What Does Our Work Consist Of? Part 1

Foreign Submissions

By Marleen Seegers — article first published in May 2013

Before foreign editions of the titles we represent hit the bookshelves, the 2 Seas team goes through a long process: foreign submissions (pitching titles, sending reminders, meeting publishers during international book fairs and elsewhere), contract negotiation, chasing payments, and so on. Since one of our core beliefs is transparency and sharing, we thought we’d give you the opportunity to look into the different stages of the foreign rights business!

Let’s start at the beginning, and focus on our foreign submissions…

1) Our clients provide us regularly with material regarding their forthcoming or recently released new titles.

This material mostly (ideally) includes:

  • The PDF file of the book (the final version if already published, otherwise the manuscript or proofs)
  • An AI (advanced information) sheet which contains a presentation of the book, endorsements, press reviews, first print run, information on the author and, if applicable, their previous titles, the cover image and photo of the author
  • If the book is written in another language than English: an AI in English and if possible an English sample (the latter is very important for “minor” languages such as Dutch or Portuguese, since foreign publishers are less likely to be able to read the original language, or have readers who do)
  • Any other marketing material that we can use to make the title in question as desirable as possible for foreign publishers.

2) Once we have the above material, we add the title to our online catalog.

3) We start our foreign submissions.

We take the initiative to send out the PDF of the title and/or English sample, its AI sheet and the link to the online presentation to foreign publishers who are likely to be interested in the title in question—either because they have published (one of) the author’s previous titles, the title is a great match with their catalog, or are personally interested in the subject treated in the book, or all of the above.

foreign submissions

Marleen and Chrys pitching titles to our Thai co-agent at the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair (© João Piedade)

We’ve gathered this knowledge by having been in touch with these publishers for many years, meeting them in person during book fairs and elsewhere, talking to them on the phone, Skype, etc. Interpersonal skills are of high importance in the foreign rights sector, as personal relationships can (will!) make a real difference.

We make a note of every submission we carry out in our Rights Management Database, so we can keep track of who is reading what.

Submissions are also carried out in the context of an international book fair or other kind of business trip. During our meetings we pitch titles to the foreign publishers and they indicate which ones they would like to receive for consideration. We take care of the follow-ups of these meetings and send them the material as soon as possible, since—especially after book fairs—foreign publishers receive tons of manuscripts to read. The earlier they get our material, the better.

4) We send out special information emails to our co-agents

They will then request material in the titles they think will have most potential in their specific territory so they can start their submissions. In certain territories we sell our titles directly (the Netherlands, Portugal, Scandinavia, Germany, France, the Baltic Countries and the English language), in the others we work with local co-agents. We deal with them on an exclusive basis, except for Korea where we work with several agents. Working on an exclusive basis means that every single contract we sign with for instance a Spanish publisher, will go through our Spanish co-agent. This also happens if a Spanish publisher contacts us directly, we then forward their interest to our co-agent who takes it from there.

5) These information emails are also sent to literary scouts.

These scouts are hired by foreign publishers to screen one specific market for titles that could be of interest for these publishers. They usually try to discover titles as early as possible (sometimes a year before their actual publication), so that the publishers can buy them before anyone else has heard of them, usually for a relatively low amount of money. That’s why they pay a scout—it will probably save them money when they acquire titles. Scouts also make them save a lot of time as it’s not always easy to follow a specific territory closely if you also have to take care of your current publications, marketing plans, reprints, etc. You can find more information on scouts here (this article talks about US scouts and the American market, but there are also Paris-based scouts who are on the look-out for the hottest French titles, and scouts based in Barcelona/Madrid who screen the Spanish language market, etc) and in our article Foreign Rights: What Is It All About?

As we represent titles from among others the US, the UK, the Netherlands, France, Brazil, Italy and Spain, our network of scouts is very extended. By far the largest number of scouts is based in New York, as many foreign publishers are eager to find out what’s happening in the American publishing market first.

6) We regularly send reminders of our foreign submissions to prospective publishers.

These reminders can also be punctual, for instance when a title has won a literary prize, its rights have sold to another country, it has received a wonderful endorsement from a well-known author, etc. Anything to make it urgent for the prospective publishers to consider the book and make a decision!

If after three or four reminders we don’t receive any response, we consider that the publisher in question is no longer interested.

Read about the next steps in What Does Our Work Consist Of? Part 2.

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