Agency Lessons: foreign rights agents

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.
I was recently asked some questions about foreign rights agents and realized this is probably a question a lot of writers might have. This is a really basic primer, so like anything else in the publishing industry, make sure to do your research, ask trusted friends and do your due diligence before signing any contracts.

Now, let's talk foreign rights.

Just like there are different types of publishers, there are different types of agents. 

I work at a small boutique agency. Each agent in our office handles their own clients, and that includes foreign rights. Of course, we pull our resources, share information, provide introductions and the such to help each other in the process. That's the beauty of having co-agents. But at the end of the day, we each handle the rights for our clients.

Some agencies are a little bigger and have agents on staff that handle foreign rights. Some of these agents also take on their own clients and some of them strictly deal with the foreign rights. The advantage here is having an agent who can dedicate more of their time to keeping up with foreign editors.

Other agencies don't have the resources or desire to have an in-house specialist and decide to outsource this. They work with independent agents who specialize in foreign rights. These agents work with agencies to represent all or part of their list of authors. Some of them also take on individual authors who only need an agent for foreign rights, such as indie authors.

Then you can add publishing scouts to the mix. These are individuals who work directly with various foreign publishers and scout out potential projects for them. At Corvisiero we have relationships with some of these scouts to help place our client's work.

If you are a traditional author, you'll want to ask your agent before signing with them to see how they handle foreign rights in their office.

If you are a self-published or indie author, you have a couple of options. You can try to sell these rights on your own, though this can be a time consuming process and you'll be on your own when it comes to contract negotiation. You can reach out to a foreign rights agent. This is a great option, but be advised that you'll need to be able to show significant sales numbers. You can also contact a regular agent to see if they would handle these rights. Again, you'll need to show significant sales.

When it comes to your foreign rights, the important part is knowing what your rights are, understanding what you have and don't have and knowing upfront what your agent can help you with. Don't be afraid to ask questions. This is your career, so take charge of it. 

Foreign rights, the agents who handle them and the publishers who buy them is a complicated behemoth that can't be handled in a single blog post. If you have more specific questions about this topic, feel free to leave them in the comments and I can include them in another blog post.