Writing, publishing, and promoting a book in your own language is one thing. Translating it is completely another. If you want to sell your book internationally, you need to do upfront research, connect with international rights experts, and clarify what you want to get out of taking your book to a global audience.
When should you consider when publishing internationally?
You’ve written a book, published it, and are promoting the you-know-what out of it. Should you translate it and try to get it onto bookshelves in other countries? It all comes down to you—and your story. Does your novel focus on a character in another country? Is it historical fiction based in a specific country or city with a recognizable history? Are you writing outside of your native language, or living outside your native country? Does your book touch on a popular topic that is trending internationally? If any of the above apply, you might want to consider translating your book and navigating the world of international rights and publishing.
Should you self-publish in another country? And, if so, who should translate your book?
Before committing to translation, you need to determine how you plan to distribute your book internationally. If you already have an international network, want to maintain control over your book internationally, and plan to sell and promote the book yourself on your blog or website, then your book is a good candidate for international self-publishing.
This will require a translator, preferably a native speaker of your chosen language. Make sure to determine upfront how much it will cost, how long it will take, whether or not they need specialized knowledge to translate your book (medical, for example). Also make sure to ask what other books they’ve translated, what the payment terms are, and who will hold the copyright of the translated work.
How to navigate the world of foreign literary rights
If you don’t have a developed international network or distribution option, you’ll want to consider selling the foreign rights for your book to a local publisher. Similar to the local traditional publishing model, you would receive a flat fee, and can negotiate royalties based on the book’s retail price. PubMatch and IPR License are two great places to get started. PubMatch is an international publishing community where authors can find agents and agencies. IPR License is a dedicated trading service and site for literary rights-holders.
The small print
When selling the rights to your book internationally, the most important thing is the contract. How long will the international publisher have access to your book? Up to three years seems to be the standard. You’ll also want to sort out how many books they’ll be printing, the local tax rate, and how and when you’ll receive payment. Having a lawyer look over the contract before signing is key, as you’ll want to ensure that the contract is fair and advantageous to you. Do the math, and remember your reasons for publishing internationally. You may want to increase your book’s revenues, which would make a higher print run more advantageous. You may simply want to build your brand, which would make the relationship with your agent or agency and creating a presence in an international country more important. Whatever your goal, make sure you clarify it to your agent or agency—and on paper.