1. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Traditional Challenges of being a foreign writer

    Discussion in 'Publisher Discussion' started by Ivana, Jan 21, 2015.

    Hello everyone!
    I'm a new member here, and I would like to apologize in advance for any grammatical errors I might make, since English is not my native language. As title says, I'm a foreign writer who would like to see her first book published in UK or US. I live in a small and rather poor European country where, unfortunately, publishing industry is almost non-existant. There is no such thing as literary agency over here.
    After 2,5 years of writing, I finally finished my manuscript. The book genre is fantasy, and the theme is universal. I would appreciate any advice on what a new foreign author could expect in a big world out there. :) Besides having to translate my book to English (which is costly and good translators/native speakers are difficult to find over here), what other obstacles could I expect to encounter while trying to get an agent? Will my origin (or my name, which is clearly foreign) be a problem? I can communicate pretty well in English, but far from perfect; thus, is a perfect knowledge of language mandatory when it comes to negotiations with agents and other activities?
    One last question: is it possible to make some sort of sub-agency arrangment with someone who lives in my country, but would be able to find me an agent in UK? If so, what could I expect and what should that person's fee be? Which percentage of each book sold should that sub-agent receive, and how can he be incorporated in the agent-writer Agreement? Any experiences with this?
    Thank you!
     
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  2. NewEnterprise
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    NewEnterprise Member

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    Hey Ivana! :)

    I can't help with much of that except to give you my sympathies for having to adapt to English as your medium for getting a story out there!
    I'm Norwegian originally and didn't learn English until I was a bit older - so writing in English and getting all the little nuances of the language down was quite a challenge haha

    You do seem to write pretty fantastic English though! So good luck with it all and keep at it :) Don't let your origin or name be a problem (mine is super Norwegian haha)
     
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  3. Mike Hill
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    Mike Hill Natural born citizen of republic of Finland.

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    I feel you. Actor Arnold Swarzenegger said that weird name can be turned from weakness to strength.
     
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  4. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Ivana,

    I can't help you with any of the publishing/agent nonsense (I've only had one article published!) but about the rest...

    Your English is pretty good - definitely understandable - but you do seem to have a problem with definite and indefinite articles...
    "As the title says, I'm a foreign writer who would like to see her first book published in the UK or the US. I live in a small and rather poor European country where, unfortunately, the publishing industry is almost non-existant. There is no such thing as a literary agency over here."
    I'm assuming you mean 30 months when you say "After 2,5 years of writing..." because I'd write that as two and a half years, or as 2 1/2 years, or 2.5 years. Or phrase it as "a couple of years", or "more than two years", or "nearly three years". The genre being fantasy is OK, but "the theme is universal"? Do you mean it's one of those themes that covers everything? Sorry, don't know what you mean.
    Translating it is another problem. Unless you can do it yourself, it will be expensive, and with no guaranteed return at the end of it (that much I can tell you about the world of publishing!).
    A foreign name shouldn't be a problem - Salman Rushdie and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn did OK, and a lot of Sci-Fi authors have foreign-sounding names - and neither will your origin. You could, of course, always adopt a nom-de-plume but I wouldn't...unless your name is too close to a rude joke in English (Nokia found out only after the launch that its new phone, Lumia, means prostitute in Spanish!).
    Anyway, good luck!
     
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  5. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    Does your country have a national cultural institution? For example, in Germany there is the Goethe-Institut. This might be a good place to start looking for help and advice.

    @Shadowfax 2,5 is how some European countries (Germany included) write two and a half.
     
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  6. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Are you an EU citizen? I'm not entirely sure, but it might make things easier if you're looking for employment or an agent from the UK. The author of Quantum Thief and Fractal Prince is Finnish, but his books were first published by a UK publisher. On the other hand, he wrote them first in English. Usually the novel has to sell in the origin country very well before it gets translated.

    As for the name, Andrzej Sapkowski is one example of a fantasy author with a fairly difficult name but it doesn't really matter, the name, as long as the product sells.

