Thursday, June 23, 2011

Selling rights to a Russian publisher? Make a right choice

Since I'm based in Russia, I know some internal information about publiishing business there. If you're a writer and have a possibility of being published in Russian translation, be careful and pay attention.
Bad and barbarian times when Russian publishers published translated works without copyright permission are gone a long time ago. (Once a publisher denied to send me a review copy afraid of a book will be xeroxed and copied and sell cheaply. There never have been there such cases. English there is not first and even not the second language. Most people barely read in English. It would be unprofitable.) Now it's all legal. You or your publisher (in case the publisher owns the rights) is approached by a Russian press and a Russian press wants to buy rights and publish a book. And it's mutually profitable. A writer gets payment for the rights and royalties, and if a book sells well, a writer may sell rights for his other books. A Russian press as well gets money selling newly translated book. All happy? Well, maybe. But before selling the rights, a writer have to do the right choice.
Yes, you can sell the rights to any publisher or the one who offers the highest sum. It's usually a big publisher. It seems everything's fine. You receive the money and spend them on whatever you need. But highest sum is not always the right decision. Big publishers there in Russia usually make no publicity, no ads, don't care about selling a book. They just make an awful cover, bad translation within a month or two, pushing a book in faceless series. You'll get no reviews, no readers, and your book will stop its way in stock. The only thing you'll get is you payment for the rights.
But if you think better and make right choice, you'll get good publicity, good translation, pretty cover, new readers and possibility of selling rights of your other books. Yes, you can get $500-1000 less on the start, but then you get a chance of decent sum of royalties and new readers who will love your books.
I recall a recent example of good change of publisher. Craig McDonald, author of Head Games, Print the Legend, One True Sentence etc etc, in 2009 had published Head Games in Russian translation. It was a big publisher. The book had no success at all. It gets no reviews and no readers. I plugged the book on my Russian blogs, it helped a little, but that was all.
Then this year in May the translation of Print the Legend had been published. The novel has different publisher, small press. The novel already got 3 reviews in major newspaper and culture magazines. The book got 5000 copies' print run (against 3000 of Head Games). The book sells well. And it will sell more and more.
And that was just a right choice. So be careful. If you like not only money but your readers, think twice and make a right choice.

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