TOR TOUR: THE RIGHTS DEPARTMENT

07 January 2014

By Kerry Lagan

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The Rights departmentThe Rights Department is a key important part of the publishing process. And for those of you who might not know, selling rights means selling the 'right' to publish our novel in another country or use part of one of our author's novels for another purpose. This can mean selling translation rights, US rights, audio, large print and even television and film rights.  We aim to get our titles into as many different territories, formats and languages as possible so that our authors are continuing to reach new readers, and we can generate new revenue for our authors. 

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Mark Charan Newton’s Nights of Villjamur:
Left to right: The German edition published by Egmont, Tor’s UK edition, then the Italian edition published by Gargoyle. 

 

Although we promote new work written by contemporary authors, we also work across the backlist and sometimes get involved with titles that were written some time ago. This can prove tricky when we have to refer to typewritten contracts from the 1940s and dusty old files from our archives! At moments like these, it’s detective work, as we try to determine which rights we still have and how we can interest others to use them.

In-house, we work closely with art, production, editorial and publicity as well as collaborating with publishers across the globe. While some rights are more obvious to sell, such as translation, we also sell rights to cover art or maps and illustrations that appear in our books. It is incredible to see the ways in which our material can be adapted. We also receive calls from production companies, when they would like to feature our books as props for TV or film or even quote a few lines from one of our titles. Either way we have to look into which rights are held and where these can be used. Getting calls from film companies and newspapers is a definite thrill, but it can often also mean working to an extremely tight deadline. 

Our busiest times of the year are during the two major book fairs at Frankfurt and London. These are the playground for the rights and international sales teams, because they offer the opportunity to meet with numerous foreign publishers and editors who might be interested in publishing our books. It can be fascinating to find out what readers are buying globally and there is always a great buzz at the fairs. Some of the biggest deals take place at the fairs and there’s always the opportunity to make new contacts with publishers and editors.

London Bookfair 2013 (see our post here on what happens):

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The less glamorous aspect of rights would be the volume of paperwork! Every deal we negotiate means contracts and correspondence which need to be carefully filed away. Copyright to a work (in UK law) lasts for the author’s life plus seventy years, so we need to make sure that decades from now we still have records of what has been or what can be sold. Who knows what we may be able to create in the future! Much like publicity, we also stuff a lot of envelopes - as we send out titles on submission to foreign editors and publishers. And we also spend a lot of time with spreadsheets, working out figures and looking at budgets. Working in rights presents amazing opportunities for travel, meeting new people and working on all manner of weird and wonderful projects.

You can also see below to learn more about the variety of jobs and departments within a publishing company.

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The Tor Tour is part of a series of regular posts covering the varied publishing roles within the Tor imprint and across Pan Macmillan as a whole. These are the posts so far:

INTRODUCING TEAM TOR by Tor UK Editorial Director Julie Crisp
TOR TOUR: NOT JUST EDITING by Tor UK Editorial Director Julie Crisp 
TOR TOUR: A PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT EXPOSÉ by Publicity Manager Sophie Portas 
TOR TOUR: COMMISSIONING & SOCIAL MEDIA by Senior Commissioning Editor Bella Pagan
TOR TOUR: THE MARKETOR by Senior Marketing Manager Rob Cox
TOR TOUR: THE EDITORIAL ASSISTANT by Editorial Assistant Louise Buckley
TOR TOUR: PRODUCTION CONTROLLER by Production Controller Holly Sheldrake
TOR TOUR: THE DIGITAL ZONE by Analytics Director, James Long
TOR TOUR: THE RIGHTS DEPARTMENT by Rights Assistant, Kerry Lagan
TOR TOUR: HEAD OF WEB DEVELOPMENT by our digital department's James Luscombe 
TOR TOUR: THE AUDIO BOOK DEPARTMENT EXPLAINED by Audio manager Becky Lloyd