International Book Fairs

International book fairs provide a common meeting ground for publishers, editors, writers and distributors.

Book fairs date bacl at least to 1455 when Gutenberg sold copies of his famous Bible at an event in Frankfurt. Historians usually date the first actual Frankfurt book fair to 1480.

At book fairs, book professionals and their representatives sell and buy translation rights to publish books in languages different from the original edition. Foreign rights agents and scouts can help you sell the rights to your English language book to publishers worldwide. In that case, your book will appear in the languages of the buying publishers. Contracts for translation rights include payment in advance of publication and royalties after your book.

Wholesalers and distributors also offer contracts at book fairs. They want to sell your original English language books in other countries where English is widely read.

Other book professionals such as journalists (12,275 from 92 countries received accreditation to the 2004 Frankfurt fair), booksellers, book club directors, reviewers, film producers, publicists, and librarians also find book fairs extremely useful. Overall, there were more than 173,943 book trade visitors at Frankfurt in 2004.

Every book fair where you have your title offers you many opportunities other than contracts for direct sales of your books.

Book fairs are also an effective ways to sell older and back listed titles. While a title may have been fairly dormant for a few years, it takes on a new life when seen for the first time by buyers on an international fair stand.

At the Frankfurt Book Fair, the largest in the world, nearly 7,000 exhibitors occupy more than six separate buildings, some of which have two and three exhibit floors. By comparison, BookExpo America usually has 2,000 exhibitors occupying a single floor. In 2006, the London International Book Fair moved to ExCel, a new facility in East London that is the largest single floor trade show facility in Europe. Other international fairs at held in Taipei, Australia, BogotŠ, Bologna, Warsaw and Prague. Rumor has it that Dubai is about to join the list.

The Frankfurt Book Fair takes place each October. Click here to visit the Frankfurt Book Fair site.


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Ambassador of Books: Foreign Rights for the Self-Publisher

Iíve become a world traveler without leaving home. Iím now awaiting the check for my 15th sale of foreign rights, this time to a Turkish publisher. The check will be small, only $500 less agent's commission. But some foreign advances have been ten times that, and royalties been even bigger. How did I get started selling foreign rights? What can independent authors and publishers learn from my experiences? Hereís my storyÖ

In 1990, I had a domestic literary agent whom I'll refer to here simply as ďA.Ē Working with a co-agent at the Frankfurt Book Fair, A. sold Mexican rights for a how-to book about my system of Face Reading Secretsģ.

So, what's the rest of the story?

For years, the book sold well, and I even received some royalties. Around 2000, a friend surprised me by saying how glad he was to stock "Los Secretos de la Lectura del Rostro" in his bookstore, since many customers in his neighborhood spoke Spanish.

"What, my book is still in print?"

Amazed, I contacted A., who had been out of touch for years. She admitted. "Yes, I do have some royalties for you. But we thought you had moved and left no forwarding address. My assistant tried to call but couldn't reach you."

Interesting. I hadn't moved. I guess my lovely agent had found it more convenient to pocket my royalties than to call Directory Assistance.

Rule #1 of selling foreign rights is to work with people who are honest.

How do you find them?

Dishonesty from a domestic agent -Ė hopefully, that's a rare problem. But I have to tell you, until that bout of amnesia, A. was the best literary agent I'd ever had. Altogether, I've worked with 30 domestic agents (i.e., ones who specialize in working with American publishers). That sad statistic doesn't even count the agents I met who were so obviously incompetent or downright slimy that I chose not to work with them.

Some agents and companies specialize in foreign rights. That's where the most exciting action is for a self-publisher, unless you can attract blockbuster sales, in which case a domestic agent will gladly represent you.

Find foreign representation through referrals, Internet searches, or listservs for self-publishers. Or you can go to the two biggest international fairs, Frankfurt and London, and make contacts that way. Many self-publishers are wary of foreign rights, because many have been burned by selling in a country where copyright laws are a joke. In any part of the world, what's to stop an unscrupulous publisher from simply stealing your book?

Being an independent publisher makes great sense to me, but not being a do-it-yourself foreign rights agent. After the experience with my agent A., and her mixed integrity, I didn't consider selling abroad until I found a bona fide professional at foreign sales. Your agent's skill set should include:

  • Negotiating for appropriate royalties and rights
  • Savvy at checking out contracts
  • Foreign language abilities
  • Tactfulness (and toughness if needed).
  • Internet searches are another line of defense against piracy. You know, these days you can easily do an "All Languages" search on your name, which I'd recommend doing twice a year. Do this whether or not you have sold foreign rights. A web search will turn up any pirated editions of your work.

