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Selling Foreign Rights

I sold a novel direct to a small/medium press for an advance; I had no agent. It releases soon.

I would like to sell some foreign rights translation for this book; those rights are owned by my publisher but I get a percentage.

Do agents ever represent foreign or sub-rights only for a book if the traditional rights have already been sold? I guess the query would say something to the effect of, “I’m seeking an agent to represent foreign rights only for my recent release…”

Or is that kind of thing too small-potatoes? Lemme guess: depends on the sales of the recent release?

I can’t help but feel that if they’re not coming to you, it’s just not that big. If the writer has to seek representation, then they don’t really need it. Because if the book sells a million copies, then the foreign rights people will come running no matter what you do. So, is it a waste to seek representation for that?

First let me clarify that those rights are not “owned” by the publisher. You have licensed them to the publisher to sell on your behalf, and if that’s the case there’s nothing for you to do in terms of selling or licensing those rights. If part of your deal was that the publisher handles those rights, that’s their job to do.

Agents will possibly represent foreign or subrights in a case where the author holds on to them, but typically that’s because the agent also wants to represent the author for other works and not simply the foreign rights for this work.

At this point you have nothing to seek representation for since you don’t hold the rights. If you did, I guess I would worry less about finding an agent for those rights and more about finding an agent for your next book. Once you’ve found an agent you can definitely discuss foreign rights possibilities.


Category: Blog



  1. Along the same lines, if you submit your work to a small publisher (like Medallion Press) and they're interested in publishing the book, is a small press too small for an agent to be interested in representing a new author? Should the author not accept the publisher's offer if an agent is willing to look at their work and submit it to a large publisher instead?

  2. Anon 10:09, if you are interested in getting an agent and possibly selling to a larger publisher, then why are you submitting to a small publisher first? Decide what your goals are and submit accordingly.

  3. Good post. Agree with the agent that for the original post writer, the book deal is done and it's time to move on to new books that hopefully will attract an agent, and maybe then the agent will be able to help with foreign rights on the first book.

  4. Very cool and interesting post, Jessica! It is great to know such facts before going into the publishing world. Thank you for your observations. Write on!

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