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.

Question: How long should your agent take to get back to you?

I am an unpublished writer with a reputable agent (my first novel did not sell, unfortunately). I sent my second novel to my agent 14 weeks ago -- she still hasn't read it. I understand how busy agents are, so I haven't been haunting her with phone calls. In her responses to my (three) emails, she said she'd read the manuscript "soon."

My questions: Does the fact that the agent hasn't/can't get to my novel mean she's not interested in my genre (thrillers) any more or is it just that she's swamped? I feel like she should let me know if it's going to be another month or two before she can get to it. Is that an unreasonable expectation? Short of emailing or calling her every week, what can I say or do to get the ball rolling (if you'll excuse the cliche)? When do I know it's time to start looking for a new agent?

I can't tell you exactly what's going on with your agent. She could be swamped (October and November is the busy season for us), or perhaps she might have something personal going on. However, fourteen weeks is quite a long time, and at this point you definitely deserve an explanation and a realistic deadline for a response, and if this isn't forthcoming or her answers don't satisfy you than it might be time to start looking for a new agent. I would think an email to this effect would get the ball rolling.

Sadly, it's quite possible that the agent took the lack of sale on your first book hard and has simply lost enthusiasm for your work. This is something an agent typically won't want to admit, but it's a reality of life. It could also be possible that she's lost enthusiasm for thrillers generally, but that's more doubtful since it's such a broad category. A more realistic possibility is that she might have lost the passion for your subgenre, whether it be political, legal, international, etc.

I can take a horribly long time to read something, but I don't think I've ever taken fourteen weeks to read one of my client's projects, unless I already have a project out on submission for them and the work is in the same genre.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"I Am Legend" Review Coming Next Week

I am full of glee at this moment. Yes, I said glee.

"I Am Legend" is opening this weekend. I'm sure you've heard about it - Will Smith is the last human left in a world filled with vampires. The reviews so far have been mixed, but I'll still be in the theatre this weekend, munching on popcorn and drinking soda and telling my wife when the scary parts are over and she can open her eyes again. In the immortal words of Chris Knight, it's a moral imperative.


The reason why I'm filled with glee is because "I Am Legend" is based on a novella of the same title by Richard Matheson, first published in 1954 and one of the ten best books I've ever read(and certainly the best science fiction novel). If you write science fiction or anything with a post-apocalyptic bent, and you haven't read "I Am Legend", then you're simply missing the boat. If you don't believe me, perhaps you'll believe Stephen King, who has said that Matheson's writing influenced him the most as a writer.

Review to come.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Following E-Query Instructions

Most agencies now accept e-queries. However, each agent has very specific guidelines on how to submit such queries - what address to send them to, what to include, whether attachments are acceptable, etc. If you're savvy enough to find an agent's email address, than you certainly should be able to find their website, which should include their guidelines. Just in case, here are mine again:

I will only respond to e-queries sent to me via my agency submission web page. I will not respond to e-queries sent to me in any other manner, unless it is a referral.

I will respond to all e-queries sent to me via my website within few days, and at most two weeks. If you have not heard from me after two weeks, it's because you either did not fill out the form correctly or you queried me more than once with the same material.

If I reject your query, do not ask me for more details or recommendations. I will not respond, and will actually get annoyed.

Though I strongly prefer e-queries, I still accept regular mail queries (query, SASE). It takes four to six weeks for me to respond. If you do not include an SASE I will not reply.

I know I'm laying down the law again, but the number of e-queries I've received last week that don't follow the above guidelines above was tremendous.