Business models

Foreign Rights: “Sub” Rights No More

Back in the Paleolithic Age of Paper, information moved slowly. Slow like the Glyptodon. Books took nine months to gestate from manuscript to print. For content to reach readers beyond the market of origin, the Sub Rights Director at Publisher #1 (the primary publisher) would sell foreign rights (one of multiple “sub” rights, including serial rights, TV and movie rights, etc.)  to Publishers #2, #3, #4, etc. Generally, such a deal involved a one-time, lump-sum payment to Publisher #1 in return for the right to translate, publish, and sell the book in a specified territory. Secondary publishers traditionally incurred the cost of translation, production, marketing, and sale of books into their markets, occasionally but not always offering Publisher #1 a percentage of sales. A couple of years after inking a deal, Publisher #1 would receive by mail an exotic rendition of the book in a foreign language, different trim size, an unusual cover, an oddity on the shelf.  End of story; a subsidiary income stream for Publisher #1.

Enter the internet, Print on Demand (POD) technology, ePub standards, and Translation Memory (TM) software. Presto! Now Publisher #1 can maintain her status as Sole and Primary Publisher, managing the translation, manufacture, and sale of her books to every reader on the planet, in whatever language they speak or country they live in. Fluid, inter-operable, ever-updated information, available digitally and in print. Starting with regularly updated medical, financial, scientific and reference content, we are experiencing information tectonics at work today that appear capable of flipping the old sub rights into dominant position, giving the Glyptodon wings, wind to fly on, and a feedback loop into the future.


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