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Subsidiary Rights

Subsidiary rights are the variety of rights contained in a literary work that the publisher of a book may decide to license to a third party. These may include foreign translation rights, sound recording/audiobook rights, motion picture and television rights, paperback and book club rights, and rights to make various kinds of adaptations and sequels. This tipsheet is designed to help you understand how the process works at Berrett-Koehler.

Why: Subsidiary rights can be a big source of additional revenue for your book. The industry standard is to share with the author 50% of the revenues generated by these subsidiary rights. At Berrett-Koehler we include the author’s share in our annual royalty statements. For any income received during a particular calendar year, the author should see his or her share reflected on the royalty statement on March 15th of the following year.

How: BK makes an effort to market the subsidiary rights in the following ways:

Foreign Translation Rights

At Berrett-Koehler we have a very active foreign translations operation. Our books are routinely translated into several languages, and, unless the subject area of the book is of little interest to foreign publishers, we can guarantee that a book will be translated and published in at least one other language.

We have a strong network of over 450 publishers overseas that regularly get our updates, catalogs, e-newsletters, and are very familiar with our list of books. In a few countries (including China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Brazil, Poland, Turkey, Romania, Greece and Israel), we sell the rights via agents.

We meet with most of our partners in person at several annual International Book Fairs Conferences, like the Frankfurt Book Fair, the London Book Fair, the Book Expo America, and the Guadalajara Book Fair. When a publisher shows interest in a particular title, we promptly follow up with additional material such as the book proposal, manuscript, galley or finished book. Most foreign translation rights sales happen after the English language book has been published, but occasionally we sell the rights at the proposal or manuscript stage. In any case, it takes usually 18 months from the date of signature of agreement for a book to be published by a foreign publisher.

FAQs About Foreign Translation Rights

1. Does Berrett-Koehler translate the books?

No, Berrett-Koehler sells the rights to translate and publish a book to a foreign publisher. They are in charge of commissioning and paying for the translation and the production and marketing of the book in their local language.

2. Will Berrett-Koehler sell copies of my foreign editions?

No, Berrett-Koehler only sells books in the English language. But we will do as much as we can to facilitate contact between you and your foreign publishers so that you can order directly from them, often at a discount of at least 50%.


3. I have a colleague in Korea (or China, or Germany) who wants to translate my book…

Though we do not want to discourage your colleague’s enthusiasm for your book, Berrett-Koehler does not commission or pay for translations. The publisher who acquires the rights has the say on who will be translating the book. Your colleague can help you by finding a publisher in his or her territory that might be interested in acquiring the rights and negotiating a translation commission with them. 


4. My colleague wants to acquire the translation rights!

Please note that Berrett-Koehler tries to sell translation rights only to established publishers who can prove that they have the resources to publish and distribute the book. Selling the rights to an individual or organization with no publishing experience may prevent those rights from being properly utilized. We have a lot of experience facilitating connections between foreign publishers and authors’ affiliates or colleagues in different territories. Please always keep us posted if you have colleagues that could help in bringing a book out in a particular language.


5. Will I get copies of my book in the foreign language?

Our standard agreement contains a clause asking publishers to send us six sample copies of their foreign language edition. Most publishers comply with this clause. Once we get these books we promptly forward five of the six copies to the authors.


6. What can I do to help with foreign translation rights?

A lot! Always keep your international connections in mind, and let us know about them!

  • If you have been published previously and your work has been translated, please provide us with a list of your foreign publishers.
  • If you have foreign affiliates, please let us have their contact information.
  • Let us know when you are going to visit a particular country, or if you have clients using your books that have a strong international presence. Once an author gave a talk to a group of visiting Japanese CEOs. He mentioned it to us, and that was enough for us to get a lucrative Japanese translation deal for his book.

Audiobook Rights

Ideally, we would like all of Berrett-Koehler titles to be available in audio format. However, publishing audiobooks is beyond our core competency, so we usually license the rights to an audio publisher who has the expertise in producing and marketing audiobooks.

