Selling rights: who and how?
The employees of a literary agency are by deﬁnition specialist staff. Their individual areas of responsibility may be divided by function (for example, translation rights, ﬁlm rights) or by author. Within a medium-to-large-size publishing house, a specialist rights department is advisable, even if it starts as a single person with a computer and a simple record-keeping system. The optimum size of a rights department will depend on the size of the list and the range of possible rights to be sold, as well as the perceived importance of the rights function to the company. In a very small or very new publishing house, it may well be impossible to devote the entire time of even one member of staff to the rights function, and in such cases rights deals may have to be handled on an ad hoc basis by staff whose role is primarily in editorial, promotion, sales or perhaps production work. However, as the scale of rights business expands, it will be important to dedicate more time and resources to proactive work in this area. Whoever handles the rights, it is important for them to have access to key information on what rights are available to handle, and also whether rights sales may be complicated by the fact that the work includes third-party copyright material for which permission may be limited to the original edition and would have to be recleared for onward licences; this information can be complex and is normally held in the location of ﬁrst publi-
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ground knowledge on the rights status of each title.