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Top 5 skills you need to survive a career in domestic rights

Jenna Brown is Rights Executive at Bloomsbury Publishing where she handles domestic rights. She’s also currently writing a young adult novel (all queries welcome!)

1) Organisation

Failing to plan is planning to fail!

In rights, there’s so much going on, if you’re not properly organised you’ll soon end up cowering under your desk, drinking a bottle of last year’s Christmas party vino.

Organise your emails into folders, label everything, and basically just keep everything really tidy. I try to clean off my desk at the end of every week, so I start Monday morning fresh. Prioritise and be prompt!

2) Negotiation

The first Rights Director I ever worked for always encouraged us to ‘add a zero’ to any offer we received. She was kidding, of course. (At least I think she was…I’ve never tried it, but feel free to give it a go if you’re brave.)  But the point is, you should always be willing to negotiate. Start high. But know when to come down. And it should go without saying, but really know your market and your product. If you believe in a book, you can sell it.

3) Communication

I’ve always thought that one of the best things about being in Rights is that you get to work with all of the other departments in your company. Everyone from production to the post room. Not to mention all of your customers and clients and Authors and Agents. Be inquisitive! Never be afraid to ask questions. There really is no such thing as a stupid question. Always be polite and pleasant. Have respect for everyone you come in contact with. Remember that you’re an ambassador for your company and that what you say and do is a reflection of who you work for.

4) Flexibility

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

It might be the unofficial motto of the US Marines, but sometimes I think they must have stolen it from a Rights person. Get creative! Think beyond fees and advances. What can I do to make sure we get the best possible deal for this title and for this author?  Can I secure ad space in lieu of a fee? Or maybe a book offer? Be willing to try something different or to go the extra mile. Who knows? That crazy idea of yours just might work.

5) A Sense of Humour

This is more of a general life skill. You’ve got to keep your sense of humour. I’m a firm believer that the power of laughter can get you through almost anything:

  • That one Editor who always calls you ‘Brenna’
  • The URGENT request for 50 images that arrives at 5:29pm on a Friday
  • The heavy breather phone calls from no one in particular about nothing to do with Rights
  • The 2 hour meetings that could have been a couple of three line email.

Grab a biscuit and a cup of tea, take a deep breath, and laugh. Then get to work.

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