Representatives of First News and Anova Books ink a copyright deal (photo: First News).
VietNamNet Bridge – On September 15, 2009, 5 million copies of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol were released. Two days ago, the first five chapters of this novel were sent to the publisher’s Vietnamese partner.
Vietnamese publishers are becoming more professional in seeking the world best sellers to provide to local readers.
Hunter and quarry
Eight hours before Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol was released, the original manuscript in English was transferred to Vietnam’s IPM Publishing and Media JS Company. The copyright contract was conducted through strict procedures.
IPM’s director Vu Viet Dung said that since 2004, IPM has worked with Dan Brown’s agency, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, Inc., one of the most famous agencies in the world. Through Greenburger, IPM has bought copyrights for many foreign literary works.
In April 2009, Dan Brown’s representative chose the London Book Fair to announce the launch date of The Lost Symbol. IPM’s representative attended the fair and inked a deal with the Greenburger agency to buy the rights to this novel. They then invited translator Nguyen Xuan Hong to translate the book into Vietnamese.
Seeking manuscripts leads Vietnamese publishers to hunt for best selling books throughout the world. Nha Nam Books cooperates with famous writers like Japan’s Murakami Haruki and France’s Marc Levy. Chibooks is interested in books by young Chinese female writers. Thai Ha Books invests in children’s books and First News Tri Viet focuses on books about lifestyle and memoirs. Dai Viet Books plans to publish books about ideology and creativeness of Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault and Emmanuelle Levinas. Meanwhile, Dong Tay and Bach Viet concentrate on research works and books by Vietnamese authors.
Publishers target manuscripts based on three sources: information on the Internet, foreign collaborators, and their sub-editors’ relationships.
Translator Nguyen Le Chi, the owner of Chibooks, compared those searching for manuscripts as “hunters who always conceal themselves, watching and tracking. Those who are fleet-footed will win. Those who carefully observe and are more patient will seek bigger and better quarries.”
Hunting foreign manuscripts is not highly competitive, but the seekers sometimes fail because they cannot offer high copyright royalties or satisfy writers’ requirements.
The rewards of patience
First News Tri Viet’s director Nguyen Van Phuoc talked about difficulties associated with Hillary Clinton’s Living History:
“This is a very famous and sensitive book because the copyright holder is the Simon & Schuster Publishing House and the author is the wife of former US President Bill Clinton.
When First News contacted Simon & Schuster Publishing House, they didn’t agree to exchange information via email, but by post.
The copyright contract was only signed after Simon & Schuster got the approval of Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton, her lawyer and her secretary.
It took us over ten months and a trip to the US to buy this book.”
“If buying Murakami Haruki’s books, the winner is the one who pays higher,” said Phuong Thuy, who is in charge of English books at Nha Nam.
Since Vietnam is a poor country and the number of distributed copies is low, copyright royalties are not the most important factor.
If Murakami Haruki’s agency is interested in money and only examines the book cover, the representative of writer Milan Kundera – his wife – doesn’t pay attention to money. Thuy said that each time she only sells one book.
Thuy said that besides the rule of selling only one book at a time and examining the book cover, Milan Kundera’s wife also asked for the CV of translators. She chose two translators to translate her husband’s books into Vietnamese.
After Nha Nam successfully distributed Laughable Loves, translated by Cao Viet Dung, Milan Kundera’s wife suddenly agreed to sell three books at the same time.
Before Vietnam joined the Berne convention in 2004, Milan Kundera’s books were introduced in Vietnam through translations by Nguyen Ngoc and Pham Xuan Nguyen. Since then, Nha Nam holds the copyright for Milan Kundera’s works.
Poet Pham Sy Sau, chief of the Tre Publishing House’s copyright division, said that copyright royalties are only one factor, not the decisive one. Manuscript hunters need to show their PR plan and forecast of sales. Foreign partners often give priority to their old partners. Only when they cannot reach a deal with the old partners, they seek a new one.
Thus, it is difficult for new publishers to enter the market.
To land a best seller’s manuscript, some publishers take a year or several years, so they are described as patient hunters.
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