How to Publish and Distribute through Foreign Publishers
Let’s face it. While we belong to the Christian community of authors, publishers, and professionals, we are neither impervious to, nor cannot hide from, the inescapable need for sustained growth. The need is, of course, natural because we all deal with the reality of paying bills and the desire to have sufficient funds saved to invest in new ventures and products.
We entered Christian publishing not to line our pockets, per se. Regardless, increased revenue does represent an indispensable commodity in our pursuit of the vision the Lord has given us. In fact, we all identify with the truism that never fails to prove itself: “where there is no margin, there is no mission.” So where can we find margin while upholding our mission? In new markets. Specifically, the foreign rights market.
We are speaking about getting books published and distributed through foreign publishers. For some publishers, foreign rights are not a new concept. They have invested time to establish themselves in a foreign market and it provided healthy dividends. How healthy? The dividends can range between 3–8 percent of a publisher’s overall revenue, which many times can be the difference for a publisher’s margin of success, i.e., profit. But, in our experience, too many publishers overlook the potential of this market, thus forsaking significant margin, and consequently, are failing to reach the full potential of their mission. So how can we find margin and mission in foreign markets?
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First, let’s define what we mean by the “foreign market” or “foreign rights.” This is the practice and business of licensing intellectual property to publishers committed to publishing a given work in a non-English language in exchange for good and valuable consideration. This is accomplished by a contract, negotiated by and between two or more parties. In practical terms, it’s placing your books in the hands of non-English publishers who will publish the book in languages such as German, Spanish, Portuguese and other languages.
This all sounds good, but how is this achieved in practice? Who are these parties? Where are they located? How can they be reached to negotiate with them in return for “good and valuable consideration?” Before I answer that, I would like to appeal to the importance of mission.
Consider what your mission is. And then ask yourself, did you factor in the Great Commission? As Christian publishers, we know that mission gives us the meaning and purpose of our work. It gives the “why” we do what we do, as well as the “how.”
“Why” is the target of Simon Sinek’s value proposition in his timeless book, “Start with Why.” Sinek writes: “Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause, or belief—WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?”
While you are contemplating this, consider if your WHY includes bringing your book or books to the rest of the world. Licensing your properties is not only an exciting way to introduce your books to new markets while reaping good and valuable benefits, but it can also provide a means by which you can fulfill the Great Commission. How? By enriching believers in other countries and language groups and providing access to books which we have in luxurious abundance.
Having established the value of mission and the place foreign licensing plays within it, where do we go to begin exploring margin and mission in new markets outside the U.S.? We recommend several steps, as a start.
Commit to research
In this season where we have not been able to travel to key industry events such as Book Fairs (e.g., the Frankfurt Book Fair) to meet potential publishing partners (licensees) in the pursuit of supplying demand. Publishers who succeed in the foreign market are those who are committed to research where their future prospects lay and what content is in demand. How can one do that? Here are several recommendations for your consideration:
- Purchase or buy access to the Literary Market Place. This is a listing of all the publishers in the world, where you will also find listings for most Christian publishers, along with their contact information.
- Google Search. Search for Christian publishers using keywords such as “Christian + Spanish + Publisher,” or use the topics which your authors have written about and add the non-English language in the search terms.
- Review the directories of exhibitors on the website of the London Book Fair or Frankfurt Book Fair. See if they are in the same space as you are.
- Consult with a publisher who has been active in foreign licensing or correspond with a foreign rights agent who can guide you by their experience.
- Explore what subjects, themes, and topics interest foreign Christian publishers or those publishers who have interest in religious subjects.
- Investigate the benefits of uploading your information on licensing platforms such as evolge.com or PubMatch.com.
Communicate incessantly and clearly.
- Reach out to publishers with whom you have a degree of affinity. Communication works for those who work at it.
- Don’t be discouraged if most do not return your email. Persevere; it is not personal.
- Seek to find the names of the editorial director or the publisher as your ideal contact.
- If emails don’t work, try calling the listed phone number/s. The investment will be worth it.
- Once you establish contact, be clear about the benefits of your intellectual properties in such a way that will interest them.
- Remember, connection between interests, between supply and demand is the optimal desired outcome. The rest will come naturally.
Create an atmosphere for the opportunity to partner
- Seek to learn the foreign publisher’s mission & agenda.
- Establish a personal connection. Although business is business, we are Christian publishers; relationships are the bedrock of what we do. It’s our true currency.
- Offer to send physical or digital samples.
- Ask about their usual terms and identify areas of compatibility.
- Cast a vision of how success involves both of you working together.
Contract and negotiate with a mutual win as the objective
- While you may be excited about the prospect of gaining new margin in new markets, always seek the balance between long-term partnership and short-term gain.
- Build a contractual relationship that assures that a bridge to future licenses is present.
- As with other contracts, pay attention to key terms such as exclusivity, royalties, term, accuracy in translation, and marketing channels.
- Consult with a licensing professional or attorney to help you craft a fair deal.
Continue the process
- As with any endeavor, success is awarded to the persistent. According to the late Zig Ziglar, “persistent consistence” was the bedrock of his achievements. That will be true of you, too.
- Target publishers with whom you have the best chance of connection and remain in contact with them supplying your catalogs, links, updates, news about upcoming titles.
- Keep the faith. Inasmuch as most of this is a sales-based activity, remember that rejection is part of the equation. Not everyone will be the ideal partner. Keep your expectations realistic and know that God has prepared several publishers with whom you will have a bond and continuing connection. These will be those with whom you will travel on the road to finding new margin in new markets.
Finally, remember net reach comes thru effective partnership. As publishers and authors, we all want to expand beyond our current reach, to get more results from the product or service we offer. If we don’t, we are heading backwards—an undesirable destination.
The truth, however, is that we can only go so far on our own. After all, we all joined the Christian Indie Publishing Association to reach new levels of success in the publishing industry! Occasionally, we need to work with others, to gain the perspective of an experienced advisor, and hear the voice of an impartial coach. And more often than that, we need someone that not only cheers us on from the sidelines but gets in the race with us. That is where net reach comes in. That is where Goodwill Rights/Goodwill Media excels.
Goodwill Rights can provide advice, feedback and We are that trusted advisor, the cheering coach—but more than that, we provide you indispensable tools, as publishers and authors, to help you expand your reach. We are a service organization dedicated to Christian authors and publishers like you so that you get further, do more, be more, have more and grow more.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if we can be of help to you.
About The Author: Carl Dobrowolski
Carl Dobrowolski formed Goodwill Rights Management in 2003, after seventeen years with the American Bible Society. Goodwill Rights Management is an agency serving Christian publishers and authors in rights management, publisher relations, and business development. From idea to concept, from manuscript to setting, from design to production, from release to sales and marketing, and foreign rights—Goodwill Rights’ associates can help. For more information, please visit www.goodwillrights.com.