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Licensing: Moving a Story Beyond Books

Elisabeth NWilkes15 June 2016

This next department is not one often thought of when people enter publishing, but it is one that is growing. Licensing is a segment of the industry where either books’ merchandising rights are negotiated with companies, or a publisher buys the rights to turn products, such as films, tv shows, or toys, into book products. This has become a growing segment of the publishing industry. According to Claire Somerville, the Deputy Manager Director at Hachette Children’s who gave a lecture on licensing to our class last term, the licensing industry was worth £10.2bn in the UK in 2015.

Merchandising has been a major source of revenue for the publishing industry, not to mention a major component for the spread of book culture and brand awareness. If the following sounds like you, perhaps you should give this part of the industry a little more thought.

 

  1.     You are a culture buff– Perhaps you really like books, but also love your Netflix and movie nights just as equally. This is a great section of the industry where that love of other mediums really comes in handy. You will be poised to make better judgments as to what is worth buying and who is worth selling to.

 

  1.     You like fandom culture– Not only are you all about different types of entertainment, but you love to go on Pinterest and collect pins of someone who has made their own Harry Potter mix-drinks. You will be a better judge of which brands are likely to get people excited and what types of products fans would enjoy the most.

 

  1.     You are especially interested in children’s publishing– This is where licensing is the most versatile and most lucrative. You can work with companies to produce merchandise that older fans are less likely to purchase, such as toys, sticker books, board games, and the candy. It’s an exciting way to make the younger readers more obsessed with your publisher’s stories or characters.

 

  1.     You can ‘sense’ the next big thing– Are you constantly finding yourself saying, “I liked such and such before it was cool”? Are you amazed at how often the shows you love suddenly get really popular? This sense is incredibly important for people working in licensing, especially for books, which take longer to produce and put out than a doll or a shirt. Being intuitive of what could be big allow you to strike while the iron is hot and not miss the boat, only to be stuck with books and products that are no longer popular.

 

Licensing can be a fun way to spread your publisher’s stories that goes beyond the pages of the book. While it is a fine line between “selling out” and creating extended interest, it can be fun to work on building an extension of these books.

 

Well, this is the last section I will be discussing for this blog. There are other sections of the industry, so always explore to see what will be best for you. I do hope that these monthly posts have given you something to think about when you go job searching though. It has been a great year and I am happy to have shared what I have learned for aspiring publishers. There is much more to Publishing than being an editor, so be sure to be open minded about what part of the industry you want to enter.

Working in Rights: Calling All Extroverts

Elisabeth NWilkes24 February 2016

As a proud introvert, I must admit that the idea of working with books, which I often turn to recharge from too much social interaction, comforted me. While I knew (and even welcomed)  that socialisation would be involved with working in the publishing industry, I dreamed of the precious alone time, reading and thinking critically about the works my publishing house would be presenting to the world.

Despite introverts stereotypically holding the monopoly on being ‘bookworms,’ extroverts can love books just as much as they do. In fact, there are many bibliophiles that are energised by crowds and excitement instead of drained by over exposure.

And let me tell you, the book industry needs those extroverts. We need them in all segments to balance a workforce that typically attracts more introverts by the very nature of what they produce.

One section of publishing that you extroverts might want to check out is Rights. Below, I outline a few reasons why:

  1.     It doesn’t involve a law degree – Despite what it might sound like, this section of the industry has far less to do with copyright law and contracts than it does with selling. Of course, you have to be aware of the copyright and trade laws to know what you can and cannot negotiate, but your main duty is to “maximize a book’s financial potential – whether it’s selling translation … rights, merchandising, serial or book club rights, or even film rights” (Working in Publishing).
  2.     You may have the chance to travel – If you have a strong sense of wanderlust and love traveling the world and talking to people from different cultures, you should definitely look into selling foreign and translation rights. Not only are you often sent to the major book fairs (London, Frankfurt, BookExpo, etc.), but also to individual companies in many different countries all over the world.
  1.     You get to talk – a lot – This part of the industry requires a lot of relationship building between people both outside of your company and outside of your industry. If you work in serial, your interactions will be with the media, and if you work in film rights you’re talking to film producers. While there is a place for ‘getting down to business’ when making these negotiations, a major contribution to success is mastering small talk and lively conversations. It is a socialites dream, where they not only sell and promote a product they love, but also meet different types of people and build fast connections.  

