Some smart literary agent is going to start a business one day that simply sells subsidiary rights for the millions of indie (aka self-published) authors out there and make a bundle.
If you’re an indie author, maybe you didn’t realize that you are leaving a pile of money on the virtual table by just selling your book in ebook, and occasionally print, format. All the secondary rights outside of print and ebook rights, are yours to use or license to another entity to publish.
What are your subsidiary rights? Well, the most obvious one is audiobook rights. You can produce your own audiobook with yourself as the voice talent, and sell it from your website in mp3 format. Cheap, but not very professional. Consider it a very long podcast. As a step up, you can hire professional voice talent or find one on an exchange such as ACX.com, Amazon’s self-published audiobook platform. This way your audiobook sounds more professional and Audible distributes the final product, paying you between 25% to 40% based on choices you make for production and distribution.
You also own all the foreign language translation rights to your book. Think about it. Your English language book does not reach all its potential readers unless they read books in English. And here’s another area that is ripe for change. If there was an exchange like ACX that paired foreign language translators with authors it would be a game changer. Are you listening Amazon? But since that is not yet available, you can find translators yourself, scan publishersmarketplace.com to find the foreign publishers who have licensed translation rights to books similar in genre or category to yours and contact them, or hire an agency for this purpose. (Note: It costs $25 for a one-month subscription to PM, but it’s worth it for the data you can mine in that time.) You’ll have a more difficult task finding an agent who will only license these rights for you, nothing else, but these professionals also will emerge over time.
The number one subsidiary right that every author dreams about is dramatic right licensing: movies, television, stage productions, readings, etc. Every author knows that their book would make a great movie. But so few authors ever have that happy event take place. Even creating a script yourself or hiring a screenwriter to write a script will not give you a leg up in Hollywood where it’s all about being tied into the network, aka the WGA or screenwriters guild. It’s all about who you know. But you can field emails and phone calls from studios and producers, send them your book, and follow up. Who knows? A miracle could happen!
The last of the major subsidiary rights is commercial/merchandise. This is when you see a teensy children’s book in a cereal box or a toy at a fast food chain. One way to find the companies that turn your characters into merchandise is to attend conventions in your book’s genre, like Comic-Con, World Fantasy Con, DragonCon, etc. Head to the dealer room (or the main floor if it’s a huge convention) and examine the merchandise booths there. If your efforts start to turn into a big deal, then hire an agent to help you through the contract process and plan for future merchandise deals. But you can get a jeweler to make jewelry based on your book, aprons based around your cookbook, or a bottle of wine named for your mystery novel, yourself. Carefully think about the opportunities hidden inside your book before you reach out to these very busy merchandising companies. Also realize that often movie studios want to keep these rights in case the movie or TV show hits big so they can sell them. Don’t give them away lightly.
There are a lot more subsidiary rights than I can fit into one blog post. But I wrote a small ebook about them and you can pick up a copy of my SHORT FUSE GUIDE TO BOOK PUBLISHING RIGHTS at Smashwords by clicking here. It’s only 99 cents and will give you a great overview about harvesting the extra money hiding inside your book. Make your book work even harder for you with a little extra effort. Good luck.