Publishing Focus – Clare Hodder

October brings one of publishing’s most revered book fairs; Frankfurter Buchmesse. This week, we’re delighted to chat to highly-respected rights and licensing expert, Clare Hodder.
Read on for fascinating insights about rights and licensing, plus plenty of insider tips for attending Frankfurt.
Oh and while you’re here, check out the Ribbonfish survival guide to Frankfurt 2016.

Firstly, could you tell us a little about what your role is in the publishing industry?

For many years I led the rights team for a big academic publisher, where a key part of my role was to ensure we maximised the potential of our rights licensing operations. Key aspects of that role were developing effective relationships, curating and marketing content, negotiating good deals and developing efficient processes.
A couple of years ago I established Rights2 with my former colleague Ruth Tellis. Together we provide support for publishers, service providers and industry organisations on all aspects of rights – undertaking audits and reviews, providing mentoring and training, offering strategic advice and developing systems.

How long have you been attending the Frankfurt Book Fair, and have you seen it change over the past few years?

My first Frankfurt Book Fair was in 2000, and having a missed a couple through maternity leaves, this will be my 14th!  In some respects its changed quite a bit, most notably the re-organisation of the halls last year, along the lines of business specialisms rather than geography.
Until then, arriving at the book fair was a bit like Groundhog day, the same publishers on the same stands, year after year, just with different posters and books on display!  It made for a very easy and relaxed atmosphere, and was much harder to get lost or delayed.  Last year lots of people were missing appointments as there was much more travelling between stands and no-one knew where anyone was! Hopefully it will settle down a bit this year as people will be more familiar with the new set up.
Non-rights attendees seem to have really condensed their attendance more recently, the halls are noticeably quieter by Friday lunchtime, with Wednesday and Thursday being the key days for meetings (and parties!).
Some things never change though, the rights people will be on the stand setting up on the Tuesday, there before 9am until after 6pm Wednesday to Friday, and most of them will still be hard at it for at least the first half of Saturday!  The queue for the ladies toilets doesn’t ever seem to have shrunk either!

What’s your favourite (and least favourite!) part of the week?

OK, least favourite, sore feet, exhaustion, lack of fresh air, ‘Frankfurt Flu’, but these are all eclipsed by my favourite part which is meeting great people – both old friends and new.
A trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair always reminds me why I love publishing (and rights) so much. People are warm, creative, focused and full of energy and excitement about the great projects they are working on. It’s completely infectious.  And then of course there is the odd party and no trip to Frankfurt is complete without a late night visit to the Casablanca Bar!

In general, how important is Frankfurt for rights and licensing?

It is absolutely essential, particularly when travel budgets are being cut back more and more. It can be the only time of the year where you actually get to meet your customers face-to-face. Email and even Skype are extremely useful tools for managing licensing relationships on a day to day basis, but they just cannot replace the impact of real human contact!
Rights buyers and sellers develop their relationships over years of annual visits to the fair, exchanging stories of their families, politics and even small gifts, alongside business updates and title presentations.
Face-to-face meetings allow you to build up trust, understanding and even friendship in a way that is so much more effective than email alone. You can see well over 50 customers over the course of the fair, it is a really efficient and cost-effective way of meeting your market.

What are the main challenges faced by those involved with rights and licensing at the moment?

The global economic situation is probably the most significant challenge. There are many markets where numbers of publishers are contracting, or publishers are buying less. That’s been the case for a few years now though, and rights people have adapted. Deal values are lower and this is compensated for by working harder in order to sell more rights to more publishers.

Where do you see the future of the rights business in modern publishing?

Rights is at the heart of modern publishing. Consumers want their content in all sorts of different ways and digital enables content to be free of its traditional fixed formats – book, articles, etc. Non-rights people think of this as something new and exciting, but rights people (particularly permissions specialists) know that people have wanted to consume content this way for years, and have been happily licensing the re-purposing of content from their rights departments for decades!
Digital just makes it all more obvious and immediate. Rights people should be highly prized for their insight into this kind of content delivery.  Rights selling itself will need to evolve, the traditional ‘license narrowly’ approach will cease to be effective. Traditional forms of rights selling will continue. But the rights being traded, the terms and even the customers will be different.
Translation rights buyers will be demanding more digital uses so that they can exploit a multitude of content delivery methods and rights holders will need to relinquish more control, to enable that to happen. Translation rights buyers might be app developers, marketing companies or education providers as well as traditional publishers. Smart publishers will think creatively about partnerships and payment models that enable both rights holders and rights buyers to share the spoils from new markets, the alternative is to risk losing those markets altogether.

In what ways do you think publishers could improve the performance of their rights selling?

Every time we go to a publishing house we are shocked by how much rights people are hindered by the processes and systems they have in place. Rights can be admin heavy and its easy to get bogged down in paperwork and find yourself never having time to deal with core elements of the role like researching new opportunities, marketing and crucially, chasing up offers ,contracts and payments.
In our former role, Ruth and I halved the time spend on rights licensing processes which resulted in more time spent pro-actively researching markets and active selling, leading to doubling rights revenues! There is a quick test to see if you can introduce more efficiency in to your workflow.
If you have to re-key the same information more than once, you could be being more efficient. Every minute saved on admin, is a minute you can spend pro-actively developing your business, and every minute counts – improving workflow efficiency directly correlates to an improved bottom line!

What do you personally hope to get out of 2016’s show?

These days, we don’t have to spend our days at the fair turning over back to back 30 minute appointments, which makes us feel somewhat like imposters!
We have a mixture of objectives this year. We will be working with some of our clients, assisting them with events and appointments that they have lined up, using the opportunity to update ourselves on industry developments  and new products and of course meeting people, old contacts and new, identifying opportunities to collaborate, just as we always have done.

Finally, what tips would you give to someone attending for the first time?
  1. Eat a good breakfast (you never know how long it will be until you get the chance to eat again!)
  2. Wear comfortable shoes.
  3. Go to bed early (at least for the first night!),
  4. Bring Lemsip / sore throat sweets (if you don’t go down with the Frankfurt Flu, you will be hoarse from talking all day and night!).
  5. Time is really important, meetings are booked in 30 minute slots, you must pre book your appointments and get to them on time, if you don’t you will likely have missed your opportunity.
  6. Plan your appointments carefully, if you are on a stand all day, try and schedule yourself at least 1 break (you are more effective after a loo stop, some caffeine and something to eat!), if you are moving around, try to set up blocks of time for appointments in the same hall, and if you have to change hall, allow a half hour window for transitioning between them.
  7. Make sure you get to a few parties. Frankfurt is about people, and the parties are where you will find them!

A massive thanks to Clare for speaking to us. If you want to speak to Clare about her rights expertise, you can contact her via LinkedIn
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