame them, translating a book seems complicated as well as expensive. It’s murky territory, where we’re flying blind because we don’t speak the language. I mean could you imagine embarrassing yourself in another country? So out of fear we indies stay put in the shallow waters too terrified to dip our toes in the deeper parts of the pool. Well, I’m getting my poodle noodle as well as my floaties and I’m diving in.
Before I go on, I’m not discussing selling your foreign rights, that’s a completely different issue which I’ll discuss next week. Today, I’m simply discussing translating your book and all the things that come along with it.
You’ll Need Two People To Help You
First you’re going to need a translator, you can find these people all over the place. The more established (expensive) translators can be found at the International Federation of Translators as well as the American Translators’ Association.
Many (cheaper) freelance translators can also be found at Elance, Odesk as well as Guru, the online outsourcing sites. Now before you hire someone, please consider everything you’ll need to have translated. Believe it or not, it’s not only your book you’ll need to have translated. You’ll also need to translate the title of your book and any subtitles, your book blurbs, as well as your new Amazon author page. Here are some more things to consider translating as well:
• Newsletters. You do plan on capturing emails in your ebook, right?
• Social Media Posts
• Interviews/ Blog Posts
• Website landing/sales pages
Once your book has been translated, now you’ll need to find a line editor who specializes in your language of choice. You can also find line editors at Elance, and Odesk as well.
Important Tip: When contracting this type of work out, make sure to discuss the terms of the rights of the translation. In some countries the translators own part of the rights of the translated version of your book, meaning they get a cut of the royalties, so be sure you’re clear in your contract about who owns what. However, if you’re smart, you can use this to your advantage and insist in your contract that if the translator owns part of the rights to your book, then they must help you with promotion. Hey, it’s only fair!
This is the more expensive way to translate your book however, long term it’s the most profitable. But there is another cheaper, way to translate your work…
Bablecube: The Poor Author’s Translator?
Bablecube is the only online website that I can find that offers translations services for no upfront fee. However, there is a catch, you must share royalties with the site as well as the translator. The split is 50% for the translator, 30% for Bablecube, 20% for the publisher (you). This means if you want to make big bucks off of your translations, you’ll have to price your book reasonably in order to get a decent cut of the profits. But there’s more…
There are issues that I find troubling with Bablecube. For one, you must keep your book on the market for 5 years as explained in their FAQs. (Click on the link that says Rights to the Translated Version of the Book) This is done so authors can’t grab free translations and skip town, leaving the translator broke. Also, Bablecube holds the distribution rights of your newly translated book for 5 years. This could be a huge problem with indies who are still shopping their work around to traditional publishers. Many publishers want you to own the rights before they’ll even think about purchasing a manuscript.
Another thing I noticed is that some authors upload their work to the site only to find that no one is interested in translating it. That could be because of genre or even a poorly designed cover, who knows? Ultimately, it is up to the discretion of the translators as to which project they’ll choose.
Reviews & Beta Readers
Now that you’ve gotten your book translated and uploaded, you’ll need reviews and beta readers. You can go to Goodreads or Shelfari to find native readers who can give an honest review. Just type in the search engine something like: “Arabic Literature” and see what comes up. You can do this on other social media sites as well.
You May Have To Change Your Cover
Have you noticed that a book published by a company like Random House usually has multiple versions of their book covers for various countries? Hopefully, you made sure to get all rights to your book’s cover, right? If not, you may have to use a different cover for the translated version of your book.
Another thing to consider, are trigger happy censors in certain countries. Places like the Middle East, Asia and even Eastern Europe have some of the most notorious (annoying) censors who won’t hesitate to ban a book whose cover they consider obscene or controversial. This affects those writing in the romance or erotica genres the most. Your best bet is to investigate the books in your genre in the particular country you’re targeting and see what’s acceptable, cover wise.
I know I’ve given you a lot of information and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Take it slow and test the waters with one book then, expand gradually with your other work.