How Foreign Rights Work. I Think.

So, the other day my sister Dac (who does not need a pseudonym, on account of she doesn’t try to trick God the way Cordelia does) asked me something along the lines of, “What are foreign rights, anyway? What do these deals mean?” So I thought I’d explain it briefly, as well as a person can when she isn’t entirely sure of the answer herself.

Bear with me, this has to do with money, and I don’t know about you, but my brain always glazes over when I try to follow financial arguments…

When my awesome agent Faye Bender made the deal with Harcourt for Graceling (and then again for Fire), she negotiated that she and I would hold on to the foreign rights, rather than giving them to Harcourt. In other words, we would be the ones with the right to find foreign publishers for the books, rather than Harcourt finding foreign publishers for us. This was good for us, and here’s why: Selling a book to a foreign publisher is much like selling it domestically, in that (at least in my case) the foreign publisher offers the seller an advance and then royalties. If Harcourt were the seller for my foreign rights, then the advances and royalties would be paid to Harcourt, and I wouldn’t see any of that money until my advances from Harcourt for Graceling and Fire were earned out. And then I would only get a percentage of the monies Harcourt got from the foreign publishers. A big percentage, but still, smaller than the percentage I get selling them with Faye and the foreign scouts who are helping us.
(That being said, I would have been fine with it the other way, too, of course– I am not what you would call financially ruthless– AND, Harcourt is doing an awesome job getting everyone excited about the books, both here and abroad. Harcourt is a wonderful home.)
Anyway. So, what happens is that Faye sends the books to the scouts she works with all around the world, and the scouts get to work getting publishers in various countries interested in the books. If you’re lucky (which I have been), the foreign publishers get excited about your books and there are auctions, negotiations, etc. for the books (in each country individually). Once all interested publishers in, say, France, have made their final offers, Faye calls me, and we decide which publisher to go with (based on reputation, their marketing plans for the books, the advance they’re offering, etc.).
Really, it’s very much like it was selling the books to Harcourt in the first place. Except for a few differences: *I have two agents helping me with each sale this time. *Rarely, if ever, will I be required to make edits on the books once they sell to the foreign presses (my main character’s name translating literally as “butt” in German being an exception… we’ll be giving Po a new name for the German edition). *I have less direct communication with the foreign publishers (but still some– I’m getting to know my U.K. editor, which is awesome). *The publication dates in different countries vary and many of the foreign publishers will be putting the books out after the Harcourt edition is released. *And finally, Harcourt provides the publishers with the final book for the purposes of translation (rather than me).
Does that make sense? Did I forget to explain anything, or get anything wrong (nudge to those at Harcourt or Gollancz or elsewhere who might be reading! *waves to my phenomenal scout Lora Fountain in Paris*)?
The deals roll through slowly. Italy was the last one; perhaps Spain will be next? And then maybe other parts of Europe, and then parts of Asia, knock on wood!
(I wonder, if I get a Chinese deal, if they’ll let me dedicate the books to the Dalai Lama?)
Anyhoo. The whole thing is quite a trip.
In other news, I’m posting this from my brand new shiny iMac, and my PC is in PC purgatory.
Thank you to everyone for being so sympathetic about my computer! On the scale of possible problems, this sort of thing isn’t very high, but still, it has been an immensely stressful week.