Busier than a one-armed paper-hanger!

July 23, 2008

Yes, that’s what the Greenhouse Husband regularly announces: I’M BUSIER THAN A ONE-ARMED PAPER-HANGER!
I know what he means. I have so far exceeded the poor, limb-less paper-hanging guy this week that I’ve not even had time to tell you my exciting news – that last Friday I sold UK and Commonwealth rights in Lindsey Leavitt’s PRINCESS FOR HIRE. In fact, not just rights for one book but, as in her US Hyperion deal, for three. I seem to remember telling Lindsey in highly confident tones when I first met her that I would achieve this, so it’s been really, really satisfying to deliver on my promise.

It was pleasing once again to have competition for the rights, with two houses both bidding from London. In the end we went with Egmont UK and my old colleague (old as in former, rather than in years!) and friend, Rachel Boden. Rachel had loved our Princess Desi from the start and had nailed her colours to the mast some time ago. Most regular American agents would sell US rights initially and then wait for proofs of that edition before pitching it (via sub-agents) to the UK. I took the view that PRINCESS really had the legs to succeed in Britain and that I wanted a UK house to feel a stronger sense of ownership and involvement in the text. Plus I felt it could only be good for Lindsey to have the additional profile of a UK deal concluded early on. I therefore submitted it to British houses at the same time as the Americans, knowing there would need to be some level of collaboration between edits done by both houses. In fact, the strategy has worked perfectly and Rachel’s conversation with Emily, our Hyperion editor, soon revealed that they had very similar editorial sensibilities, which would enable Egmont basically to use Hyperion’s edit. A great result, which means both houses will publish the first book in Winter 2010, which makes for great transatlantic synergy. Egmont are the British publishers of Lemony Snicket, among many other great authors, so they have an excellent, and growing, reputation as series publishers as well as of successful standalone fiction. It’s also been great to get to know Elizabeth Law and Doug Pocock, pioneers of Egmont US, which launched here a few months back.

Hands up – how many of you are baffled by the rights issues I’ve just been talking about? Maybe you are wondering what I mean by UK and Commonwealth – or even how the globe is carved up in terms of potential deals. Well, I sell US houses exclusive English-language rights to the USA and Canada (which will also include the Philippines and other US dependencies). British houses get exclusive English-language rights to the UK and British Commonwealth – which includes the major territories of Australia and New Zealand (Aus is a very important market in terms of potential sales). Many other countries are included in this grant of rights: parts of Africa (eg, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya); Middle East (eg, Egypt, Kuwait, Sudan); Asia (India, Malaysia, Singapore); Australasia (as well as Aus/NZ this includes Fiji, Tonga, Western Samoa); South America (eg, Belize, British Antarctic, Falklands); West Indies (eg, Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad-Tobago). Europe is always a bit tricksy – both US and UK houses want to lay claim to it, so the best way of dealing with it is to make it what we call Open Market, which means both houses can sell into it. However, Europe can also be a deal-breaker for UK houses who insist on having it exclusively, so it can help enormously in clinching the deal to be able to retain it for them as I was able to do in this case.

Now bear in mind that all I’ve mentioned so far is EXCLUSIVE ENGLISH LANGUAGE RIGHTS. So we still have a huge piece of rights cake left – basically, the rights to publish in all other languages. And these rights I retain – to be exploited and sold by my sister company Rights People (Alexandra, Caroline, and Alex; visit them on US and UK publishers would love me to sell these rights to them (under the banner of granting World rights), but I don’t! Sorry, pubishers, but those rights are almost always going to be more valuable to my author if retained and sold for them separately by Greenhouse/Rights People. We don’t really start selling these rights until we have an absolutely final, fully revised manuscript in our hands, so that’s why you won’t see that many countries sold yet on the author-listing part of the website. Return in a year’s time and take another look, and I suspect you’ll see a great deal more. Which is very exciting for authors because they may have moved on to writing subsequent books, but sales around the world of their first can be ongoing in a way that’s great for profile and income.

Whoa, I’m starting to sound like a school teacher lecturing a class. Sorry about that, but hope you’ve found this little rights seminar interesting. The message I’d want to leave you with is this: It is a big, big world out there. Your writing, if you get published, is not just about either the USA or Britain. It doesn’t matter in the least to me where you live – I look for the potential of your work in a much bigger way than that. I want to see your book out there in Tuvalu, Turkey, and Tanzania; being read on an alpine mountaintop in German, in a bijou bistro in French, or even in Mandarin over in Beijing.

Now isn’t that exciting? Looks like I’ll be busier than a one-armed paper-hanger for a long time to come!