Texts on publishing (IV)
My first job in publishing was commissioning editor at Cassell. I was aware that editors at other companies had slightly different titles – Commissioning & Acquisitions Editor, for example, or plain Acquisitions Editor. And, when I looked into this, I found that ‘Acquisitions’, though often a synonym for ‘Commissioning’, sometimes indicated a greater emphasis on rights buy-ins.
I wasn’t much interested in the latter, partly because it didn’t sound very creative – where’s the fun in acquiring a book that someone else has developed? – and partly because the whole business of rights, which is rather jargon-ridden, sounded obscure. I don’t think that now – and would not have thought it then, had I been able to read Publishing Without Boundaries: How to Think, Work, and Win in the Global Marketplace, by Michael N. Ross (Association of Educational Publishers, 2007).
Much writing on rights is detailed and technical, attending to such matters as the definition of certain kinds of rights and licensing and the precise wording of agreements. That kind of guidance is needed of course – but there’s also a need for more introductory material. This where Publishing Without Boundaries comes in.
Ross is very good at outlining the bigger picture – showing what makes a good rights deal and how rights business fits into publishing as a whole. There’s very practical advice, not only on agreements but on the strategic, commercial, and pragmatic aspects of rights deals.
This is very much an enabling book, blending exposition, checklists, and insights derived from professional experience. The chapters on publishing strategy (Ch. 2, ‘Publish Locally, Publish Globally’) and the basis for deal-making (Ch. 6, ‘Rights and Wrongs – The Basis of a Good Deal’) are especially helpful. Perhaps the best of all is Ch. 10 (‘Taking “Yes” for an Answer’) on ‘how, when, to whom, and under what conditions you should tell the rights to your IP’.
The book, published in New Jersey, USA, is I think little known in the UK, which is a shame because it accomplishes the task it sets out to do – namely, to provide ‘a road map to the essential aspects of international publishing’ – successfully.