A little over a year ago, I got the following email - from a Hotmail address
Dear Morris Rosenthal:
I am a staff working in Copyright Agency of China that is a state-established organization that provides service in the field of copyright and found in 1988 and a unique all-round Copyright Agency. We cooperate with many major publishers at home and are empowered to inquire about one book license to Chinese simplified character copyright shown below:
Print-on-Demand Book Publishing: A New Approach To Printing And Marketing Books For Publishers and Self-Publishing Authors (ISBN 0-9723801-3-2).
PLS give me more details for granting Chinese copyright, could you send three reading copies to me?
Add: 5F,Wuhua building, 4A Chegongzhuang Street, Beijing, China P.C.: 100044
We are looking forward to having cooperation with you in future.
Thanks a lot
Ms Jing Yuan
My response read:
We don't generally grant translation rights for any of our titles, just too complicated in the Internet age. However, if a publisher from China wants to contact us directly, we're always happy to talk. Negotiating with an anonymous person writing from a Hotmail address isn't an option:-)
Well, negotiating with a person using a Hotmail address DID turn out to be an option. Obviously, I was skeptical, in no hurry to send reading copies to China, etc. But Jing was persistent, lined up one deal that fell through with a prestigious university press (my fault, I sort of talked them out of it), and then found yet another publisher. The contract negotiations were swift enough, the contract they sent had been written by an American lawyer for another author, my own lawyer asked for a two small changes, which they made. In the meantime, I went to the trouble of asking Jing the name of an established American publisher they had worked with, called the editor there, and heard that the Copyright Agency of China was on the up-and-up.
Then they asked me for my bank account information and my social security numbers for paying the advance. Ersh. I may be paranoid, but I've already had a go-around with identity theft and wasn't in a hurry to open myself to potential problems from a new continent. I set up a new business bank account with a new tax ID, the transfer failed a couple times, bank gave me the wrong routing number, whatever, and finally I told her to send a check or the deal was off. The check arrived this week, $789.19 (the 10% fee and various mailing and copying expenses came off the $1000 advance), and the FBI hasn't showed up at my door yet, so I assume everything is good.
The royalties were 7% of list price on the first 5000 copies and 8% thereafter. With a target list price of 20 RMB (around $2.50), I'd have to sell something over 5,000 copies to sell out the advance, so I hope all of my Chinese readers rush out and buy 1,000 copies each:-) The main point of my earlier blog post discouraging self publishers from chasing foreign rights deals proved to be true. It was a distraction, took up a good deal of time and worry, and isn't part of my basic business model. Translations and foreign rights may contribute a little to the bottom line, but unless you have a title you expect would do better in a foreign country than at home, it's just not something I'd recommend pursuing. On the other hand, if they pursue you...