Unfortunately, the audiobook market is very competitive, so as much as we would like to license all of our titles, just a small percentage ends up converted into audio. Audiobook publishers are extremely selective and only pick up books that they know have a chance to get shelf space in traditional bookstores. The timeline is also extremely important. Audiobook publishers usually like to have a simultaneous print and audio publication (this means having the audiobook and the printed book hitting the stores at the same time), which leaves a small window of time for us to pitch and sell those rights. Once the book has been published, the chances of it being picked up by an audio publisher are very slim… unless the print version starts selling like hot cakes, in which case we may have a second chance!

The good news is that the industry is rapidly changing, and with internet audio downloads becoming a popular delivery method for audiobooks, audiobook publishers are not so dependent on traditional bookstore sales, which may make them less selective in future.


FAQs About Audio Rights

1. Will my book ever be available in audio?

We would like to answer with a confident YES! but the truth is that it does not depend on us. We would have to convince an audiobook editor that the book will positively sell 50,000 copies in the first year of life, which very few books published in the US do. But we can assure you that if they book has any audiobook potential (some books lend to audio format much better than others) we will pitch it heavily. And if it takes off after publication, we will pitch it again.


2. If an audiobook is produced, will I be reading the book myself?

Probably not. Unless you are a professional speaker with lots of experience narrating, the publishers prefer to hire a professional narrator. On occasion, they use celebrities and radio personalities.


3. If my book comes out as an audiobook, how can I help promote it?

Include the audio edition information in all the promotional materials that you create for your printed book.


4. What can I do to help with audiobook rights sales?

Having a strong marketing campaign figured out well before publication helps tremendously. In our experience, only the potential for great sales will make an audiobook publisher take notice, and the only way to demonstrate that is to show that the author has a strong platform to create those sales. Other than that, we have to hope that the audiobook editor will take a liking to the book and think it perfect for their list.

Other Rights

Electronic Rights: These are not to be confused with the distribution of a book in electronic format (e-book). We talk about electronic rights when we license a work to another party to deliver in electronic format. We only work with a handful of providers of electronic content who have proven to us that they can generate revenue for our authors and have systems in place to prevent the illegal dissemination of your content. Berrett-Koehler may also choose to publish your book in electronic format and have it distributed by e-book resellers. The latter is not a subsidiary rights deal, since we are not licensing to another party.

Book Club Rights: with the success of online booksellers like Amazon and B& who offer deep discounts to the consumer, the traditional book clubs have become less relevant. However, we still pitch book club rights to the major book club aggregate Bookspan, and other smaller special interest book clubs. These days, however, they tend to buy the book from us (as opposed to producing their own book club edition). When that is the case, it is not considered a subsidiary rights deal.

Paperback Reprint Rights: Very rarely, we will license the paperback rights of a book we have published in hardcover to another publisher. We only do that when we think it would be best for the books. In most cases, however, it works better financially (for BK and for the authors) to do the paperback edition ourselves.

UK and Commonwealth Reprint Rights: Again, we prefer to sell our own edition, since it works better financially for everyone involved. On occasion, when a book has enormous sales potential in the UK and Commonwealth and our edition has not realized that potential (because of a cover that does not work or other factors), we may choose to license reprint rights to a local publisher.

Multilevel Marketing Reprint Rights: We are often approached by multilevel marketing (MLM) companies who want to acquire the rights to reprint a book for the MLM market. These MLM editions are outside the traditional book distribution channels (bookstores and online booksellers) and do not compete in any way with the Berrett-Koehler edition, and they often help to promote our edition further. Sometimes the MLM companies prefer buying from our stock at a deep discount. If the latter happens, it is not considered a subsidiary rights deal, but a special sale. In most cases, MLM sales (whether they are subsidiary rights or not) are usually managed by our Special Sales Department.

For any questions with International and Subsidiary Rights, please contact: Maria Jesus Aguilo at or 415-743-6467 or Catherine Lengronne at or 415-743-6465.