Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The International Community and Publishing

I get a lot of questions about how anything outside of the U.S. is viewed in the publishing community. Do authors not located in the U.S. have a chance at publication, and what about books set outside of the U.S.? What are their chances?

Rather than do separate posts I’m going to try to answer both questions in one. I am absolutely sure there are some agents who don’t want anything to do with people outside of the U.S.; whether we like it or not that’s just the way the world works. There are people out there who just think that life is easier if you stick within your own world, so to speak. And that’s fine for them. It’s also their loss as far as I’m concerned.

BookEnds has a number of clients who are not in the U.S. or U.S. citizens. We have clients in the UK, Australia and Canada, and none of them are Americans. And yes, we consider proposals from all over the world. I know I’ve requested material from Spain, Japan, New Zealand, China, and France, to name a few. One of the reasons some agents might resist foreign clients is that it can be a tax nightmare. Trust me, we pay our accountant a lot of money to keep those things organized for us. However, in our mind a good client and a great book are more important than a few tax headaches. If you live outside of the U.S. and are seeking representation in the U.S. I would go at it as if you were in the U.S. Don’t let your locale injure your chances. If an agent rejects your work simply because of where you live the agent is too short-sighted for you to want to work with anyway.

As for books set outside of the U.S., these can be a little more tricky because, let’s face it, Americans tend to stereotypically be a little internationally challenged. That being said, I think we can all look at the bestseller lists and see a number of genre and literary authors who have written fabulous books set in locales outside of the U.S. and obviously found a market. I suspect that writing literary fiction allows you a little more leeway when it comes to international settings. Genre can be trickier, primarily because I think readers often come to them with certain expectations. However, if you really feel that you want to break the mold in your genre writing and set your thriller in a foreign land or your historical romance somewhere outside of Regency England, go for it, just make sure that there’s a real point to choosing the setting and that your point is not that you used to live there (a common answer when I ask writers why they chose a certain setting). To make an international setting work in genre fiction I think the locale itself almost needs to become a character. The reader needs to be transported into another world and not feel like the book could have just as easily taken place in Houston, Omaha, Reno or Scranton.

When it comes right down to it, most agents don’t care where you’re from or where you’re book is set, we want a really terrific book. But if you are going to set your cozy mystery in Ireland then Ireland really needs to shine through and not just be another Cute Town.