When is your book going to be published in the UK?

When is your book going to be published in the UK? This is the question I get asked all the time. By my friends, by my family, by the postman, by every stranger on the street, by children I meet at events, even by my own children. When I look at them blankly, they go on to ask ‘Why isn’t your book published in the UK?’

I suppose it’s a fair question. I am English after all. I write in English. I don’t speak any foreign languages. I don’t even go abroad that often, but I currently don’t have a book published in the UK, only in Germany, USA and France.

Why is that?Publishing is an international business. Books are bought by publishers from publishers or agents from other countries all the time. Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Hunger Games come from America. The Moomins are Swedish. Tintin is Belgian. Many of my UK writing friends have their books published in other territories, but I guess most of them have them published in the UK first.

Every publishing deal is different, but often when a publisher buys a book they buy World Rights. That means they have the right to sell the book on to other publishers. They have a rights department that sell books abroad. That doesn’t mean they sell the printed UK book abroad, that’s called Export (not something I know about at the moment as I don’t have a UK publisher). They sell the right for another publisher to take the manuscript and translate it for their market. This may happen when the book is first bought by the UK publisher or it may happen once the book has been published. It’s a good way for the publisher and the author to make more money from the original manuscript.

Sometimes a UK publisher only buys UK rights (or UK and Commonwealth or some other combo). The author retains the foreign rights and their agent tries to sell the rights to foreign publishers. Again this may happen while the book is in production in the UK or it may be any time after the book is published.

However, some manuscripts are turned down by UK publishers. Let me clarify that, MANY manuscripts are turned down by UK publishers. Even long established authors get rejections. Just because an agent can’t find a UK publisher for a manuscript, doesn’t mean that manuscript is rubbish. It just means the agent can’t match it to a UK publisher, who needs a book like that, at that precise moment.

That’s what happened to me with Help I’m an Alien.

I am extremely lucky, I have a wonderful agent – Anne Clark – and she has a brilliant Foreign Rights Consultant – Margot Edwards. They matched me up with a publisher who did want me book. That publisher, Coppenrath, happened to be in Germany. So my first published book appeared in print, translated into German. The good news continued. They liked my book so much, they asked for another two.

But Anne and Margot didn’t stop there. They have also sold Alien to the USA and France.

To me these publication successes are as important as other author’s UK publications. I can’t do much to publicize my books. I can’t do school visits because I don’t speak German, but I do get fan mail from German readers and I always reply to them – in English.

I think some of my author friends think I’m mad going on about my foreign deals. They seem to think they are insignificant. Maybe they only see their foreign deals as a bonus, they don’t have a relationships with their foreign publisher like I do and don’t bother trying to promote their books abroad. Or maybe they think the credit should go to the translator. Maybe they don’t have any foreign deals at all!

For me, because these foreign editions have materialized before a UK edition, I take a different view. Three different publishers like my writing so much they have turned my manuscripts into books for their market. They didn’t read a translated version, they read the raw manuscript and liked it so much they paid for someone to translate and illustrate it. My German translator is Christine Spindler and the illustrator is Der Anton for the Help series. They have done a terrific job, but it’s still my book. I’m very proud of it.

Even the US edition has been edited/translated for the US market. The title has been changed to I’m an Alien and I Want to go Home. A character has a different name, Freddo has become Eddie. All the punctuation has been US-ified (we don’t use the Oxford comma in the UK or double quotation marks and we think putting a full-stop after Mr and Mrs is very old fashioned) and of course there are the usual sidewalk/pavement, dollar/pound Americanisations. Alien-US is set in America.

Next up France. I haven’t started work with my French publisher, Albin Michel, yet so I don’t know how it will be, but I can’t wait to find out.

So that leaves only one question – when are my books coming out in the UK?

Wait and see.

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