Foreign Rights Management After the Deal: How to Make Sure You Get What They Promised

May 2003
by Bob Erdmann

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Far too many times, I’ve heard experienced publishers, large and small, lament about foreign rights with comments like “We have to fight to get the advance. Then, once we get it, we never hear from the foreign publisher again. We never know what’s going on. It’s not worth it.” I can’t help but think to myself, “Whose fault is that? You’re in a business. Don’t you pay attention?” I wonder if they’re as ready to ignore their receivables from Barnes & Noble, Borders, Ingram, and Baker & Taylor.

Here’s an example. Recently I spoke with a client who mentioned that he had heard indirectly that one of his books–a title he had licensed about two years ago to a foreign publisher via a large and highly regarded rights agency in its country–was doing quite well. When I asked what royalties he had earned, he was embarrassed to say he didn’t know. Now mind you, this is a book by a well-known author of many New York Times best-sellers, a book that itself had made the Times list.

Amazingly, the head of this well-established and successful publishing house hadn’t even a clue about the royalties from this foreign rights transaction, or any others. I quickly sent an e-mail to the foreign agent, who in turn contacted the foreign publisher, who subsequently informed us that “Yes, the book is doing very well, and, oh, by the way, you have $XX,XXX (five figures) due in roya…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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