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Selling Foreign Rights Around the World

Readers in Other Countries May Not Be as Different as You Think
Are you missing opportunities to sell foreign rights for your book because you think people in other cultures are different than North Americans?

When I wrote Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man (available in bookstores and online from, I thought it was for North American men who need to show more leadership in their relationships with women – a trait that many women want in men today. (This may explain why many women won’t “settle” and why women give this book to men to help turn them into Mr. Right.)

I thought men in other cultures were different, but after selling translation rights to publishers in 13 countries in Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa, I realized that while cultures may be different, human nature is similar. The message: While not all books succeed with foreign sales, you may be missing potential opportunities. It pays to give it a try.

Major life challenges often motivate people to grow and learn from the experience. Many people also want to share the life lessons they learned by writing a book and getting the book out to as many people as possible around the world.

I set out to achieve this goal with a book I wrote on an unique almost unprecedented topic -- insights on what it means to be a man. There are plenty of books on Women’s Issues, but what about Men’s Issues? Like many men today, I felt bewildered by the messages we hear in the media. I started looking for insight about being a man. I soon realized I was not alone in searching for this insight. I met many men who said they were also unsure of their roles. I also heard many women complain about today’s men who don't act the way they expect a man to be.

My journey led me learn the timeless insights that fathers and other older male role models would teach younger men – admirable traits such as emotional strength, leadership, decisiveness and responsibility, the traits women told me they wanted but felt many men today lacked. As I learned this ideas, I felt I needed to share it with others.

The reaction I received to my book, Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man, particularly from women, made me realize that the insight in the book addressed a situation that affected relationships not only in North America, but in many countries. With the goal of making a difference and helping bring peace into relationships, I decided to try selling the book in other countries.

How does one sell rights in the international marketplace?

My first foreign rights sales occurred as a result of Book Expo America, where for a small fee, the book was displayed in a co-op booth. Although the book didn't take Book Expo by storm -- as I somehow thought it would -- it received interest from and I sold translation rights to publishers in Mexico, Poland and Nigeria. If publishers in such diverse countries and cultures wanted the book, I was sure publishers in other countries would also want it.

Using the Internet, I researched and contacted literary agents in other countries who sell translation rights to publishers in their country. I found that agents who were personally enthusiastic about the book sold it quickly. The agent in Korea wrote to me that said she kept nodding in agreement as she read the book. She sold it to a new publisher focusing on books on personal growth. In Japan, an agent wrote that he thought all the men in his office should read the book. He soon sold it to a publisher that has published some of Japan's best selling books ever. As the book gained momentum, I updated agents on rights sales in other countries and with reviews and other coverage.

What began as my own journey, seeking to learn about being a man in a relationship, is making a difference in the lives of people in places like Warsaw, Seoul and Tokyo. I’ve realized that human nature – especially when it comes to men in relationships, is so similar that Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants is striking a chord in countries with vastly different cultures.

The biggest surprise? While the book is written for men, many women buy it to give to men, and the most common question I receive from women is: "How do I get him to read it?"

Six Steps to Successful Foreign Rights Sales

1. Prepare an exciting email that sells the book. Include:
– successes to date, including sales figures and other rights sales;
– a short summary of the book and the table of contents;
– reviews and endorsements of the book;
– links to the book’s Web site, its page on, and radio and video coverage;
Offer to send a copy of the book and ask for the agent’s mailing address.

2. Research foreign rights agents. Good literary agents know the publishers in their markets. When a publisher receives a submission from an agent they know, they usually give it attention. To find agents:
– Display the book at international book fairs which agents attend – such as BookExpo America, Frankfurt, London and Beijing.
– Consult the list of foreign rights agents in International Literary Market Place, available in the reference section of many libraries.
– Google "foreign rights agents" and "foreign rights." Results will include publishers’ and literary agents’ web pages with names and contact information of their foreign rights agents.
To find agents who specialize in a certain genre, such as children's books, go to web sites of publishers of that genre and look at their list of foreign rights agents.

3. Send agents the email about your book. When you receive a positive response, send the book with copies of reviews and anything else agents can use to sell the book. Most foreign rights agents charge 10 per cent commission on the advance and royalties.

4. Support your agents' efforts. Send updates on other rights sales, reviews and other media coverage for the agent to send to publishers.

5. When you get an offer. Negotiate the contract. Foreign rights contracts usually grant the publisher only the right to publish the book in its language. All other rights, such as serial rights, are usually retained. Ask your agent about withholding tax that is paid to that country’s government. It's usually 10 to 15 per cent. A common approach to negotiating an advance is to ask for the royalties for the entire first printing. You can calculate this amount as the offer should include the number of copies in the first printing, the proposed retail price and a royalty rate.

6. Thank your agent. Once you make the deal, thank your agent. He or she will appreciate it. It's human nature.

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Elliott Katz is the author of Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man. If you have questions, you can contact him at and via