What Does Our Work Consist Of? Part 2

What happens when we receive a translation rights offer for one of our titles?

By Marleen Seegers — article first published in May 2013
translation rights offers

Done! Six weeks of (almost) non-stop meetings are behind Marleen, at the 2015 London Book Fair when Hendrik Groen’s Secret Diary was one of the fair’s buzz titles

In general there’s a noticeable increase in the number of translation rights offers we receive in the run-up and the aftermath of the Frankfurt and London Book Fairs, when foreign publishers are more actively looking for new titles to acquire.

1) We check who else is considering the title

If we receive translation rights offers for our titles, say, from France, the first thing we do is check in our Rights Management Database to see who else in France and other French-speaking territories such as Québec is also considering this title we received the offer for.

Foreign rights agreements are always signed on an exclusive basis, which means we can only sign one contract with a publisher for the French translation rights of a specific title. That publisher then owns the exclusive French rights in that title for the duration of our agreement (see our FAQ page for more information on the duration of foreign rights agreements).

So it is important to give the other French-language publishers who are also considering this title a chance to also make an offer.

If there aren’t any further publishers of that language territory considering the book, we start negotiating with the offering publisher.

2) We organize an auction

If several French-language publishers are considering the title in question, we send them an email to inform them we have received an offer for this specific book (without any further details). We ask them if they also wish to offer for the French rights and give them a deadline, usually one week to 10 days, to make a decision.

If no one else offers, we start negotiating with the offering publisher.

If we receive one or several other offers, we organize an auction. We inform all offering publishers (including the initial one) that there are several offers on the table, and depending on how many publishers there are and the nature of the offers received, we organize one or several additional rounds during which the publishers make a better offer. We give them a certain deadline for each round, usually three or four days later. During the last round, we ask them to send us their best offer.

3) We collect the best offers

Note that “best offer” doesn’t always mean “highest offer”. Of course we take the advance on royalties that they offer into account, but also look at the other conditions (the proposed royalties, other titles and authors in their list, the publisher’s reputation, our previous experiences with them, etc) as well as the catalog and reputation of the offering publishers.

4) Our clients always have the final say

We take all best offers to the proprietor/rights holder of the book (our client), who will have the final say in which offer to accept. We do of course give our opinion, based on our experience.

5) Pre-emptive offers

It sometimes happens that a publisher makes a pre-emptive offer. In this case, the publisher makes a significantly higher offer than usual, and in return we take the title off the table—i.e., we do not organize an auction by returning to the other publishers in the same language territory to ask of they also wish to offer. Of course, it is up to the rights holder to decide whether we accept or decline such pre-emptive offers…  This happens often when we have a ‘hot’ book which creates a lot of buzz (eg. The Arab of the Future-series by Riad Sattouf, Hendrik Groen’s Secret Diary).

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