With Amazon announcing in early September that they were looking at novel serialisation, we got to wondering what goes into getting the content to you, in a non book form. I mean, would you really have read John Major’s exploits if you hadn’t picked up a paper in your local, mid Sunday roast lull? Here, Caroline Crofts, UK Rights Manager for HarperCollins, talks seriously about serial…
1) So with Amazon’s announcement, might we be moving back to the wide spread serialisation of Victorian authors? Does this make your role a little like finding the Charles Dickens of our times, then?
Well, that’s slightly different to what I do day in day out – although it will be interesting to see how it unfolds with Amazon! Fiction is very rarely serialised, only big name authors such as Hilary Mantel, Tolkien, Christie or Franzen get placed. I focus more on non-fiction titles that provide a news story or article for a paper. Big sensational titles can often spark news stories across the national press which is great for the book sales! It’s not all big splashes though, as well as the news pages serial often fills the review, book pages and supplements with human interest or celeb extracts. I’m afraid I’m looking more for Cheryl Cole than Charles Dickens!
2) Have you always worked in rights? And specifically serial?
Yes – officially. Although I started out in Non-Fiction publicity which is how I ended up in rights as we worked closely with the serial team placing extracts and setting up publicity. When a job came up as the assistant for the Head of UK rights (who looked after serial) I went for it and then spent about 18 months as her assistant on both translation licensing deals and serial before taking on large print, book clubs and audio.
3) What do you find most interesting in working as part of the rights team?
With serial I focus on the UK press which isn’t necessarily a concern for the rest of the team; something which is huge for serial may not work for translation, although sometimes a good serial in the UK can trigger US interest in one of our titles. I work quite separately to the rest of the rights team as, with large print for example, I have rights in every book we publish but the foreign rights may have been retained by the agent so there are lots of titles that only I work on. In meetings with editors I’ll often say saga and cosy crime work really well for large print whereas the translation team will often be shaking their heads to say ‘no more!’ as it just doesn’t sell for them so the differing tastes in home and foreign markets are interesting.
4) So, go on, name drop. What are some of the biggest serials you’ve worked on?
It’s hard to say really, it’s quite an eclectic mix from Jordan’s hairdresser to John Major, from superstars such as Justin Bieber to a woman who regained her zest for life from a new canine companion! From Olympic gold medal winners to the late great Maurice Sendak, the one thing about serial is that it is never dull and always changing! Things can go from fine to a complete disaster within hours and all the way back again!