Keller Media Blog

Sell Your Translation Rights

If you are one of the millions of people who has self-published your book, or whose publisher didn’t sell translation rights, you are losing money every day. You can make more money from your book by selling translation rights worldwide.

Most authors, especially those who self-publish, have no idea how many ways there are to make money from their book…besides just waiting for people to buy it on Amazon. Foreign rights (when your book is translated from your language into others) is one of the easiest, most immediately lucrative options.

I’m a literary agent. My role is to sell the rights to books to publishers and other licensors. Of course that means selling your work to a big, prominent publisher like Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette or Penguin Random House. My agency has sold books to all of those companies. We’ve sold more than 1,500 deals and had 17 New York Times best sellers – and counting. We’ve also had 9 international best sellers.

Here’s what you really need to know:

There’s often a LOT of money to be made selling your book in print format in another language…more than you’ll ever make in English!

Do you know what an international best seller is? That’s when an author in one country becomes a best seller in another.

Examples:


…we have a client from Michigan whose book sold several million copies in Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian and a smattering of other languages.


…we have a client from Lima, Peru who became a household name in Germany and Italy, and we sold a handful of other rights.


…we represented an American businessman whose self-published book we helped turn into a best-seller in Japan. Within a year of its release, he had trained a team of speakers and consultants to spread his valuable message all over Japan – and he reaped the enormous profits that came with it.


…there are plenty more similar stories.

 

Want that to happen to you? Read on.

 

Here are Five Facts You Need to Know:

1. Foreign translation rights sales are more likely if your book is nonfiction, not your autobiography and not about something completely American. For instance, books like “How to Market Your Business” or “Healing Your Broken Heart” have a much better chance of selling somewhere else than “The Top 100 Fashion Trends from the 1980s to Today” or “History of the Bell Companies”. Makes sense, right? How interested are you in the fashion trends in Singapore or Moscow?
 
2. The average advance is $1,500 or less for most countries. However, there’s no reason you can’t sell Hindi, Thai, Portuguese, French, Simplified Chinese rights and lots more for the same book. (Assuming you know how!) The money adds up, especially when the book does well in that other country and the royalty checks start rolling in!
 
3. Usually, it doesn’t matter whether your book was a success in the USA or not. The Michigan woman’s book sold fewer than 200,000 copies here; the Peruvian man’s book never even got published in the USA. No one cares.
 
4. If you’re motivated to do it, research the names and email addresses of foreign publishers in countries you think might have a special interest in your topic. For instance, emerging former Soviet countries, China, India and Southeast Asia are eager for US business books. (Or get an agent who specializes in foreign rights who can promote your book to hundreds of publishers worldwide all at the same time.)
 
5. Beware: Get help with the contract. Usually, a publisher dealing directly with an author will try to get the most for the least money. Don’t be a victim of your own naivete! Plus, getting an agent (me) to help you with the contract will make you more money in the long and short run. In the case of the Peruvian author above, I got him a (shocking) 15x more money for his book than they originally offered him before he met me…because I know that publisher and what they should be paying. If you ever have a contract from a foreign publisher and want help negotiating it professionally, just click here to see how Keller Media can help you get the best deal and the best terms from a foreign publisher.
 
It always astounds me how a fairly common book in the USA can do well – or even great – in another country where their shelves are not glutted with similar books! I love selling foreign rights for my clients! I end up negotiating several foreign deals every month, and the difference between what I can get for the author and what the publisher offers unrepresented authors always makes me grin.
 
One of my own books came out in Croatian (?!?!) a few years ago and I really love the cover – although I can only hope it says what I think it says! There’s a special joy involved when you hold that translated version of your book and know that you are helping people – and getting paid for it – worlds away from your home.
 

Ready to see if your book has translation potential? Click here.