    @Shadowfax Hah, didn't know that about Lumia! Don't know how they came up with the name, but in Finnish it's the partitive, plural case of lumi, 'snow.' It's used pretty rarely in speech though.
     
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  7. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know...but not the English-speaking world.
     
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  8. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    Just confirming your assumption.
     
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  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    The language will definitely be an issue, but the foreigness shouldn't be.

    I'm Canadian, English speaking, and have had no problems with publication in the US. I have an American agent and all my books are with American publishers.

    The only nuisance I've encountered was needing to get an ITIN and filling out one extra form per publisher to keep the US tax agency from taking 30% of my income. Other than that, I might as well be American. Actually, with the Canadian dollar where it is, it's kind of nice to be foreign - the agent's cut and the exchange rate more or less balance each other out!

    If you were planning to self-publish, it might be frustrating that ACX (the Audible program for getting audiobooks made) is, or at least was last time I checked, only available in the US. But audiobooks are kind of an 'extra' anyway.

    Overall, focus on getting your MS where it needs to be - don't worry about the rest of it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2015
  10. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Thank you all for your comments and support!

    Shadowfax, thank you for your corrections. This is exactly why I apologized in advance at the beginning of my post. And why I would never try to translate the ms by myself.
    Ha ha, I certainly hope not!
    It is not long, nor complicated, and it is, hopefully, easy to remember.

    Does anyone have some experience with, what I would call, "sub-agents"?
     
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  11. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Since no one has as of yet put this out there, I will:
    Getting published or getting an agent is not something that's done on a whim. You can't take a stroll down to an agent's office and expect to leave with a contract in your hand. Editors and agents receive tons of material to sort through and they select only the few pieces they deem worthwhile of publishing, the rest goes down into the trash bin. Because of this I suggest that you don't hire anyone to translate your manuscript or a "sub-agent" (if those exist) to help you find an agent; there is a great chance that you may never get that money back.

    Instead I suggest that you try to get the book published in your own country (or another country where your language is spoken, if there is any) and if it's good enough it may get translated to English later on. That way you know that the manuscript you take to editors and agents will be as good as you can make it, and you have full capabilities of doing additional editing and changes should it be asked for.
     
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  12. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    @Komposten
    Thank you for your reply. Of course I am well aware that you can't simply "take a stroll down to an agent's office"; I researched the publishing process and I am pretty familiar with it. There is a good reason why I decided to take my chances abroad. As I said, there is almost no publishing industry in my country at all. Also, any book published over here will end up within strictly local boundaries, because not a single publishing house translates its editions into English or sells them abroad (well, maybe one book a year goes abroad). The situation is very difficult, that's why I have decided to invest in a good translation.
    Regarding the "sub-agent", that's the term I came up with. :) Of course I would never pay any money in advance for such services. The situation is a bit specific, since that person used to work in a publishing industry in UK. I suppose we'll be able to agree to some sort of commission.
    Bottom line, in order to start the submission process, I simply need to translate the book in English.
    Anyway, thanks :)
     
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  13. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Being a Slav myself, I'd take you for a Slovak, Czech or Polish girl. You undoubtedly have landed in a right place here. I might be repetitive on this one but being here has been of greater benefit than studying English at university, at least in terms of developing the approach of curiosity.
    To do you perfect justice, I'd ditch the "sorry for my grammatical errors" apology; your writing is too good to mention it.

    Ignore being foreign - steadfastly strive for perfection and perfection shall find its way into your writing.

    I appreciate your determination of bringing your project to completion.
    I'd be interested to read your fantasy writing
     
  14. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    At least fantasy novels would thrive in Poland (Sapkowski, anyone?). His books were also translated to pretty much every other European language but English for the longest time, and they sold like hot cakes.
     
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  15. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Sure I'm familiar with Sapkowski. He's dubbed Europe's George R.R. Martin. I've read only one of his books, The Blood of the Elves.

    How's the English translation?
     
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  16. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's ok. Maybe it was difficult to find a Polish-speaker/translator who'd also be a writer 'cause at times it reads a bit amateurish technique-wise.
     
