A Guide to International Rights

July 2022

It wouldn’t be an Open Week without a closer look at one key part of the Agency, our International Rights Team. Whilst we are a London based Agency, our reach extends far beyond the Channel. Our brilliant team work tirelessly to get our author’s books published in territories and languages across the world.

Made up of Head of Rights, Mary Darby, Rights Agents Georgia Fuller and Kristina Egan, and Rights Assistant Kira Walker, the team are responsible for handling all foreign language deals for the Agency. With hundreds of partnerships worldwide, our rights team have translated our titles into as many as 50 languages.

Not only is it wonderful to see our author’s work being read so widely, international markets and deals make up a huge part of the Agency’s revenue and income.

We spoke to Rights Agent Georgia Fuller to find out more about how foreign rights are sold at the Agency.

How do you sell books abroad?

We want our titles to reach as many readers internationally as possible. To get our novels into the hands of the right publishers, we create an international submission package, and submit in a multi-pronged approach:

  • Book fairs: book fairs are an essential part of our strategy to get our books out internationally. London and Frankfurt Book Fair are two of the biggest fairs, where publishers, scouts and agents gather from all over the world to buy and sell rights to books. We have over 20 meetings a day where we pitch our new books in a tailored approach for each publisher and catch up on trends and news from our markets.
  • Building relationships: a lot of work is done over email and Zoom, which we maintain throughout the year outside of sales trips and book fairs (more below). We keep in touch with everyone, both publishers we already work with and prospective publishers, to update them on news and exciting developments with new submissions, sales updates, reviews and newsletters.
  • Research: the internet is a huge asset in researching publishing houses globally, whether it’s finding a new opportunity for business, or getting a better understanding of bestsellers and hit titles in between book fairs.
  • Literary scouts: Literary scouts work in the UK/US but are hired by foreign publishers to look for the best books on the market to buy for translation. They receive all updates from us about a new book for them to recommend to their clients and are brilliant at creating buzz around a new manuscript. They are the eyes and ears of publishing, and we work with them closely.

Foreign rights can completely alter the lifecycle of a novel. It can go from a UK novel to an international bestseller, selling in multiple languages with millions of readers.

How do we know which books are a good fit in which market and for which publisher?

It’s a nuanced approach, and we think carefully about where and who we submit to. The demands and trends of foreign markets are constantly changing and vary from country to country. What might be popular in Germany, might not work at all for Japanese readers.

As foreign rights agents, we are in touch with publishers all over the world on a daily basis, and our best opportunities to find out what is current and exciting in each market is by meeting with people face to face. In the aftermath of the pandemic, we’ve adjusted to pitching and meeting on Zoom, but the buzz and excitement of a book fair is unparalleled.

Do you require an intimate understanding of every country’s reading tastes all over the world?

In short, yes. Here at Darley Anderson, we split the world’s languages between us and handle select territories where we are the experts in each of our markets. We want our authors to have the best chance of reaching the right publishers so in certain markets, we work with co-agents who represent our titles on the ground, in their respective countries, which we call territories.

Some will look after one territory, such as our Japanese co-agent, which means they will only submit our titles in Japan. Others, such as our East and South-East Asian co-agents, will submit across China, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

What about reading?

Like any job in publishing, everything comes back to reading. We read across all our primary agents’ titles, as well as outside of the agency titles. It’s so important to know what’s going on more widely and the context in which our books sit.

Ultimately, we are readers and as foreign rights agents we get to add to this by enabling books to travel far and wide, uniting readers with new books across international and linguistic boundaries.

What’s the best, and worst thing about your job?

The best thing is definitely meeting people from all around the world, learning about what books are working well, what their readership is like, what is difficult to publish. This is just the professional perks – on a personal level we all love to learn about different cultures and to travel. And reading! To be able to read for work is a real bonus.

The worst thing is tax forms. Sadly they are a necessary evil: without the double tax exemption forms, payments cannot be made in some territories. If a tax form is not provided, the client will have to pay tax at source in the relevant country, as well as here in the UK. This is not the case in every country, but certainly a lot of them! It’s a lot of back and forth with the HMRC, and lots of chasing.