 
 

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Dey St: HarperCollins. Jun. 2017. 416p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780062484178. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062484185. SCI

O’Connell (To Be a Machine) examines astrophysicist and forensic investigator J. Allen Hynek’s trajectory from UFO skeptic to believer. In 1949, Hynek was given a contract with the U.S. Air Force to work with Project Sign, the first of three UFO studies, and to distinguish which unidentified flying objects were simply of natural causation. Hynek separated the science from fiction, slowly providing a more socially acceptable platform for discussing the subject. Among his greatest achievements were the founding of the Center for UFO Studies in 1973 and the invention of the cataloging tool named the “Close Encounters Scale,” after which the 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind was named. O’Connell succeeds in bringing Hynek to the forefront of the field of astronomy and analyzing his life’s work. Unlike Hynek’s The Hynek UFO Report, O’Connell’s more vibrant title doesn’t stop at dry scientific facts but also explores the social impact of Hynek’s studies. VERDICT Scholastic and casual readers will find this fact-packed biography informative and enjoyable; highly recommended for school science departments. —Bonnie Parker, Southern Crescent Technical Coll., GA

So you’re ready to get a literary agent, huh?  You’ve got a strong idea for a book and you’re smart enough to see the obvious perils of self-publishing.  Besides, it would feel so much better to have a legitimate publisher behind your work. It’s time for an agent and you know it.

We literary agents are a cagey lot.  We work on straight commission – 15% of the money you get from the books we sell for you – and believe it or not, most of us expect to be paid for our work!  Imagine that!  That’s why agents insist on only representing books they believe in.  (Read: believe we can sell)  As the publishers have tightened their rules about which kinds of books they’ll take, and what they expect from authors, agents have had to adapt and take not just “strong ideas” but also the right kinds of authors. 

We’re choosier because publishers are choosier than at any other time in history.

How can you get an agent who will love your work, see a brilliant future for you and best of all, help you achieve it?  Here are 3 Ways to Get a Literary Agent.  (My agency only handles nonfiction, so my advice is for would-be nonfiction authors only.)

1 Know the competition  It’s very easy and incredibly common to think your book is the first of its kind, is brilliant and unique and golly, just pure genius.  But before you grind out an entire manuscript (never, ever, ever a good idea!) or write a spiffy book proposal (always a good idea), you’ll want to have some awareness of similar books in the marketplace.  Lucky for you, this is easy! Just go to Amazon.com and search the main themes of your book.  Scroll about 2/3 down the page to where it says, “Product Details” and you’ll see a little line that says, “Amazon.com Sales Ranking”.  If the “similar topic” book has a number between 1 and 150,000 buy it and read it now.

Try to find the six books closest to yours and read them well enough to be able to clearly answer the question every agent and publisher will be asking in their heads when they look at your masterpiece: “What about YOUR book will be New, Different, Better or offer the reader something More than all those other titles?”  (The concept of N.D.B.M. is my trademark acronym – it’s helped hundreds of authors get publishing contracts!)

2 Never write the whole book until you have a check from a publisher in your bank account.
Fiction authors must write the entire thing, but as a nonfiction author, you should only write the proposal. That’s because it will allow the agent to give you input on how to make the proposed book idea stronger and it is simply how nonfiction books are bought and sold in the USA.  If you don’t have a book proposal, or if you don’t know how to write one, click here.

3 Offer it only to agents who have sold and are selling books like yours.  There are 5 billion “literary agent directories” online. It’s not difficult for you to spend a little time searching for agents who handle books like yours.  One of the most common reasons we reject things is because the author has sent us something we never handle.  We get offered lots of children’s books, screenplays, memoirs and other things we can’t sell.

If you get rejected by agents who are inappropriate for you anyway, you may get the idea that your book is no good, when really, you just haven’t gotten the right opinions yet. You didn’t give your book a fair shot.

Here’s why this is important:  If we have never sold a book in your genre (the type of book you’re writing), then chances are we don’t know what’s good in that genre and (most important!) we don’t have relationships with the editors who buy the books in that genre.  Only select agents who have sold books in your genre and who are still selling books in your genre.

You may be thinking, “I expected this blog to be about how to query, or where to find the right agent!”  Here’s the harsh truth:  If you send your work to 30 agents who have sold and who are selling books in your genre, and all of them reject it, you’ve got one of two problems. Either your query (pitch letter) to the agents is bad or you skipped step one or step two above.  That’s all there is to it.  We make a living doing this. That means we’re always searching for content good enough to sell. (Think of sharks hunting in the ocean!)

