ConBarba is a new RPG Spanish publishing house. Right now we´re in the early stage of acquiring rights of different games. This is a question for the authors and companies out there:
- When selling your game rights for a foreign edition, What do you expect form the deal?
We can split this bigger question into the following, some of which might have an obvious answer.
- Up-front payment or according to sales? Fixed price or a percentage for each copy sold?
- How much (ok, that is hard to answer, specially in a public forum)?
- Freedom to modify the layout, illustrations, order of the chapters, gaming examples, narrative texts, add optional rules, etc.
- Hands on the translation before going to print?
- A rephrasing of this two last questions? Do you care at all after your baby after money have changed hands?
- Some free copies of the finished products?
Hey, thank you for your answers! :)
With Solar System and World of Near, which are both getting some heat on foreign markets, I'm just expecting recognition - they're free and openly licensed, after all. I'm just barely informed about it when people run with the stuff, in fact.
If some of my other work would be on the line, I'd try to get the same deal I give to others when we translate their games: a set fee in advance for a set print run, with practically the whole process in the hands of the guy on the ground, the one who's taking responsibility for publishing and selling the product. A typical fee for us would be something like 5-10% of the expected gross cover value of the print run. The reason for why we're paying so comparatively much is that the print run is small and we're reasonable certain that we'll be able to sell the stuff; I would expect that the license fee as percentage would go down quite heavily if your operation were larger than ours. I recommend considering a royalty arrangement carefully before entering such, as that sort of thing is rarely worthwhile in small press publishing: you're going to have quite a bit of paper-work counting pennies for a long time for the sake of something that could have been profitably taken care of by paying a modest single payment. Royalties make sense when you're speaking of thousands of dollars annually; if your operation is not on that level, I wouldn't bother - you could even pay more to the author and still be ahead in terms of bureaucratic pain by opting for a simple payment solution.
As a translation-publisher I prefer it if the game's designer gives us the professional courtesy of relying on our knowledge of the market we're working in when it comes to issues like product format, venues of sales, art, layout and localization editing. This is not only sensible (we know more about the Finnish rpg scene than you do, frankly), but also good from the viewpoint of independent publishing: the translation team has to stand behind the product and market it under their own name as well as that of the original designer, so I do think that they have some right to have their voice being heard about the details. When we work on a translated edition of a game I make a point of explaining any changes we would like to make to the original designer, who may then accept or refute the changes and solutions. This same model would work for me on the other end of the deal as well: the very first thing I would hope of a translation team would be that they'd be proficient enough in rpg design and excited enough about my work to actually have their own opinions on what works, what sort of errata or clarifications would improve the work, how the work could be reorganized for the new market, etc. If nothing else, I would very much like a local designer to write an afterword for the game to reflect on it the way I do for our publications. Those are just cool bits for the local customers who are using this foreign text in their own cultural context, and I think that all the work done in localization does pay off in terms of customer satisfaction; just like with the original game, the customer will know it if the publishing team is not working from the heart.
Generally speaking I as a designer would care of my game to some degree when it's being adapted as a derivative work, but only to a degree: the important thing for me would be confidence in the shared artistic vision with the adaption team, not direct artistic control for myself per se. I'm not necessarily the guy who always makes the best choices, somebody else might make better ones. If I don't trust the team working on the adaptation to do their thing and I'm not actually willing to do the adaptation myself, then it might be better to not make it at all. Trying to drive the process from the backseat would not be a good compromise solution.
As for how much compensation I would expect for the translation license, I'd have to say that it'd depend foremost on the publishing plan of the people doing the translation. If you wanted to translate Zombie Cinema just to put the rules up in the Internet, then you could do that for free - I would probably ask to host the result on my own website, too. But if you wanted to make a 1000-copy print run of the game, then there'd be money involved, and I would like my share, no matter how small in absolute terms; the important thing here is not the absolute amount of money I'd get, but rather the fact that I'm entitled to it - it's a matter of respect, not greed. Demanding to have my work for free when others are making profit off it would be disrespectful of my work in the project, for example.
Author's copies of the work in question would be a matter of course for me - it's an industry practice so to speak, and not just rpg industry, but of culture industry in general. In Finland it's a law, actually - the artist is entitled to access his own work. It's a minor point, but I'd find a publishing operation pretty suspect if they got stuck about a couple of author's copies in the face of a larger project.