How Publishing Works Abroad Courtesy of author Diana Gabaldon

There isn’t anything I can say that hasn’t been said already. Territorial rights are a pain in the ass for readers – get this – who want to buy the damn books. With every new and expensive ebook reader going on sale and enticing readers left and right, one wonders what content they are supposed to read on it when you’re faced with: sorry you can’t buy this book here. It just seems unfathomable to me that ebooks are not universal. Books and especially ebooks should be available to everybody but not everybody seems to agree with that statement.

In a recent article by Diana Gabaldon, titled, THE EXILE abroad and Other Tales, Gabaldon breaks down to her readership why the UK and Germany, among others, aren’t getting THE EXILE. It’s a graphic novel adapted from her bestselling Outlander series.

Well, see, the way that publishing works is that a publishing company buys certain specific _rights_ to a book. If you have a decent agent, you _don’t_ sell “worldwide rights” to your manuscript; the agent makes separate deals with individual publishers in different countries. Each publishing contract defines exactly which rights you’re selling—and the “exclusive territory” in which the book can be sold.

Which means that not all publishers buy all books at the same time—and not all publishers choose to promote the books they have in the same way, either.

Right. Now, with respect to THE EXILE, only three countries have so far bought that book: the US (Random House), Canada (Random House Canada), and the Netherlands (De Boekerij) (their translation is not yet released).

You aren’t getting it in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand because Orion—my UK publisher (whose “exclusive territory” _includes_ Australia and New Zealand) is not yet convinced that there’s any market for graphic novels. Ditto Blanvalet Verlag, the German publisher. They doubt many people in their countries would buy it—so they haven’t made an offer for it—and you don’t get it, unless you order it from the US, via Amazon.com, The Poisoned Pen, or some other way.

Emphasis on the last part of that sentence was added by me. After reading that article, I don’t know what to think. I do know that I am disappointed. Moving forward, for further reading here are two more posts out of many by readers who are being affected by territorial restrictions: Nobody Outside the US & the UK Can Read English [Oct 2010] by Sarah Tanner in Switzerland and The stupidity of territorial restrictions part 1 by Bernadette in the Australia.

I just want to say to all the readers out there are who affected by territorial restrictions, I feel your pain and frustration as do many others. It is utterly ridiculous and I must leave it at that or otherwise the conclusion to this post will cease to make any sense. If authors, publishers care anything about readers, they would make their books legally accessible to as many people as possible. That is all.

6 thoughts on “How Publishing Works Abroad Courtesy of author Diana Gabaldon

  1. Thanks for the information from the author’s point of view. Of course I’m no less frustrated by my inability to buy what I want to read but it always helps to have as much information about the context of these big issues. I know fixing territorial rights isn’t as simple as saying “let it be so” no matter how much I’d love it to happen that way.

  2. Well, Harlequin does worldwide rights for their romances and are globally available. Why are they different from everyone else? I’m sure there are no easy answers to this problem but from the reader’s side of it, it is annoying.

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  4. I’m still confused as to why it is easy (and legal) for me to buy print editions of books, but not the digital edition. Publishing is probably one of the only industries which wants to limit sales of their products. There is something very wrong when it is easier to find a pirated copy of a book than it is to buy it.

  5. Yes, this. Unless I break the law – even though I pay for the books – I can’t get most of the books I want in e. For some reason Amazon and many other fine print book purveyors on the internet are quite happy to sell me the print books, though. I even imported a book from Australia for a hysterical prize, because it was not available otherwise at the time and was part of a series.

  6. I kind of was initially put off by the if you have a good agent part of this. I mean, yes, you want a good agent to look after the author’s interests, but to do so at the expense of people who want to buy your books seems a little counter productive to me.

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