Licensing: Moving a Story Beyond Books

By Elisabeth N Wilkes, on 15 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.

Commuter Insights: Books for London

By Sarah L Osborne, on 10 February 2016

Photo by: Saïda

Photo by: Saïda

Following on from my last blog on Books on the Underground, I’m going to discuss a similar book campaign called Books for London, which was established by Chris Gilson in 2011.

Books for London aims to establish a book sharing scheme across London’s tube stations. The scheme is entirely dependent on volunteers, and their first aim is to reach as many tube stations as possible. They hope to “cement London as a capital of literacy.”

This campaign differs from that of Books on the Underground – rather than leaving books on tube seats, they instead establish shelves within stations, and commuters can either pick up or donate books. Books can be distinguished by their labels. So far, book swaps are recorded at 11 known London stations – hopefully more in the future!

In December 2011, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London said, “I think it’s a very good idea and would say something powerful about the kind of city we are and our commitment to literacy, which obviously we are trying to demonstrate in lots of ways particularly with young people.” Books for London won the #ideas4Mayor competition at the London Policy Conference.

Like Books on the Underground, Books for London are looking for regular volunteers and if you’re a regular commuter and book lover like me, then: firstly, it won’t take up too much of your time, and secondly, you’re helping to reinvigorate people’s love of literature,

As many as 13 million books are sent to UK landfills every year – quite a devastating figure that we should aim to prevent. Campaigns like Books for London are a great way to cut back on the 13 million, and will help create a more sustainable environment. World Book Day is fast approaching (March 3) – what better way to celebrate your love of books by helping a campaign like Books for London?

There are so many campaigns like this that typically go unnoticed – help spread the word and keep your eyes peeled when commuting. Or, have a look at the links provided on the Books for London website (right-hand side bar) and see how you can get involved.

More information can be found on their website, twitter, and facebook. If you’re interested in helping out then send them an email at londonbookswap@gmail.com.

My next commuting blog will be the last blog of the commuting series – details will be revealed next month!

Commuter Insights: Books on the Underground

By Sarah L Osborne, on 13 January 2016

So, I’ve had a month off from commuting and what a pleasure it has been! As I haven’t got much to say about commuting this month, I thought I would discuss a “project” (if you will) called Books on the Underground.

The title, Books on the Underground speaks for itself. They place books in random trains on London’s underground. They are placed there with the intent that they be taken, read, and shared with others. Books on the Underground is a not-for-profit organisation that describes itself as “your local library”.

The project’s sole purpose is to brighten people’s days in the bustling capital, and they merely ask commuters to return the books after reading them.

Books can be found via images posted by Books on the Underground. These images often feature a book in front of a station’s sign. They are always looking for other generous volunteers who are willing to distribute books, as well as any book donations.

Their idea has been so influential that there is now an established Books on the Subway in New York, and Books on the Metro in Washington D.C. Books on the Underground has also created a book club where they give out 20 free books a month to those who attend.

It’s a great idea that aims to spread the enjoyment of literature among busy commuters, many of which may struggle to find time to read and relax. It’s a thoughtful and selfless act that aims to break the repetition of daily life as a commuter, and I wish I had thought of the idea myself! It makes me look forward to the dreaded commutes, and I anticipate discovering one of the books myself. I just hope that commuters can continue to respect and appreciate the project for what it is, and fingers crossed that Books on the Underground will continue to grow!

If you want to find out more about them then have a look at their Twitter, Facebook, or website.

Next time I will be discussing a similar scheme, called Books for London.

FutureBook 2014 (Part 1)

By Caroline A Murphy, on 18 November 2014

By Rachel Mazza (@mazzie191)

futurebookAbility to fervently Tweet and absorb information about the publishing industry at the same time during the FutureBook conference…Skill for the CV?

Yes, actually! According to nearly every speaker at the 2014 FutureBook conference, skills like managing social media and carefully selecting what content is passed on to consumers are what “new voices” in publishing are doing…so its good to know my drained phone battery, from all the live Tweeting, served me well.