This all being said, many introverts love socialising, travelling, and networking. If this is you, please consider Rights if it sounds up your alley. I only highlight Rights for extroverts because it is one of the more natural fits for extroverts wanting to be part of the book industry, but is less thought of than, say, Marketing or Sales. If any of these points interest you, please consider positions in Rights.

If, however, you have more of an artistic side that you feel needs feeding, check out next month’s post on Design to see if it may be a better fit for you.

Production: Where Books Come to Life

Elisabeth NWilkes27 January 2016

After learning about literary agency in the last post, we are now going to jump to the middle with production. The bare bone definition of production is turning a manuscript into a physical book. While it may sound like working on an assembly line, the position offers much more creative opportunities than it sounds.

According to “Working in Penguin: Careers with Penguin Group,” production is, “the physical process of transforming a manuscript into a finished book. This includes everything from producing the initial costing, arranging the typesetting, and selecting and buying paper, to organizing the printing and binding of the book and its delivery into the warehouse.” (Link)

 

This segment of the industry is not as romanticised as positions such as editor, but it can offer people a place to express their love of books in a different way. See if any of these describe you:

 

  1.     If you are practical, but also somewhat crafty: While design does most of the work with the appearance of books, production isn’t completely void of chances for artistic expression. Production is the bridge from the abstract book to the incarnated version. Design team might have an idea that works in the head, but for some reason, be it budget or unexpected demands, it is impossible to follow the plan. Production has to then step in to give alternatives to allow the book to work.

 

  1.     If you like solving problems: Production team members often have to find solutions to any issue that comes up in printing. They also have to negotiate to get prices for the paper design would like, or suggest alternatives if a solution cannot be found. Their main task is to do everything to keep the book on schedule and overcome any unexpected delays. It requires a lot of thinking on your feet and flexibility.

 

  1.     If you are organised: In production, you are working on many projects at one time and often on a strict schedule. It therefore pays to be a little finicky to make sure none of the projects get mixed up and no dates are missed. So if you like fixing chaos and are a bit of perfectionist, you might consider this part of the industry.  

 

  1.     If you like people: Working in production requires interacting with companies who supply the puzzle pieces for the book, such as paper, foil, and printing. They are also in communication with the design team, as well as marketing. Production managers must build connections and relationships with both sides. So if you like talking to many different types of people and getting out of the office every once and while, this job might be a good outlet for you.

 

If you have any number of the attributes or skills above, you might think of exploring deeper to see if this part of the industry is a good fit for you. This job is especially desirable for people who love watching ideas become a physical book to hold (not to mention that production team members are the first to see the finished product!) It’s a job with a balanced mixture of creativity and resourcefulness.

Still not piquing your interest? Then come back next month, when I will be talking about Rights!

 

Publishing and the ‘D’ Word

Caroline AMurphy19 February 2015

By Marianne Tatepo

Of the thousands of online witticisms causing the SYP 2014 Conference hashtag (#sypconf14) to trend, one tweet stuck with me to this day: “It’s kind of hilarious how few people have chosen to attend the #sypconf14 session on diversity.” (Miriam H Craig, 12:15 PM – 8 Nov 2014, @miriamhcraig).

You’ll have heard of the ‘d’ word. For some it may be equated to ‘race’. But diversity is not colour, gender, or ability specific. Was the ‘diversity’ session at SYP aimed at those few minority groups (ditto about such print issues by The Bookseller)? Many will be most aware of their own underrepresentation: diversity is being able to scan a room and see, or hear about both others like you and those unlike you. A room where each attendee can’t think to themselves “there are other people like me AND unlike me” is not diverse – the same goes for an industry. Still: it’s difficult to tackle the issue of diversity if none of those concerned are included in such discussions – so here’s my own input, following on Caroline Carpenter’s piece.

My contention is: a diverse industry is one inclusive of those who have had to deal with marginalisation or disparities at a range of possible levels. Mental health issues; lack of social mobility; gender or racial imbalances or discrimination; physical impairment or disability; and other major factors that may lead them to feel there are no ‘people like them’ around.

Identity is not one-dimensional. On the one hand, there were a plethora of others like me at SYP’s 2014 summit: literature or humanities degree bearers, and probable Student Finance benefactors, who are only mediocrely digitally skilled. On the other hand, it was honestly disappointing to have to acquiesce to some of the facts outlined in The Bookseller’s November issue regarding the status quo of variety in publishing – even ten years on, post-Web 2.0.

