Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ruta Sepetys on Selling, Self-Promoting, and Touring in Foreign Markets

Ruta Sepetys dazzled us all weekend with her stories about the researching and writing of her bestselling, award-winning BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, the story of Stalin's abuse, oppression, and murder of Lithuanians.

In her final conference presentation, she discussed ways to sell foreign rights of your manuscript and assorted other details of becoming an internationally published author. She sold world rights of her novel to Penguin, which went on to sell the book in 40 territories. 

Foreign-rights sales is a fascinating topic. Depending on whether you hold your rights for sale by your agent, or whether you sell them to your publisher, what you earn can vary greatly. What's more, a book that sells as a YA novel here might be published elsewhere for adults.

In general, foreign publishers employ freelance book scouts in the United States. Their scout sends a weekly report of what the buzz book is. The scouts troll publishing-industry publications, Twitter, and blogs for word about new books. That's made Ruta realize how important it is to publicize news about your own book.

"Sometimes a scout in Serbia might pick up on your blog beforehand."

(Strange fact: Italians love books that are set in bookstores. This is the sort of thing a foreign scout knows.)

Ruta said sometimes publishers will pick up a self-published book for international distribution. (They wish they'd found FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, for example.)

She polled her publishers on advances. Some pay 100 percent on signing. Some are half on signing, half on publication. The size of the advance is all over the board. The royalty rate also varies. Germany has more money, for example. Her smallest advance came from Lithuania, but that was the most important one to her.

Foreign publishers REALLY want video content. It's helpful to them (because they can't fly you over). With this content, provide a script so they can translate. They don't want a stock trailer; they want to see you talking about your book. It should be two to four minutes long, longer if your book has a complicated history.

Another funny tidbit: the photos American authors use aren't appealing to Italians. They want authors to do "sexytime" photos in fur coats. REALLY.  Ruta, whose U.S. photo has a certain librarian charm, got a Vanity Fair photo shoot in Italy because she sent ahead a sexytime photo. So have an indoor, outdoor, and "sexytime" photo. (The Spanish encouraged her to lie on her belly in the grass. Rrowr!)

Ruta Sepetys discusses her upcoming novel, Between Shades of Gray from Penguin Young Readers Group on Vimeo.

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