Small streams make big rivers
Why foreign rights?
- For a publisher, foreign rights can make the difference between profits and losses on a book.
- For an author, foreign rights can represent more than income from sales in his own country.
- It is easier to receive 1000 Euros net in one very small foreign
rights deal than selling 500 cookbooks at a book fair,
which is what an author needs to sign and sell to make the
same amount on the average cookbook.
- There is little investment; it is mostly time and travel.
- Nearly all publishers now have a foreign rights department.
They are the key to negotiate and sign the contracts. It is
best for authors to let publishers negotiate.
- When there is an agent, they often take a leading role in the
negotiations, and they usually earn more for their client than
the 15% they charge.
- The authors very often initiate the contact with the foreign
buyer. They know their book well. They can market it better
than the foreign rights department who very often does not
have the time to open the books.
- A good author for a publisher is one that not only writes
good books, but one that will easily promote himself the
book, and sell foreign rights himself.
- English speaking markets are more sellers than buyers. It is extremely difficult to sell to the US.
- The buyers are now in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. There are many small deals, rather than the one big deal. For Paris
Cookbook Fair in March 2011, 13% of professionals registered on January 25th come from Asia, 10% from Eastern Europe and
7% from Latin America.
- Foreign rights is a long term business, with many deals between partners who trust each other.
- It is a much more personal business that it would seem. Sending a book by mail is not the same as meeting the buyer.
Who owns the foreign rights?
- The majority of contracts in the English speaking world is a balanced
split of 50/50 between authors and publishers.
- In France it is often lower for the author, from 25 to 40%; in Spain
it is higher, 60% for the author.
How do you calculate how much?
- There is usually an advance, calculated as a percentage of royalties.
It is wise to think all you can count upon is the advance.
- Calculating the advance is easy. You need:
- The retail price of your book in the market in the contract.
- The number of copies of the first printing.
- The royalty.
- The percentage of the advance, usually 60% of the royalty.
- So a book with a printing of 3000 selling at 20 Dollars in the
foreign market, with a royalty of 10%, will net to the author and
publisher 3.600 Dollars if the advance is 60%. Then it is split
between publisher and author.
- Some publishers buy many rights. They often do their shopping at Paris Cookbook Fair or
on the Gourmand stands at Frankfurt and London Fairs. They will look at all exhibition books
one by one to find authors and translations. Other buyers wait for the books to come
to them, or at the Gourmand Awards lists.
- Paris Cookbook Fair is the key for small publishers. More than fifty percent of publishers
in Paris do not have stands at Frankfurt Book Fair. In 2010,White Tara found translations
in 4 languages for their Cambodian book “Au Pays de la Pomme Cythère”, Féret sold wine
books to China, Chakall found deals for books in Germany, Spain, etc. We believe more
than 200 deals were initiated last year at Paris Cookbook Fair 2010.
- The Royalties are very often “lost in translation” in foreign rights deals. Following up is
much work and rarely worth it.
- First story.- A bestselling author complained and did receive five times his advance in
unpaid royalties after much expense in audits, time and lawyers. The big publisher paid,
but cancelled future books from this author, after paying him over years over 200.000
Euros. It was very difficult for him to find another publisher.
- Second story.- A wonderful author from Europe was so happy selling 100.000 cookbooks
in the US. Unfortunately his publisher had sold the rights for this book for one dollar.
The buyer was a US corporation his European publisher controlled.
- The unending story.- There are countless examples of books published in another language
with the authors not being told about it. It happens to the biggest authors, with the
biggest publishers, in the top market. So it may happen even more with smaller authors
and markets. Internet is very useful. The same is true, by the way, for paperback deals.
Foreign rights have always been a major activity at big publishers for big fiction books. Now
it is becoming a key to the business of smaller publishers and authors. The growth of the
cookbook sector leads to a fragmentation of the markets, with the foreign rights becoming
a fundamental business.
The movement is led by the authors and small publishers. The big publishers are slow to
build on the possible economies of scale and synergies in their different cookbook imprints.
If you have published a cookbook in one country, reality today is that there are several countries
around the World where your book should and can be sold, in the original language, or
through translation. In nearly all cases it will be small deals, but you cannot ignore the total
income it will generate.