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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.

Commuter Insights: Books for London

Sarah LOsborne10 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

Sarah LOsborne13 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.

Tips and Struggles from a Commuting Student

Sarah LOsborne18 November 2015

Today is the first blog of my blogging series: Tips and Struggles from a Commuting Student. I’m going to start off with basic tips that every commuting student needs to know. Everything I have written below is, of course, written in jest, but is also reality.

 

Photo by: Sarah Louise Osborne

Photo by: Sarah Louise Osborne

1. Accept the fact that commuting may be your future.

Commuting can be tedious and time-consuming. On average, I wake up three hours before my lessons start, and on every commute, I miserably compare the commuting time to the time it would have taken if I lived near campus – which equates to an extra two hours of sleep! In spite of this, I’ve tried to see the positive side of commuting. I’m only at university twice a week, if I complain now, then what is it going to be like when I work in London full-time?

2. It’s a dog-eat-dog world.

When it comes to getting a seat on a train during rush hour, you are more than welcome to frown at the fortunate individual who claims the last seat from under your nose. That is the reality of commuting. If your station is one of the first stops, then you will probably not encounter this problem. However, commuting back from London at 5pm will undoubtedly be the opposite. Sometimes, you may encounter circumstances that do anger you. For example, people using spare seats as laptop stands or foot rests – you are well within your rights to take the seat!

3. Make the most of the commute.

When you’re studying a Masters, working, interning, blogging, and trying to desperately sustain any form of social life, you cannot afford to waste time on a train. Yes, sometimes standing on a train makes it difficult to concentrate, so allow yourself to play Solitaire or Uno on your phone for a while. But make sure this isn’t a regular occurrence! Bring two books (a textbook and a reading book) – the textbook for when you’re determined and energetic, and the reading book for when you need a break. You never know what mood you’re going to be in.

4. Be quick.

Keep your travel card close by at all times. Time spent searching through your bag at a turnstile, wastes everybody’s time.

5. Protect your belongings.

The most obvious piece of advice – keep a close eye on your possessions at all times.

6. TEA or coffee…

Commuting can drain your energy; it can be tiresome staring at the back of a chair for half an hour, so make sure you get a caffeinated drink either before or after the journey. Always make sure you have money reserved for these little necessities!

7. Last-minute homework.

Although I shouldn’t be admitting this, train journeys are great for last minute bits of homework. I don’t mean assignments (I’m not that crazy), but if you really didn’t have time to finish your homework, then train journeys may be your saving grace. They are particularly useful if, for homework (UCL MA in Publishing particularly), you are required to make public observations of reading spaces.

8. Acquiring a cheetah’s stealth.

Once you’re off the train, people will try to jump on the train before allowing you off – this can make you angry. You must therefore adopt the speed, and sneakiness of a cheetah. If you are short like me, then you will adapt quickly. Slip under arms and through the sides of people, and think ahead. Watch out for pedestrians who are about to walk into you. A lot of people march through the station assuming people will dodge them. Avoid slow walkers who think they’re on holiday, and rapidly accelerate in front of them. Sometimes, it can shock you how fast you make it from one side of the station to the next.

9. Comfy clothes are key.

Forget nice clothes! Wear something comfortable and find a balance. Long sleeve tops and jumpers are obviously advisable during winter, but expect to sweat on the underground. Wear comfortable shoes that are easy to walk in. Debate whether laces will negatively impact your speed, or whether a skirt will be awkward on an escalator ride. Always be prepared for all types of weather – after all, this is England.

10. Travel light.

Finally, travel light. If you want to bring your laptop, then sacrifice something else, like a notepad. Half of the time, half of what you bring with you, isn’t used.

 

I hope these few tips are useful for everybody, even if you’re not an MA in Publishing student. If you enjoyed my witty remarks, then please follow us on Twitter @UCLPublishing or via my Twitter @SarahLouiseOs. Bear these tips in mind during Christmas. I can imagine train journeys will be even more hectic, and I’ll follow up with some of my personal, commuting encounters next month!

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’?