Rather than get discouraged and go off in a huff to self publish (a very, very unwise choice for everyone except memoir and autobiography writers!), actually take a moment to think through these three steps.  Did you really follow them?  If you did*, you’ll absolutely get a literary agent.

Like everything else on Planet Earth, there’s a proven way to get to your goal.

 

(If you did and you also have even the early indicators of the key elements publishers are looking for now!)

By Wendy Keller, Literary Agent

If you wrote a book and it has been published or self-published in the last ten or so years, chances are YOU and/or your publisher are leaving a lot of money on the table.

In your publisher’s case, if you have one, it’s just not that high of a priority.

In your case as the author, chances are you just don’t yet know where the money is.

I’m a literary agent. I’ve sold hundreds of “secondary rights” all over the world, including NINE international best sellers. Here’s how what I know can help you:

“Secondary Rights” are the non-book rights to your content. There are about 132 of them at last count, but the main money-makers are these:

  • Audio
  • Film
  • Merchandising (when some object is created from your book, for instance a calendar, t-shirts, a board game, etc.)
  • Foreign Translation (your book in French, Polish or Thai, for instance)
  • Foreign Distribution (when your book is for sale in English in another country, like the UK, Canada, Australia for English language books published in the USA)
  • Course Adoption(when your book is adapted into a course taught live or online, or becomes required reading for one)
  • Product Premium (when your book becomes the “free” giveaway for customers who buy a company’s product or service)

Of course there are many, many more. But here’s a weird truth: Smart marketing of these and other secondary rights usually earns the author as much or more money than the advance paid by the US publisher! And it isn’t that hard to do.

If you’d like to explore the many ways you can earn money from your book’s secondary rights, you’re invited to my upcoming 90 minute long training on the topic. Here’s a link to register for it.

Some authors get a kick out of seeing their book in another language.

The world’s a big place, and even if your topic is past its prime in the extremely competitive market, there are certainly people – perhaps even entire countries – still interested in what you have to say. Fiction and nonfiction!

My opinion is this:

You put all that work into your book. Why not give the greatest number of people the chance to benefit from it?

Audio books are preferred by some people, blind or not. An online training, once set up, could make you money for decades to come. Film rights could make you, your book and the story famous all over the world. Not to mention the money!

You may not even know which secondary rights in your own book. Many authors and authors-to-be don’t. (P.S. – If you’ve already sold some of these rights prior to approaching publishers, it will make them believe you’re an even hotter commodity!) Your publisher, if you have one, usually gives up on placing secondary rights after bout 6-12 months of effort. That’s where this powerful online training comes in: I can help you find and exploit all your viable secondary rights.

Here’s the crazy bit – I’ve seen books that are six, nine and once, even eleven years old, get snatched up by international publishers! Sometimes, a boon in secondary rights sales resurrects a book in the US market. All kinds of wonderful things can still happen for your book – self-published or not, long ago or not, soon-to-be-released or only mostly written.

You will never know how valuable your secondary rights can be until you explore all your options. Peek into what’s possible now.

Wendy Keller is the Chief Talent Launcher and senior literary agent for Keller Media, Inc. in Los Angeles. Her company has placed +800 secondary rights deals worldwide, including 9 international best-sellers and 17 New York Times best-sellers.

Query her agency here.

Sign up for the Secondary Rights Online Live Training here.

By Wendy Keller, Literary Agent and Chief Talent Launcher

Most of the authors whose books are going to be sold this year are already under contract with publishers.

But here’s the good news: NOW is the ideal time to prepare to be part of the January buying frenzy.

Do you have a good nonfiction book idea in mind?

What will happen to your career – or your life – when you turn into a published author?

Here’s what you’ll need to make that happen:

  1. A strong idea on a subject you are qualified to write about
  2. A well-written book proposal

That’s all. Because with those two things, you will easily find a literary agent (I know because I am one!) and your enthusiastic agent will easily find you a publisher who loves your idea and wants to publish your book.

How to write a good book proposal:

Note: Only nonfiction books need proposals – not fiction. But no nonfiction book gets sold without a proposal, so you’ll have to create one to sell your book.

