What is the best way to go about acquiring the publishing rights for self-published books?
Jack Kaufman contacted me to ask: What is the best way to go about acquiring the publishing rights/copyright for self-published books? Does a marketplace for this type of transaction exist?
First, a caveat: I've not generally been involved with the buying and selling of publication rights of this kind. However, here are a few gleanings. In the world of traditional publishing, a lot of rights deals are done between publishers at the big book fairs – as I type this, the largest – the Frankfurt Buchmesse – is taking place. Here in the UK, the London Book Fair is a similar event – and in fact there are many self-publishing authors there, partly thanks to the involvement of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). That means there are a lot of self-published authors floating around there too, and there would certainly be opportunities to meet them and discuss possible rights opportunities. ALLi accepts advertising at events and in publications, and that too might offer a route to this audience.
I have seen one or two attempts in the past to create a marketplace of the kind you describe, but I'm not aware of any at present and I don't think they got sufficient exposure/traction. The closest thing I can think of now is Publishizer, where authors can post a proposal and seek pre-orders, and potential publishers can see how much interest there is and then pitch for the rights. This is probably your best bet at present (2022).
But in theory anywhere where self-publishers talk, meet or seek support for their books could work – for example, how about looking at Kickstarter? Many people try to launch books there (as I type this there are more than 400 live publishing projects there). The number of pledges immediately provides some evidence for interest in the idea (with the caveat of course that crowdfunders will have turned to people they know first). Perhaps some of these people would welcome an approach from someone looking to acquire publishing rights!
One final thought: occasionally there are self-publishing accounts with Amazon KDP or elsewhere that appear for sale at website brokers such as Flippa or Empire Flippers – this would be a way to acquire an entire portfolio (but as always, caveat emptor…).
Although it’s slightly website focused, this Five-Minute Guide to Better Typography has a lot of advice which also applies to books.