How to Get It Right: Masterclass with Jennie Dorny on Foreign Rights and Contracts



Jennie Dorny,

Foreign Rights Department, Éditions du Seuil,

hereafter called the Proprietor and acting as a leaser (concessionaire) for the exclusive right to conduct Masterclasses which is the objective of the present contract, and of which it presents itself as guarantor,


The Students,

The Seagull School of Publishing,

hereafter called “(future) Editors/Publishers”,


  1. The Proprietor—to the degree permitted by her by present or future laws regarding literary property, both French and foreign and international agreements—grants to the Editor/Publisher, who accepts, the exclusive right to attend all the Proprietor’s Masterclasses to learn about foreign rights with respect to translation and that each prospective editor/publisher makes a short presentation on a book in the fictional scenario of attempting to sell the rights of the book at the Frankfurt Book Fair.


  1. On the first day of July 2015, Jennie Dorny will not only transport the students back in time to when she started working for Éditions du Seuil in the year 2000 but she will also elaborate on translation rights and contracts with emphasis on Author-Publisher contract, primary rights and secondary rights split between the author and the publisher, translation rights of the author, territorial rights of the publisher, calculation of royalties and net receipts, etc. The morning session is expected to be so enlightening that the students will take down notes copiously. The theoretical input coupled with Jennie’s enthusiasm and interesting anecdotes from her life as a foreign rights operator will no doubt make the class both educating and entertaining. No abridgement of the class in video or audio recording shall be issued without the consent of the Proprietor.
  1. The Proprietor warrants that the afternoon session will be filled with students feeling nervous and excited at the same time as they present their books in fun and friendly conversation with Jennie, attempting to coax her into buying the right to translate their respective books into French. Each of the conversations will prove to be useful as Jennie will patiently listen to the candidates defending their books and proceed to make exceedingly helpful suggestions on how their arguments can be improved upon in various aspects of promoting the books. Furthermore, each student will have to undertake the full and legal responsibility for any symptoms of anxiety attacks, panic attacks, loss of consciousness, cold hands, shivering and increased rate of heartbeat during the course of their presentations. The definite highlight and applause-worthy moments of the presentations will be when Jitendra hands Jennie, who shall be very impressed, a business card at the beginning of the conversation. Not surprisingly, he will manage to wittily convince Jennie to read the book and successfully sell the translation rights of his book at the said hypothetical Frankfurt Book Fair.
  1. Based on the prior written approval, the second day of Jennie’s Masterclass shall expound the characteristics and relationships of people working in the foreign rights department. Jennie’s narrations of her experiences will exemplify the kind of relationships a foreign rights operator is expected to maintain with the editor, publisher, author, press and marketing, as well as accounting and legal departments. She will accentuate the importance of cultivating and improving relationships as the principal responsibility of the foreign rights department is to convince foreign publishers to publish a translated version of books. Any student found to be in violation of the listening-intently clause shall be liable to pay royalties to the Proprietor.
  1. The student presentations that follow shall consist of more comically charming argumentative plots to convince Jennie to consider the books for French translation. The Seagull Books catalogue shall become the fictitious Bloomsbury catalogue for the sake of Nisha’s argument, subject to certain limitations. Shyama’s presentation of a graphic novel will vow to steal the spotlight with its innovativeness in style and technique. If at any time during the presentations, the student audience ceases to have a sufficiently remunerative psychological presence, he/she shall be at liberty to dispense himself/herself from the classroom or liable to pay with a cheque the same amount he/she spent absorbed in absent-mindedness, fantasizing or engaged in involuntary sleeping.
  1. Jennie agrees to elucidate the different kinds of offers-ordinary, blind and pre-emptive, and the difference between open contracts and closed contracts on the third day of July 2015. She shall also demonstrate a mock auction to illustrate how publishers acquire rights by competing and offering more monetary benefits than other publishers. Students with no former experience in complex mathematical calculations will be advised to carry calculators to the class or be subject to temporary brain malfunction at their own risk.
  1. The Masterclass will come to an end with student presentations and a class photo taken by Jennie who will bravely stand on a chair, to make sure everyone is captured in the photo, with a happy smile. There will be a huge round of applause as she exits the classroom. Any student found to be in violation of the clap-clause will be presented with the slap-clause.

Signed in Kolkata on 30 June 2015.

Proprietor: ____________                         Editor/Publisher: _____________

Sai Prasanna P.


2 thoughts on “How to Get It Right: Masterclass with Jennie Dorny on Foreign Rights and Contracts

  1. Murali S. Ram

    Couldn’t help laughing at the last line. Your efforts at this are very evident, Sai. Kudos! A good level of creativity and wit deployed to make the contract sound sensible, scholarly and, at the same time, sidesplitting!


    to the contract made for the Masterclasses conducted by Jennie DORNY, dated June 30, 2015,

    between: Jennie Dorny,
    Foreign Rights Department,
    Editions du Seuil

    Hereafter called “the Proprietor”,

    and: The Students
    The Seagull School of Publishing

    Hereafter called “(future) Editors/Publishers”

    Article 8:
    Jennie Dorny thanks all the students for their help in turning her Masterclasses into a great moment with their brilliant questions and insightful remarks.

    She congratulates them for overcoming their panic when they presented their books at the Calcutta-on-the-Main Book Fair. They chose interesting books from a wide array of genres (novels, essays, graphic novels, guide books) which enabled Jennie to cover some of the many situations they might encounter in their future careers.

    She hopes that when the (future) Editors/Publishers join a publishing company and/or create their own business, they will always be attentive to the contents of their Author/Publisher contract, and never forget that the important person is the Author, whose books their aim is to defend in every possible manner.

    Article 9:
    She thanks Jitendra Arora for his business card and Sai Prasanna P. for providing such a lively and fun account of her Masterclasses. [She wonders whether the latter should not envision a career in writing and become an author/editor and/or author/publisher.]

    She thanks all the students for their gifts, for making her laugh, for giving her lots of energy at a difficult time in her life.

    All other clauses of the initial contract remain valid.

    Made in Paris in two copies
    On July 18, 2015

    Proprietor (future) Editors/Publishers
    Jennie Dorny

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