Q&A : Stefania Fietta | Agenzia Letteraria Internazionale

In this series of articles, we profile our corresponding agents and their local markets in order to better understand the changes and challenges in foreign rights sales and the publishing industry in general. Italy   Founded in 1898, Agenzia Letteraria Internazionale was the first Literary Agency established in Italy and is now a family owned business. The Agency works on an exclusive basis in Italy for several foreign Literary Agencies and Publishers and acts as exclusive agent in Italy and abroad for dozens of renowned Italian writers. Agenzia Letteraria Internazionale promotes, among others, worldwide rights for Andrea Camilleri’s works published in Italy by Sellerio Editore.   Q. Can you give a brief summary of the publishing industry in your territory presently? SF: The publishing industry in Italy is going through dramatic changes. This is due to the economic crisis – the result of political inadequacies past and present. The consequences of which have meant a decrease in cash flow on the book market. In 2012, there was a loss of around 7% in turnover for businesses, with a further loss of 4% in 2013. This affects the entire productive chain of the industry so publishers, but also printers and book stores, are in distress. The reaction of publishers has been two-fold: on one hand, cover prices have been dramatically dropped, and the number of titles have increased. The result is a mass of short-lived, low-cost books, and the attempt to always replicate an earlier success. On the other hand many publishers, especially small and medium sized companies, have relaunched their backlist and have searched for forgotten or neglected masterpieces to...

Why enter into a sub-license agreement with a foreign publisher?

This week, I asked our Senior Advisor and Founder of the Agency, Mr. Claude Choquette an important question. When and to what extent is it beneficial for publishers to enter into a sub-license agreement with a foreign publisher of the same language? Here is his advice…. There has always been big players in New York, London, Paris, Madrid or Barcelona who have tried to obtain world rights for the original titles in their language. They distribute and sell their books in their own markets, either directly or via wholesalers to whom they give a discount of around 55%. Most of these publishing houses distribute their books in external markets via affiliated local wholesalers. In general, independent publishers have distribution agreements with local wholesale importers to whom they offer even greater discounts to cover transport costs. However, it nearly always works out better for these independent publishers to enter into sub-license agreements with local publishers in foreign territories. As such, they don’t have to invest in foreign stock and pay transport costs. If they enter into a sub-license agreement, they usually retain half of the royalties earned on sales abroad and the whole of the amounts payable for the signature of the sub-licence, a per page offset fee and/or a contribution to the plant cost ( the cost of the book’s development). These amounts paid do not involve any risk or investment and constitute a straight bottom-line profit for the original publisher. On the other hand, local distributors don’t appreciate it when publishers decide to withdraw their best-selling titles in order to enter into a sub-license agreement with a local publisher....

Notes on digital publishing in 2014

At the beginning of 2014, some book professionals made several predictions for Ebooks and Digital Publishing, let’s take a quick look over them: • 2013 has been a good year for the development of digital publishing, however even though the largest publishers have reported digital gains, the rhythm of growth has diminished. • It seems that the power of Amazon is unstoppable, and the most recent developments over at Barnes & Noble suggest a possible closure of its digital brand, Nook. • There is going to be more big merges as we saw in 2013 with Penguin and Random House. The Russians Eksmo and AST announced their merge in January as well as the Dutch Niew Amsterdam Publishers and Wereldbibliotheek Publishers. • It seems that the streaming model is gaining territory. Although the Spanish proposal, 24 symbols, never took off in Spain, they are trying to export their model to Latin America and even Russia. In the USA, Oyster, is getting more subscribers day by day, and it is receiving good reviews from the digital experts. • Pricing will remain one of the biggest issues for publishers in the USA, while in Europe, thanks to the fixed-price law, energy is now being focused on convincing governments to reduce the tax on e-books. The industry has still to face a lot of challenges, but as we have seen during 2013, the wheel will be kept in motion in 2014 with many new proposals from both sides of the Atlantic...

