Rights Rights, Baby!

Posted on September 28, 2018 in News & Reviews, UK

If you ask anyone in rights at the moment about Audio rights, the chances are they will tell you there has been a boom in the amount of deals over recent years. The Bookseller reported this year that Audiobook sales in the UK alone has doubled in the last 5 years[1], rising 22% in 2017 alone[2]; in the US, there is a reported 67 million audiobook listeners, with 5.5 million in the UK[3].

From these figures, it’s clear to see that Audio has been making a lot of noise in our industry – but why Audio? I recently attended a Rights2gether event that sought to explore exactly what we should be doing with Audio over the years to come, with three speakers from wide publishing backgrounds.

Jo Forshaw (Freelance Audiobook Consultant) began with discussing why Audio rights are important – and why we’re not using them smartly. Previously, a company she was working for acquired Audio rights as standard at acquisitions level from agents, but they were often not making it into an Audiobook unless it was a huge name. Ultimately, this meant they were not monetising many books to their full potential, and it was here she saw a huge area of growth for the company. Over five years, she sought to bring about change so that all audio rights were used.

Often when selling rights, we give audio as standard in our contracts – for no extra money. According to Jo, we shouldn’t be freely giving away audio in rights deals unless they are asked for; often, they are given and yet never used. With the boom in audio, many companies are now creating addenda for old contracts, licensing audio where they might not have before. These extra deals, she mentioned, are a great way of bringing in more money for your company.

From this, Jo also warned that money isn’t everything; she reminded us that creating better relationships brings in more money than one deal in the long run. Kim Williams (International Rights Director, Princeton University Press) agreed with this, noting that deal making is done a lot on gut feeling and taking into account budgets – she advised to be “flexible on the advance, but not on the royalties” when it comes to hitting the money.

“1 in 5 American homes have home speakers, all of which have the ability to play Audiobooks!” – Kim Williams[4]

Kim’s top advice is to do more market analysis and identify where your company can grow in the Audio world. She also noted that we all should bear in mind the different markets; Overdrive, a library-lending app, reported that 68 million Audiobooks were borrowed in 2017, which marked the fourth year in a row where Audiobooks were more popular than eBooks[5]. By expanding the availability, we all stand to increase our sales and revenues.

Another way to maximise our sales is to make the most use out of simultaneous publication. Audio companies, Kim mentioned, will piggyback off your publicity, events and social media drives, which ultimately gets both of you the most sales possible. Jenna Brown (Rights Manager, Watkins Media) insists that the licensor uses her company’s covers in all cases, but it’s especially important for simultaneous publication. It makes it easier to identify; customers can get confused if they see different editions, and often wonder if it’s even the same book.

“Complacency is your enemy!” – Jenna Brown

One of the most important moments of the talk was Jenna noting that many of us don’t read the contract in enough detail; all too often contracts come in with small mistakes that can be overlooked. Jenna advises checking all terminology, either with colleagues or with the Audio publisher, as we shouldn’t be agreeing to anything we’re unsure of. Contracts are difficult to change down the line, so it’s important to have everything laid out clearly from contractual stage.

A good contract helps you make the most out of the deal, clearly states what you should be receiving and is a mutual agreement. Jenna pointed out that we should all be keeping an eye that contractual agreements are being upheld – such as royalty statements being sent on time: “Once the contract is done, it can be easily overlooked if something is late, but run reports and don’t be afraid to chase where needed.” Often in rights, we become expert chasers – although, Kim mentioned that, on the whole, Audio publishers tend to be great at paying!

Publishing is an ever-changing industry, shown here by the rapid growth of Audiobooks recently, and eBooks before that. Over our long history, publishing has added to and changed the way consumers interact with our content and Audiobooks are fast making their mark on our industry, showing no signs of slowing down.


What is Rights2gether?

Rights2gether is a networking group for Rights professionals.  It was started just over a year ago by Clare Hodder and Ruth Tellis (Rights2 Consultants), as they realised that there didn’t seem to be a regular place where rights professionals from across the spectrum of publishers and rights areas could come together and talk specifically about Rights. The aim of the group is to facilitate social gatherings, networking and to support the professional development of rights people.

What are the events about?

The events usually include some interesting speakers, and plenty of time for a drink and a chat with fellow rights enthusiasts. The group meets 3-4 times a year, including social gatherings at book fairs, and has a mailing list of over 200, a LinkedIn group of 80+ and regularly have 40 or more people at their events.

Contact ruth@rights2.co.uk if you would like to join in the fun!



[1] https://www.thebookseller.com/news/audio-sales-double-five-years-764431

[2] https://www.thebookseller.com/news/audiouk-launches-support-booming-audiobook-industry-820946

[3] http://blog.press.princeton.edu/2018/02/06/kim-williams-how-to-write-a-book-for-audio/

[4] https://techcrunch.com/2018/03/07/47-3-million-u-s-adults-have-access-to-a-smart-speaker-report-says/?guccounter=1

[5] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/public-libraries-lend-record-numbers-of-ebooks-and-audiobooks-in-2017-300581541.html