“A nonfiction book proposal is to the publishing industry what a business plan is to venture capitalists…and for the same reason. You’re trying to get a stranger to invest in your idea.” — Wendy Keller

A nonfiction proposal has five (5) basic parts plus one or two sample chapters. The parts look deceptively simple, which is why so few authors get an agent or a publisher. Don’t waste time! Do it right the first time! (Here’s a little extra help)

The Parts of a Book Proposal:

  1. The Overview – where you pitch to publishers how brilliant your idea really is.
  2. Your Bio – where you prove to them your credentials on this subject matter.
  3. The Marketing Plan – where you show the publisher what a great author you are because you are highly motivated to sell lots of copies of your book.
  4. Your Chapter Summaries – where you get to show off all the knowledge you’ve got and how it will benefit the readers because people only buy nonfiction books to get some result. Typical: Education, information or knowledge they can use.
  5. The Competitive Analysis – where you prove that your book deserves what we call “its shelf space”. How it is N.D.B.M.(tm) than the competition. That is, “New, Different, Better or offers the readers something More.”

If you’ve got lots of time to spare, are highly motivated and don’t really mind if the finished book proposal doesn’t actually attract a publisher, do it yourself. You don’t need to know much more than the numbered list above. But if you take the decision to become a successful author seriously, then get a full perspective on what’s really going on here, and how you can create a proposal that will be a winner right from Word One. To get FREE help from this literary agent, just click here.

Once your book proposal is perfect, your agent will present it to very carefully selected publishers at the most reputable publishing houses in the country and nurture the sale until you get a publishing contract. It all starts with a splendid proposal!

Wendy Keller of Keller Media, Inc. is the literary agent behind +1,500 rights deals around the world, including 17 New York Times best sellers and 9 international best sellers.

To know how to write a proposal that her agency may represent, click here.

To offer your excellent, already-finished proposal to Keller Media, click here.

To see some of the splendid, intelligent authors Keller Media represents, click here.

By Wendy Keller, Literary Agent and Chief Talent Launcher

If you own a business, want to start one or have a career you’d like to grow, here’s the deal: you need to consider writing a book.

Not just any book.

Certainly not the time-wasting pipe dream Great American Novel.

You need to write a real, practical book on the subject of your expertise, whether it is sales or dog grooming or starting a business or whatever else you happen to know a lot about…more than “most” people know.

Here’s why: If you do it right, it will sell to a publisher. (I’m a literary agent – I know whereof I speak)

A real publisher will hand you a check for the honor of publishing your book. (The size of that check will depend on what’s called your “platform”. To find out what that means, click here.) There’s your first $25,000.

Before the book comes out, you will use it to enhance your brand, increase your customers, expand your platform. The very fact that your book is in production with a legitimate publisher will, when done right, attract people to you and your business/career.

When your book releases (about a year after it was sold) you have a window of opportunity (3-9 months, usually) to go into a frenzy of book promotion and collect all kinds of cool things like TV and newspaper interviews, appearances on podcasts and radio shows, maybe speaking at events.

All of that will exponentially increase your personal visibility in the world and by default, grow your business, grow your career or help your new baby business take off fast.

When you do all of the book promotion stuff, which is a LOT of fun (seriously) you will get (in addition to all those new customers, consulting contracts and/or job offers), the 25,001st benefit: you’ll make your mom proud. Aww.

Here’s the catch: (You knew there was one, right?) To sell a nonfiction book to a publisher, you’ll need what’s called a “book proposal”. It’s a very specific document that most people can write themselves. It lays out the parts of your book and how the publisher will be brilliant for investing in you as an author. TO MAKE THIS EVEN EASIER for you, click here to learn how to put together a GREAT book proposal and get your ball rolling…and if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for Mom!

About Me & Why I’m Qualified to Tell You All This:

I am a literary agent for Keller Media in Los Angeles. I’ve sold +1,500 deals all over the world. 17 of them became New York Times best sellers. I am wildly passionate about using authorship as a marketing tool. Some clients build multi-million dollar businesses out of becoming published authors. Every single one of them started with a great book proposal. Click here to find out how to write yours.