Monday, October 12, 2009

Selling to the Foreign Market

Writers are constantly wondering why their book and not someone else’s was able to go into a foreign market. We see books all of the time translated into foreign titles and yet others remain in their native language. Along the same lines, many writers wonder why their story simply doesn’t even make it to press in a foreign market. US writers submit to UK publishers and agents and get rejected. European and Asian writers are rejected in the US but might do well with their own countries?




The answer is actually more than simply the marketing. Selling to a foreign market is not about a powerhouse agent or editor with sub-agents in other countries doing the work. In this case, it all comes down to the storytelling. In this case, it is the story.


I have spoken before of the idea of “voice” and “premise”. These two elements play a key role in making decisions as to whether or not a story can make it into the foreign markets. Certainly story premises are simply not going to work in certain countries due to cultural beliefs and ideals. When one relationship seems normal to us her in the US in another country, it is simply not acceptable. Harlequin, for example, has found just that when they opened up their line in India. Due to the nature of relationships, family and marriage, what worked with some of their other lines wouldn’t work there.


The voice of the author is also an element. In some cases, the writer’s voice is natural enough to translate into different markets. This includes sentence structure and complexities, point of view, and dialogue.


Now the question is, do authors have to be “foreign travelers” or “intercultural experts” to do this? Sure that would help. In the case of trying to sell to a foreign country with a new book, it is very crucial to have a knowledge of the other country, besides what we might see on television. Last time I checked, the United States was not made up of characters we see on Melrose Place, the OC and Gossip Girl. But when it comes to selling the secondary rights to a foreign country, this is simply an added bonus. In other words, we are not planning our stories will always go world-wide.


Oh, and I should add one additional item here. If you are thinking about your “film and movie rights” the same holds true here.


Scott C. Eagan



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