As both a hyperbole and simile: a love for publishing can sometimes feel like having Stockholm Syndrome – we’re captives of something we’ve grown to feel an attachment to, in spite of the perils presented (e.g.: ‘death of the book’ and other doomsday fear-mongering), and this often causes onlookers to equate our loyalty to insanity. At ‘budding publisher’ level, this translates into the sacrifices some must make in order to intern for periods of up to a year (dixit many of SYP 2014’s despairing attendees). The labour is often unwaged, and worse yet: there is no guarantee that you’ll reach Promised Land.

You’ll hear about books being rejected by publishers because the demographic depicted in said books is not that of ‘the reader’ or ‘the customer’ – that is to say, not white. To say that minorities aren’t ‘the reader’ doesn’t recognise the fact that they are often unrepresented in stories, despite the infinite amount of stories out in the world. Not reading every book that refuses to acknowledge you could be seen as a silent, peaceful protest of sorts – a sign of a malignant illness tainting the reading experience.  How can catering to a wider audience be achieved whilst simultaneously telling said audience – by way of ellipsis, by way of vacuum – that they don’t exist?

What you won’t hear enough about is people like Nikesh Shukla or Malorie Blackman – both of them catering to different age groups, but certainly to wider groups than many past and present writers did altogether. A diversity workshop, I believe, would have been most beneficial to future agents, editors, marketers, publicists… That is to say: anyone likely to unearth the next Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Junot Diaz, or John Elder Robison and whose instincts may be muddled by a one-dimensional idea of ‘the reader’.

What you won’t hear enough about is that the next generation of writers is tucked away in places like The Baytree Centre, in Brixton. In this all-women’s culture and literacy centre, young girls of BAME background aged 10-14 are attending Creative Writing and Reading classes voluntarily, and will soon submit their edited, original creative writing work to the Global Girls Project, with the hope to be published.

However, you will certainly hear about the commercial benefits of diversity. What you won’t hear is about the value of culture – especially in a melting pot like the UK. What you don’t hear enough is how good, loyal employees are the ones attracted not to the commercial aspect of the industry, but the fact that their presence is reflected in the workplace; that they are part of a community – just like ‘the reader’. The fact that when, finally, they get that book proof on their desks, more than once in a blue moon, they can read about ‘others like them’.

The momentum is now, and the opportunities are here: where there is a will, there is a market. If Nichelle Gainer could sell out for an illustrated coffee book like Vintage Black Glamour (£30 apiece) and even a major cultural institution like the V&A is doing a Black British Experience exhibition after recognising a “gap” in their knowledge… What’s stopping the publishing industry from recognizing the full scope of ‘the reader’?

Thought of the Week: “DO judge a book by its cover”

LucyBroughton3 November 2014

You are probably more than familiar with the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, which for most instances is probably good advice. However, the more we learn on this course, the more I’m inclined to think that in the literal cases, we should judge books by their covers.

The cover is the first point of contact a consumer has with a book, and no matter how well it is written, or even how good the blurb is (which is also very important), they won’t pick up a book with a bad cover. Publishers know this, and spend a lot of time and money into making the best, appropriate, covers for their books. They design their covers specifically with the target audience in mind, and ensure that it is relevant for the genre of the book.

During the first week of the course we had a great lecture from Auriol on the book cover process, and even got some insight into how the iconic One Day cover came about. And from that point onwards we have continually been told about the importance of the cover, and the impact it can have on retailers stocking the book, and particular likes/dislikes based on the type e.g. supermarket or bookstore (Asda, anyone?).

One Day Cover

Even though ebooks are increasingly popular, the cover is still important – and publishers have had to adapt to this, for example, white covers don’t work online. But this is also an opportunity to get creative with the covers, because online it is easy to change them.

Moreover, as we have heard, one impact of digital is to make physical books more of a luxury item. A beautiful cover can make a book into something that you want to display – and consequently something you would buy in physical rather than digital format.

So, although a cover can’t tell you how well written, or how good a story is, it does tell you a lot of things. It gives you an indication as to the genre, it shows you how much effort the publisher has put into the book, and it makes you pick a book up (or click on a link).

 

Book covers sell books, so DO judge a book by its cover.