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Ninc Newsletter

October 2013   •  Vol. 24, No. 10   •  Download pdf version

GOLD MINES and MINEFIELDS:
selling and promoting
your book in Europe

BY ELIZABETH JENNINGS

So — you’ve sold a book to a European publisher. Congratulations! Before popping that bottle of champagne, though, make sure you’ve sold that book well, and then we’ll talk about promoting it!

European publishers love us, love our books. In every major country, in every major language, there we are on the bookshelves of the many bookstores still open (though the European marketplace is digitizing fast).

European readers love American writers, and we regularly make appearances on the bestseller lists.

For a European publisher, publishing an American bestseller in translation is a win-win. They don’t have to troll the slush pile, there is no editing involved. They have already seen sales figures, so they have reasonable expectations of sales. The only costs are the translation costs and designing a new cover. And, a very small advance. Ah yes, low-advance-itis has hit Europe as well.

Europe is a huge book market of around 400 million prosperous readers and they read us, mostly. So — a gold mine.

However, it is also a minefield, so before we talk about promotion, let’s look at the problems that crop up when signing a contract with a European publisher.

The problems begin with your agent, who sells through subagents, soaking up 20 percent of your royalties instead of 15 percent. This practice probably started before the invention of the telegram and hasn’t changed

Table of Contents

Eye on Industry: The Cardamom Principle
NINC 2013 Conference:
    Author Support 2.0
METADATA 101:
It’s a Note Jotter. It’s a Mind Mapper … It’s Scapple.
Playing Paper Dolls
Forensic Files: How Is a Gunshot Wound Treated?
Writing Is Taxing: Same Sex Marriages Now Recognized for Federal Tax Purposes
Not Your Usual Writing Advice: Negotiating with The Muse
The Mad Scribbler: One Down, Twenty-Nine to Go

much since. If I were Queen of Publishing it is the first thing I’d change. In an era in which there has been a great deal of consolidation in Europe as in the States, with most countries only having a few conglomerates to sell to, there is no reason to use a subagent. Go to Frankfurt, get to know the foreign rights department of the handful of major publishers, all of whom speak excellent English, and negotiate the contracts yourself. The contracts are in English, too.

Newer agents, such as Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency, do this already, bypassing the creaky sub-agency system. As she says, “Born from my business travels as a literary agent, I now deal directly with foreign publishers.” Continued on page 5 

 

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