Should I Sell Foreign Rights to a Stranger?

I’ve been contacted by a foreign-language publisher who’s asking for foreign rights to my self-published book. What should I do?

We’ve published more than 1200 print books and we see these types of “offers” all the time. Since we don’t take rights from authors, we forward these to each author.

Authors should use a GREAT deal of caution when signing these contracts without a literary agent or an attorney on their side to review the contact, and to research the foreign publisher. Why so much caution? One of these outfits, in particular, wanted to publish an author’s book with no advance and minimal royalties (8% paid only once per year). They admitted they were using Print on Demand technology and that they wouldn’t be stocking books in any stores. They also said their employees are all “volunteers” (that appeared to be their justification for paying low royalties and no advance). It sounded like a pretty shoddy operation.

Remember, when considering a foreign rights deal, there is virtually no way for you to ever track or verify sales with a foreign firm. Hiring an attorney overseas can be incredibly expensive. If you don’t speak the language the book will be published in, there is no way for you to confirm the translation was done with accuracy. Basically, you could send them your files (for them to do with as they please) and you might never hear from them again. All they need to steal from you (publish your book and never pay you a dime) are your interior and cover files.

Basically, you could spend a lot of effort, and even some money…to get ripped off. Pardon my cynicism but I’ve seen enough authors get ripped off in this industry to be an expert skeptic. Sad, but true.

I’ve never met a self-published author who made an impressive amount of money selling foreign rights to their book.