Rights management requires excellent organisational skills, and a willingness to record and update everything from contracts to customer details to progress in negotiations and much more. This can be repetitive work, but it makes the task of managing and selling rights much easier and creates the foundations for success. An interest in the treasure hunt-style task of tracking down old contracts and contacts can be useful too!
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the volume of administration, enquiries and negotiations in rights. Time management skills are very important, and if you have multiple responsibilities—like database management as well as market research, or editorial as well as rights work to do—then it can help to allocate small chunks of time to each task.
As well as a love of books, rights professionals often have a cultural curiosity: an interest in meeting new people and visiting new places. Travel and networking can be exciting parts of the job, and enquiring minds are good for finding new sales opportunities.
Pitching books or other content to other publishers, with the aim of getting them to pay for the right to use it, is a central part of rights work. It needs confident and quick presentation abilities, as pitching time may be very limited. Prioritising titles to present and highlighting their value to potential customers are important skills. It can be useful to ask editorial colleagues for input into presentations, as they may be able to suggest selling points of books or potential buyers for them.
Good rights professionals are flexible enough to adapt presentations and written material to different audiences. They think like potential buyers, working out what they are looking for and showing how you can help. <//p>
You don’t need a law degree or a deep knowledge of contract terms to work in rights—something that isn’t always appreciated by legal professionals who are considering working in publishing. However, a basic understanding of the principles and practices of copyright, or at least a readiness to obtain it, will come in useful. Rights work will often encompass copyright protection and anti-piracy work, and these can be interesting parts of the job.
Fluency or competence in other languages can be very useful—especially in ones that are spoken in key target markets—though many publishers will not consider them essential to the job, and some rights roles will not require them at all.
Expert maths isn’t essential, but people handling sales contracts should at least know how to calculate percentages and interpret basic accounts. As professionals progress through the ranks, more complex forecasting and budgeting skills will be needed.
Rights professionals don’t just earn money for their employer: they work on behalf of authors, delivering them valuable revenue and protecting and promoting their Intellectual Property. They may well develop close relationships with authors, liaising on potential deals and promotional work.
Many rights professionals get to travel to far-flung markets, and book parties can be a perk of the job—but it’s not quite as glamorous as some people imagine! Time spent in spreadsheets and budget hotels will usually exceed time spent jetsetting, and concluding deals often requires tenacity and a lot of follow-up work.
If you're interested in a career in publishing, why should you consider working in rights?
How do you get a job in rights? Read our five tips for starting your rights career.
A list of common (and not-so-common) job titles and skills for working in publishing rights roles.