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 literary genres comes a diversity in tastes and economic customs, different on all continents. Some territories resemble one another because of a shared cultural heritage– the Anglo-Saxon countries, countries of roman languages, countries of the Middle-East or those of South-East Asia, to name but a few.
Sometimes, the Canadian titles we choose to present, because of their relevance in our country, may not be of any interest abroad. This is where our co-agents come in. They examine our catalogues and consider the books we display at our stand during important international book fairs, and there, more often than not, they discover titles that they know will be of interest to their local publishers. Sometimes we have even overlooked these titles…
With the Frankfurt Book Fair coming up next month, we will again have the opportunity to meet our co-agents and to talk to them about new titles, and it is certainly the most important event of the year for all who work in the world of publishing, as it is an extremely interesting intercultural exchange to which we personally contribute each year.