Thursday, December 13, 2007

Foreign Markets - Western Europe

When you sign a contract with an American publisher, you will typically grant them the right to publish your book in the English language rights in the United States and Canada, English language rights throughout the world, or in all languages throughout the world.

In order to determine what rights you should grant, and at what price, you first need to know what the book's potential is abroad. There are a couple of ways to go about learning this, from Publisher's Marketplace to Amazon, but really this is an area where you should rely heavily on your agent for guidance. Still, I'm going to try to provide a brief breakdown of the foreign language marketplace, starting with Western Europe.

Bestselling commercial fiction and acclaimed literary fiction does well throughout Europe (as they do everywhere), but crime, romance, romantic suspense, self-help, and popular psychology all have followings. Nonfiction is generally a tougher sale, as publishers would prefer to have their own journalists write on the subject.

For many years the German language market was the most lucrative translation market for U.S. titles. Unfortunately, over the past ten years the market has slowly shrunk, with both the number of translations and the sizes of advances decreasing.

France and Italy are comparable markets, in that they are both quite unpredictable. The French readership is generally open-minded, which is why you see less traditional genres and themes finding a home (for example, gay and lesbian, Native American, and African American subjects).

Children's books, and in particular middle grade and young adult, have increasingly been translated abroad, with the French and Germans leading the way. Middle grade in Scandinavian countries also does quite well. Unfortunately, the picture book market in Europe is rather limited, with the exception being France and Germany.


L.C.McCabe said...


That leads to me to question:

The manuscript that I'm finishing would have a built in market of both Italian and French readers due to the subject matter. If you found difficulty with interesting American publishers, would you then switch gears and pursue foreign markets?

Richard Zimler had difficulty getting his first novel The Last Kabbalist in Lisbon published in the U.S. and after rounds of rejections being published first in Portugal. After it became a bestseller there, other countries published his novel including the U.S.

I am wondering because I have faith that independent of how the U.S. industry will respond to my book, it will be something the Italians and French will want because the story deals with their heritage.


Jonathan Lyons said...

It is unfortunately quite difficult to secure a translation deal if the work has not been contracted in either the UK or the US. It occasionally happens, and it might be something I would pursue if the material is perfect for a particular foreign market, but publishers abroad generally will be predisposed against uncontracted works.

L.C.McCabe said...

Thank you for such a prompt reply.


Jennifer L. Griffith said...

Interesting information.

Maya Reynolds said...

Jonathan: I'm so pleased you're writing about this. I saw in today's Publishers Marketplace that "simplified" Chinese rights and "complex" Chinese rights were sold.

I was going to ask my agent, what they meant, but now I'll ask you!!!



Robin S. said...


I'm in Britain quite a bit - and one of the things I've found interesting in their bookstores is the presence of American authors that I haven't seen here.

There's a fiction author, Douglas (?) Kennedy, who comes to mind. And there are other authors who are well-represented in shops there, that I barely see here - although I've heard of them.

Jan said...

Thanks for the info! I appreciate it. :-)