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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