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  17. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ah, good!
    I just wanted to make sure that we both knew what we have ahead of us. :agreed:
     
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  18. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    @Hwaigon
    Thank you very much for your kind words of support and for the compliments regarding my writing in English. Writing is the only thing I knew how to do ever since I was 7. :) And the only thing I truly enjoy doing.
    You are right, I am Slav indeed, but Serbian. :) So you can imagine the situation, living in a non-EU country, which is struggling with its severe economic problems and where artists and writers can not expect any kind of help from the government.
    I would be more than happy to show you my writing. As soon as I have something translated into English language. :D
     
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  19. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    @ Komposten
    :agreed:
     
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  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't really understand why you'd need a "sub-agent"? What exactly do you want such a person for? Your English is perfectly fine for you to go through negotiations with an English-speaking agent by yourself. It is also perfectly fine for you to understand any contracts written in English. I can understand perhaps the need to hire an English proofreader to double-check on your translation (btw, ask for a translated sample, and then ask a native English speaker to double check if it's any good before you pay for the whole thing).

    But I just don't get why you would even want a sub-agent? What do you envision such a person would do?
     
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  21. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    @Mckk
    I feel I may need a "sub-agent" to help me reach the UK-based agent more easily. I do realize that agencies only accept manuscripts through their strict submission process, but I also presume that not everything is exactly what it seems, and perhaps it might be easier to reach an agent if there is someone with connections to recommend you. Since sending your ms into the right hands could be crucial. And the entire process seems a bit daunting; I'm afraid that writing the book will turn out to be the easier part of the process.
     
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  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You're probably right that writing the book is the easier part of the process. Rewriting, editing, and yeah, landing an agent and a publishing contract I'd rank as all things that are more difficult than the initial writing lol.

    There's no point looking for a "sub-agent" - such a thing doesn't exist. For a start, anyone with contacts is probably an agent themselves - if they, as a working, active agent, won't take you, what makes you think they would recommend you to someone else? That does happen from time to time of course, if an agent thinks your book would be really suitable for someone they know - but that then would be simply a friendly recommendation. It's not like you "hired" this person to recommend you, nor will you have to pay them anything for this. It is true that if you had a bestselling author or a reputable agent recommending your book elsewhere, there's a higher chance you might get something - but unless you already have personal friends in the area, what makes you think anyone will do it? Anyone reputable wouldn't need your money - they'd probably sell your book themselves.

    I'm not sure I'm explaining this very well, but if it's connections you're looking for, what you should be doing is attending writers' conferences and meeting agents and editors in person. There's no need, or point, in hiring someone for the sole purpose of recommending you. It's also money down the drain and anyone who would accept money from you for it would be a shark, in my opinion, because there's simply no way they could guarantee you any results.
     
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  23. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Thank you Mckk. :) I understood, you explained it very well. Unfortunately, writing conferences and such events are way out of my reach at this moment, since I couldn't find one anywhere near my place of residence. I'm not planning on paying anything to a "sub-agent" in advance, as I pointed out; commission would be a possible option, but, you are right, in this case it would be an agent, not a "sub-agent" - if this person succeeds in selling my book.
     
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  24. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Conferences and personal connections aren't at all necessary to get an agent - I'm not even sure they're beneficial. I know lots of writers who go to lots of conferences, but most of the agented writers I know got their agents through the regular submission process. It really does come down to the MS.

    Am I right to perceive that you're thinking in terms of UK agents rather than US? I'm not sure that makes sense - I mean, if you were IN the UK I could see the convenience, but if you're going to be dealing with a foreigner anyway, the US market is the largest and most diverse, and I think US agents have an edge in selling to US markets. Not that there aren't lots of non-US agents who do just fine, but in the absence of reasons to the contrary, I'd suggest a US focus.
     
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  25. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Thank you for your advice. I was thinking more in terms of the UK agents rather than the US ones, but mostly due to UK's close proximity to my country (2 hour flight). I know it doesn't make much sense in the era of Internet, but in case of need, it would be much easier and cheaper to get to the UK than the US. :) Plus, I am more familiar with the British agencies and publishing houses. But, of course, I wouldn't mind getting the US agent either.
     

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