Writer's Digest

Foreign Rights Sales

Signing a book deal with a publisher is among the most exhilarating experiences for a writer. For some authors, it’s just the beginning, as agents and publishers may also be able to sell foreign rights to international publishers, extending a book’s reach and life, and bringing the writer extra income.

Here, experts share inside information about the international intrigue of foreign rights.

WHAT ARE FOREIGN RIGHTS AND WHO NEGOTIATES THEM?

Authors who sign with a literary agent to represent their book, and hopefully sell to a publisher, can typically expect their first sale to be in their home country. Here in the United States, a literary agent first negotiates with U.S. publishers looking for a sale. After that, an author might get lucky enough to sell the rights to publication in other countries, known as “foreign rights” or “subsidiary rights.” In the case where a publisher is also an international conglomerate, a first U.S. sale is not a guarantee that the international branches of the publisher will automatically buy the foreign rights, however; publishers assess each deal for its potential to reach an international audience. After the first deal is made, the literary agent has several options: They may work with a foreign rights’ co-agent within their own agency, contract out with a freelance foreign rights’ agent, or sell those foreign subsidiary rights to the publisher directly.

In a nutshell, says Taryn Fagerness, owner of Taryn Fagerness Agency, a foreign rights’ agent based in Tacoma, Washington, “I work with co-agents, I help negotiate the deal, I do the contract, I chase payments and help authors with tax forms, and

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