How to Sell Foreign Rights – Promotion

To maximize discoverability and eventually, profits, it is necessary to allow two different strands of promotion to run simultaneously – one focused on book sales and the other on foreign rights sales. Increase in general sales revenue The importance of selling foreign rights resides in the fact that it constitutes an important revenue stream for publishers and authors. It also achieves international acclaim which in turn reinforces the credibility and discoverability of literary works. Some genres lend themselves more to the foreign rights market than others, such as non-fiction titles in areas of business and personal development. However, there are many great initiatives taking place all over the world in translation and literary centres to support the translation and adaptation of literary works; fiction and poetry. Translation and Adaptation Many cultural institutions offer grants to cover translation costs and when this is the not the case, translation costs are traditionally covered by the foreign publisher. In April 2013, I attended what was to be one of the last public readings from Irish poet Seamus Heaney – an event which marked the opening of The Centre for Literary Translation in Trinity College, Dublin. Heaney was joined by 9 translators, each of whom had translated a selection of his poems into their native languages, which were then published in their respective countries. I was immediately instilled with a sense of pride stemming from that fact that poetry set in Ireland could be understood and enjoyed in different languages all over the world. It is an honour for me to be involved in the work our agency carries out to ensure the promotion of...

eBook Subscription Models – an alternative to the traditional?

The new digital market is opening up opportunities for different models. This doesn’t mean that the old models are becoming obsolete but, in fact, that readers now have another way to access their favourite books. Let us discuss subscription models In relation to the music industry, that has endured the same transitional process, we have witnessed the birth of platforms such as Spotify or Deezer, where the audience can buy unlimited access to music for a fixed monthly fee. This model, that has been embraced by musics fans, has recently been adopted by the book market also.   One of the pioneers was a Spanish company, 24 symbols, who launched a similar subscription proposal forbooks two years ago. They started with 4 workers and now their team consists of an 18 person-strong workforce. Oyster, the American version, was launched at the beginning of this year and this summer another newbie surfaced on the Spanish market; Nubico. However, public response remains relatively weak and it’s difficult to evaluate if this alternative is really taking hold. Yesterday another, and perhaps the strongest contender, Scribd announced that 6 weeks into their ebook subscription service, things are going well though no figures have been given. What we do know is that it is becoming increasingly important for the digital book market to continually reassess and reconsider its approach and in doing so, reconstruct its model. More related reading Can Latin America’s Music Biz Still Teach Publishing Something? E-book revolution: Breaking through in the digital age Examining the Business Model of Ebook Subscription Services (Part I) Scribd’s eBook Subscription Service Hits New Milestones Russian eBook App Bookmate Offers Unlimited Access For $5...

Why use a Network of International Co-agents?

Q: How can a foreign rights agent sell a book, for example : from English speaking Canada to foreign publishers around the world? A: It is nearly impossible for any one publishing professional to do it on their own and if the latter is attempted, it is likely that the outcome will amount to nothing more than disadvantageous business-partnerships and unfavourable contract conditions for the publisher. The advantage of having a network of co-agents To minimize these risks and guarantee the largest possible coverage of territories, most international foreign rights agencies like Montreal-Contacts work with a network of international publishing co-agents. About 20 foreign agents assist us in selling foreign rights in their respective territories. The advantage is clear: the local agents know their territories’ publishers personally; they know the current conditions of their market and are aware of who is a serious business-partner and who is not, and even more importantly – they are clued in on the literary and popular tendencies in their country. A homogeneous international book market simply does not exist. Of course, one might think that the American market dictates what’s hot amongst the popular genres of literature – most world-wide bestsellers in recent years have been written by US-American authors – and that it produces a big quantity of intellectual textbooks covering all sciences. Europeans, on the other hand, like to see themselves as creators of a high literature, in the spirit of the last centuries’ famous thinkers and writers. But by only taking these two continents into consideration, one renounces an important part of contemporary literary and scientific production.   With a diversity in...