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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.

Publicity: Magicians of Free Press

Elisabeth NWilkes20 April 2016

Why pay for what you can get for free? In the publishing industry, where marketing budgets are usually tight or practically nonexistent, this question has given people in Publicity space to work their magic.

For a long time, Marketing and Publicity were handled under the same leadership, if not the same handful of people, as their aim were similar. They were to get the publisher’s titles out into the public eye and noticed. However, more and more publishers are splitting the group into two separate teams in an attempt to divide and conquer.

While it is not a perfect definition, the main difference between Marketing and Publicity is often cited as promotion that cost money (i.e. adverts, window displays, etc.) and promotions that do not cost money (i.e. interviews, reviews, etc.). The Internet has been a huge game changer, because as Ella Gascoigne, founder of The Book Publicist, explains that with “online media and social media we have so many more ways that we can promote a book” (The Guardian). It is certainly an exciting time to be a publicist. 

If you are interested in pursuing Publicity, here are a few skills that are necessary for success.

  1. Know your way around social media—Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr… and so on, are places where people can run into your books and, if done right, cost little to no money to use as a tool for promotion. If you know how your potential readers use these platforms and what contest, images, or interaction will grab their attention, you are bound to go far.
  1. Good people skills—You will be working with a lot of different types of people, from the authors that you have to usher to events, to journalists that you have to convince your book is worth their time, to members of the media who may or may not care about books at all. Understanding people and being able to connect to them is completely vital to navigating through your work.
  1. Be assertive and persistent—Publicity involves a lot of pushing to have your book on top of the pile of books for reviewing and constant friendly reminders to newspapers of their promises to feature you in their edition. There is a fine line between being enthusiastic and being annoying, but if you don’t push, your job will not get done. It’s a tricky balance, but when it’s done right, you’d be amazed at how willing people are to work with you and just how much unexpected promotion you can earn for your book.  
  1. Have some tough skin—There will be times when you worked very hard to secure an interview for your author, and the journalist possibly has it written and ready for print only to have it end up on the cutting room floor when a bigger and better story comes along. It is hard to see all that work come to nothing, but deals fall through and promises are not always kept. It is very easy to get frustrated or discouraged, so be prepared to go to plan B, C, and D at any moment.   

Publicity can truly be an amazing part of the industry for those who really care about books and know how to connect with people. However, if Publicity doesn’t sound like quite the right fit, check out its other half, Marketing, next month!

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!

 

Literary Agents: How to Be a Publishing Gatekeeper

Elisabeth NWilkes30 December 2015

After clearing up misconceptions in the last post about what an editor does, I think it is important to take one step backwards in the publishing process and start with the gatekeepers: literary agents.

Literary agents are a relatively new addition to the publishing industry, only starting to appear in the 1880’s. As the book market began to flourish and authors had less face-to-face interaction with publishers, writers with no connections found it harder to get their books published and sold. Authors needed a liaison to help them, especially those who knew nothing about the publishing process. Thus the position of literary agent was born to fulfil that need.

I’ll admit that out of all the positions in publishing, this career is the one that intrigues me the most. It is close to the literary action and it is the position closest to the authors. However, there are a few things you have to know to be a successful agent.

