7 little things your rights colleagues wish you knew

Header image showing the London Book Fair at Olympia, London

We Rights people often feel a little like a cult – a little misunderstood, or perhaps ‘Publishing’s best-kept secret’!

It’s an exciting, fast-changing, and often highly profitable area of the industry but in some cases not much is known about what it is that a Rights department does and why. How does what Editorial are agreeing in the author contract affect the licensing business? What’s going on up in that Rights centre at the London Book Fair? Why are the Rights team all off abroad again?!

Hopefully the below can demystify Rights for those wondering about any of these questions – and for those already in the know, it can give a little refresher on how you can continue to collaborate with your Rights colleagues in the future.

1. What we do!
We are a sales team, maximising on the investment you have made into new publishing projects. We do this by licensing our authors’ amazing content to our customers worldwide into as many languages as possible, in as many places as possible and in a wide range of different formats – translations, film adaptations, audio, large print, apps and more. We visit book fairs (the major marketplaces for rights sales) and visit publishers in their offices, pitching our titles and gathering information on the world’s publishing markets. 

2. Why we do it
Selling rights not only makes money for us and our authors, but also helps grow our global brand reputation. It helps build our authors’ profiles, helping them reach even more readers and gaining their loyalty. Licensing can help us get to markets and sales channels the publishing house might not otherwise be able to access easily. Plus it keeps us abreast of world trends and developments. What’s not to like?

3. We need you to get the rights right
In order to do the above sales work to the best of our abilities, we need as many rights as possible. Ideally that means world rights, all languages, all formats… you get the picture. (You can get some more insight on this at BookMachine’s Acquiring the Right Rights event on 24th March).

4. Please flag any rights issues
We get it: we can’t always have all rights all the time. But the sooner we know what rights are held and what we (and our licensees) can and can’t do with a new project, the better – this includes permissions issues with certain images or texts, for example. (The complexities of clearing permissions is another topic covered at the March BookMachine event!)

5. Bring us to the party early 
We can advise on the international potential of a new project, make you aware of potential cultural issues with a particular topic or illustration style (and advise on the above pesky rights issues) – all before we acquire. With co-editions (important for any full colour publishing so especially in the children’s and trade non-fiction areas), collaboration is key. Design can work to ensure that a book has space for a translated text and set up files to be co-edition-friendly. Production can tell us schedules, costs and specifications to help us build up print runs. All of this can happen a couple of years ahead of publication. 

6. It’s a team effort
This isn’t just about Editorial, Production and Design – Marketing and Sales, we need you too! Tell us about your marketing plans and any great promotional material you are producing. We can share this with our licensing customers to make sure our books are as successful abroad as they are in the UK. We can also share knowledge on our sales pitches and market feedback to help each other out in our next round of customer meetings. 

7. We would love you to ask us questions and get involved!
Coming to LBF? Why not ask if you can sit in on one of your Rights colleagues’ meetings up in the Rights Centre? Listen to their customers and get a sense of those customers’ needs and interests so this can inform your publishing plans for the future.

We also give really great travel tips… just saying. 

Polly Silk is Senior International Rights Manager at Oxford University Press’s Children’s and Educational division. She handles co-edition and subsidiary rights sales across an expansive list (ranging from picture books to children’s dictionaries to textbooks for both UK and international curricula) and across multiple territories including Latin America, France and Turkey. Polly also regularly guest lectures on Rights for the Oxford Brookes Publishing MA, and is the current Chair of the Oxford Publishing Society (OPuS), helping to coordinate speaker events and networking opportunities for Oxford’s publishing community.