What else are publishers looking for? Well Marissa Hussey, Digital Marketing Director at Orion, told a room full of them what publishers should be looking for. Since we all need jobs, I bet you are interested in the scoop on this as well…

Got skills?

– Tech savvy

– Adaptable

– Emerged in social media

– Innovative

– Creative

– Willing

– Analytical

– Logical

– Resourceful

And above all else, Hussey said she looked for curiosity in applicants.

Keynote speaker George Berkowski, author of “How to Build Billion Dollar Apps”, touched upon this subject as well when he said the “smart creative” type would be well suited to the publishing industry. This means that publishing would benefit from engaging with people from computer science and engineering fields.

That led me to wonder if tech skills should be something we students are learning before we go into the workforce. Right now, we aren’t expected to know how to code or create an app, but wouldn’t it be great if we did? From the sounds of things, tech knowledge in publishing will be required in the near future.

Digital content isn’t going anywhere, so the more we know about it, the better. Knowing what to do with digital was another hot topic. Apparently there is no one right answer. As Carla Buzasi, Global Chief Content Officer of WGSN, said “people consume media in different ways on different devices”. Its true, I think publishers needs to be all over as many devices and platforms as possible. However, it should be done in an organized and focused a way that creates cohesion among any digital media they produce in order to establish a meaningful online presence consumers and authors can depend on.

Buzasi, among others, stressed the importance of discovering ways to make authors part of the key process of publication. She said it is not enough to simply tell them to Tweet or manage a blog. The publisher must provide support to authors on digital matters.

But again, to offer that support, publishers must understand digital media themselves and how to effectively use it. This brings us to the next panel I attended, entitled: What is the long-term role of social media in publishing?

Sanne Vliengenthart, Digital Coordinator at Hot Key Books and BookTuber, said it is important to find someone who knows the platform. The main idea amongst the three speakers was that having focused and consistent content that promoted community provided the best results. In her videos, Vliengenthart provides insight into the publishing process and talks about the thing that bring publishers and readers together: the love of books. At the end of the day, passion and dedication to books is what draws us all in, but we must be prepared for the rapidly changing, ever evolving business side of things as well.

Overall FutureBook was exciting. The upfront, honest and often humorous approach most speakers brought to their topics kept things fresh and fascinating…a day well spent!

P.S The biscuits served for tea were extra fabulous. I continue to be impressed by dedication to delicious sweets in this industry.

PSS. Check out Thug Notes on YouTube: http://thug-notes.com

Stay tuned for part two tomorrow evening, when Rachel relays some more key highlights from the FutureBook conference, including useful Twitter users to follow!

Eimear McBride’s ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’

By Nick P Canty, on 17 July 2014


Review by Lauren Nettles

One of my favourite professors of creative writing at my undergraduate college once instructed the class not to write a story that has never been told, since that’s nearly impossible given the amount of writing already in the world. Instead, we were taught to tell a story in a way that it has never been told before.

In theory, I understood this advice, but it didn’t truly click until reading A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. At its core, Eimear McBride’s debut novel is the story of a girl growing into young adulthood in Ireland while struggling with her sexuality, complex relationships with various members of her family, and her older brother’s harrowing recovery from a childhood brain tumour. The trials faced by the narrator are not new topics in literature, but the way McBride tells the story is incredibly unique.

A combination of stream of consciousness narration, prose poetry, and textual impressionist painting, the broken sentence fragments take some time to settle into your brain, but within a few pages, the unnamed narrator’s voice is so clear that there’s little trouble determining the speaker or the events unfolding.

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is a challenging, knotty read that demands your full attention, but it’s hardly a chore to completely turn yourself over to it. The story alone is packed with genuine emotion, often disconcerting and even heartbreaking, but it’s the lyrical approach to narration that moves this prize-winning novel beyond simply a wonderful story to a breathtaking piece of art.