Publishing Strategy for Foreign Rights

by Judith Harlan.

We wrestled with the where’s and how’s of publishing to just the foreign market for one of Janis Ian’s popular books, Society’s Child: my autobiography, which we put out last month. Here’s what we’ve done, so far, and more importantly, what we’re still considering doing.

First off, you have to know that the book is beautifully published in print for the North American market by Tarcher, but Janis holds rights outside of North America for both print and ebook. Of course, we knew we’d have fun with the ebook, adding links to songs and navigation links that allow the reader to pop around quickly and intuitively inside the book. We knew her photos would all display brilliantly in ebook format and they do. If you happen to be outside North America, you can download samples and have a ball reading what Janis has to say about writing “At Seventeen” while listening to the song in the background, via a single-click link.

But how do we most efficiently use the current print technology and resources to make the print book available only outside the US?

It turned out to be rather easy, given recent strides in print on demand quality and availability. About the time we were pondering Ingram’s LightningSource and others, CreateSpace added a European press to its offerings, which, in partnership with Amazon adding the European market as a separate channel, made it possible to create a foreign market edition. So, we did. And this means that the new print edition, the Author’s Preferred Edition, to Society’s Child is available for Ian’s fans in the UK and Europe, and is showing up on other foreign sites as well.

But perhaps in this case, a two-pronged approach would be most profitable, so I’m considering going further. Ingram’s Lightning Source has the lovely advantage of offering several choices for foreign printing, including Australia and New Zealand. And those choices tempt me to put Society’s Child through LightningSource for printing outside of the European region. Though most of Janis Ian’s fans are in Europe and the US, and she plays to full houses in her European tours, we know she also has fans all over the world. And her book appeals outside her fan base to readers interested in songwriting, the music industry, women in power and the celebrities who made history in the 60s and 70s. She does not have to be in town for people to want to read her book.

So, with the two biggest gorillas in print on demand resources available to her (and others, I know, also available), I’m playing with combinations of print and distribution avenues. But I’m resisting my own arguments because I do like the simplicity of a single publishing account for authors, given that authors really want to be writing, not downloading spreadsheets.

I imagine by now that you have quite an accurate picture of my reality: me, sitting at my desk, coffee mug in front of me, arguing with myself. Sometimes I win.

Each book we publish here at Lucky Bat Books offers its own puzzle. Sometimes it’s an ebook brainteaser, sometimes a print, and sometimes a business strategy puzzle. And meanwhile the industry keeps tossing us new options. In fact, between the time I began writing at the top of this page and now, at the bottom, I would not be surprised if there’s something new that’s been thrown into the mix.

If you hear what it is, let me know.

Check out Janis Ian’s other book published by Lucky Bat Books, STARS, Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian, here.