    That's how I found the Spanish edition of my most popular book for foreign rights, The Power of Face Reading. "Leer Rostros" had a lovely cover, and I was thrilled to discover that I had "published" a new book in one of the world's top languages. Only problem? I'd never received a contract.

    My agent came to the rescue, explaining that the publisher had negotiated with him for a while and then claimed that his company was no longer interested. A printed book was pretty strong evidence to the contrary, however. Based on my Internet search, we got a signed contract and fair payment for an advance against royalties.

    My Rule #2 of selling foreign rights is to take responsibility for doing your own Internet searches. You can't expect an agent, however good, to find time for that. So make it your business to find out if -- official sale or no sale -- your book is being sold elsewhere.

    Luckily, itís not all bad news when dealing with foreign publishers. Two years ago, I was having trouble publishing the book 50 Ways to Read Your Lover: Compatibility Revealed in Body Language, Face Reading, Auras and Chakras. Finding a publisher wasn't hard. It was me! But publication details had me stalled. This book needs about 50 detailed line drawings, and the first artist I hired didn't work out as an illustrator.

    So many other good things were going on in my career, I just couldn't muster up the incentive to find that new artist and spend so much money. After my putting off publication for years, imagine how thrilled I was when Random House Germany decided to publish a hardcover original. They called it "Partnerlooks," took my rough sketches to a fabulous German artist, and got the best illustrations I've had for any of my books.

    Earlier this year, I purchased the rights from this freelance artist -- obviously, far less expensive than hiring her to do the originals.

    I've found many other benefits of selling in the foreign rights market. While loads of my peers are working frantically, jiggling statistics at to be able to claim they are now "bestselling authors," I haven't had to do that. My book, Aura Reading Through All Your Senses became a national bestseller on its own, thanks to Random House Germany.

    Like many who self-publish, I consider today's publishing scene in America to be pretty corrupt. In other parts of the world, you'll find publishers who aren't looking for a blockbuster. They're seeking more than a safe bet, slick variations on some tried-and-true theme. "High concept" isn't the game with these sales, either. Foreign publishers look for original material, well-written books that have something to say.

    How revolutionary is this? If a title is really good in its niche, it could be counted successful abroad by selling just 5,000 copies. Your book doesn't have to sell 500,000 copies for the foreign publisher to make an adequate profit!

    Also, if you look around your local big chain bookstores in America, you'll find more celebrity-driven books each year. The famous faces smile at you from book covers. Don't you sometimes wish they would also include the picture of the ghost writer?

    Sure, star vehicles sell big... in America. But other countries have their own celebrities, thank you very much. So, foreign publishers don't necessarily seek a big American name. They care about choosing books that are inherently interesting. Consider your target audience here in America. Could people with that same interest live elsewhere?

    Rule #3 of foreign rights sales is to avoid language, examples and illustrations that appeal exclusively to Americans.

    Unfortunately, I didn't know this rule when publishing my how-to about meaningful ways that faces change over time, Wrinkles Are God's Makeup. Gathering photos for this book took me years -- I used Library of Congress photos of every American president since modern photography began -- plus I added portraits of all the modern First Ladies. My only problem is that most foreign readers couldn't care less about American presidents. Oops.

    This is another example of how a good agent can help. An agent is your prime contact. You could, of course, just go to the major international shows and wheel-and-deal on your own. If you're a very sales-oriented person, you might survive this. Itís even possible that, on the strength of an offer from a foreign press, you then might be able to sign with a high-powered American agent.

    I'd suggest that you make foreign rights contacts the same way you would make sales and media contacts domestically, such as getting media interviews and networking with other publishers, booksellers, etc. It certainly helps to broaden your contacts overseas. This year, I've traveled a lot -- workshops in England and Ireland, as well as Tokyo. Via interviews, I've been to every continent that doesn't have polar ice caps.

    America's prestige in the world has never been lower, at least in my lifetime. I feel great anguish over this. Yet American ideas, our books and entertainment, still are loved everywhere.

    Abroad, I feel honored to be an ambassador, via my books, for America's can-do spirit. These days, the worst of our pop culture can be nearly as distressing as our politics. Still, the foreign rights that I sell represent the very best I have to offer. In my humble, non-blockbuster way, I can tell the world this: "Americans still are good people. We're free to think, to dream, to explore the human heart, to seek God in the best way we can...and to write. Let me share with you the best things I've learned."

    * * * * *

    Based in metro Washington, D.C., Rose is an award-winning teacher of personal development, specializing in deeper perception. Her books, The Power of Face Reading and Aura Reading Through All Your Senses have been selected by One Spirit Book Club.

    Her latest how-to book is Let Today Be a Holiday: 365 Ways to Co-Create with God. You can preview all her titles -- in English -- and sample her free monthly zine, with face and aura readings of people in the news.
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