  1.     You have to know your own taste: If you cannot answer what your favourite book or genre is, you have to figure that out. For authors to find an agent and submit their work, they need to know who will be interested in reading it and who has connections to publishers who would interested in publishing the book. If you say you like, “everything,” you will get everything. And if you are not passionate about what you are receiving, you will have a hard time selling your works. So be picky!
  2.     You have to be diplomatic: If you hate being stuck in the middle, literary agency would be hell. Editors will want to make changes to the book that authors would sooner die than submit to and authors will want to know why the marketing team isn’t renting a Good Year blimp to advertise their book. The job is much more people-oriented than it appears, and if you are not efficient at diffusing tense situations, you might want to consider a different part of the industry. 
  3.   You have to be social: This is probably the hardest part of the job for naturally introverted book lovers. Not all of your books will come to you through emails. If you want to be successful you have to woo authors and discover rising stars that you can add to your clientele, and that involves going to writing events and booking coffee dates. Publishers also rarely approach agents first. You have to seek them out, pitching books you know they won’t buy just so that in the future they might remember you and ask what you have new. It really is a lot of social legwork and networking.
  4.     You have to care about money: Your main job is not only to get your authors published, but to get the most financial benefits for your author from that publication. The margins are not that great for book sales, so publishers will do anything they can to keep as much of the money for themselves. Your authors, especially those who have little experience with publishing, will depend on you to get them a fair deal. So you will, at times, have to play hardball. You will also have to encourage friendly competition during book auctions or even turn down deals from big-name publishers who aren’t taking your author seriously enough. If you don’t care about the deal as much as the book, you won’t get very far as a literary agent.

 

Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t inherently a social butterfly or have a few things to learn about negotiating. You will likely start as an assistant anyways, so you’ll have time to practice.

If the job just doesn’t quite sound like your cup of tea, however, tune in next month, when I will be talking about moving from the words on the page to the actual book in the exciting world of production!

 

Everyone Wants to be an Editor

Elisabeth NWilkes2 December 2015

On the first day of classes for my Publishing MA, our tutors asked, “Raise of hands, who in this room wants to be an editor?” More than half of the hands, including my own, made their way into the air. To this they gave us a knowing smile and said, “By the end of the week, we’ll see how many of you stick to that.”

Photo Source

                                                    Photo Source

During a week-long module titled, “Publishing Context,” the class was introduced to people from every nook and cranny of the industry. While some of us stuck to our editorial dreams, many hands that were once eager for editing had switched sides. I myself began to waver in my convictions. The reasons for this included a better understanding of what editors actually do and a more comprehensive explanation of other parts of the publishing process. In my series, “Everyone Wants to Be An Editor,” I will be exploring the secrets this module revealed.

To begin, I think it is important to dispel some myths about what editors do. I don’t do this to scare away people from being editors, but to better inform you of what the job entails.

  1. Slush piles have moved – I know that I dreamed of starting my publishing days going through the fabled “slush pile” to find literary gold like I was Indiana Jones. The truth is nowadays most publishing companies do not take unsolicited material, meaning that many editors get the picks of the litter and are pitched books. If you want to be a manuscript archeologist, you will probably want to try working in a literary agency instead.
  1. Copyediting is rented out – Though I do not fit in this camp, there are those odd but beautiful people who enjoy the nitty-gritty of editing. They spot misplaced commas and spelling errors from miles away. While this skill is helpful, it is not always the main concern of editors. In fact, more and more copyediting is now given to freelancers because it is more economical. So if you felt you needed to join an editorial team to rid the publishing world of poor grammar, you might consider offering your services in this way. The work is more flexible and, if you’re lucky, you might get to work from home!
  1. Editors don’t make bank – On the first day of class, our guest lecturer asked us who wanted to be an editor. With a laugh, he said, “Oh good, so you don’t want to make money.” This is slightly hyperbolic because, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10% of editors do earn almost $100,000 a year (around £65,000). However, in the UK, the pay averages to £26,500, and that is only if you are lead editor. Assistant editors get around £20,000 and editorial assistants get around £18,000 (PayScale). Comparatively copyright/rights directors can make £45,000+ (Prospect). But book publishing isn’t about the money… right?
  1. You’re not always an author’s best friend – There are two reasons for this. First, you will have less contact with them than in the past. Literary agents often play liaison and technology makes it easier to send drafts back and forth with little interaction. Second, most authors will not appreciate you telling them that one of their characters doesn’t work or their favourite line is pretentious. Some authors might see you as the enemy, trying to change “perfection.” So if you wanted to enter publishing to rub elbows with literary geniuses, editorial might not be the best section for you.

 

These are just a few things to think about before you continue to pursue your editorial dreams. Next month, I will start to show you other publishing career options that might interest you, starting with literary agents.