A teacher once told me, “Just because it’s a cliché doesn’t mean it’s not true.” I’ve quoted that here before, but it’s still true.
One publishing cliché in the true category is “You make your profit on rights.” It is often the case that a company’s net profitability is very close to the amount made on subsidiary rights income. Without rights you are in the red. So it behooves us all to do rights and do rights well. Tom Woll agrees. Here are some tips he offers:
* The Mighty-Oaks-from-Little-Acorns Principle. “Look for the big hit, but be happy with the small, continuous sale. Over time, it adds up to a large amount that adds directly to your profitability” (p. 233). Small can be beautiful, especially when lots and lots of smalls get together and have a party. But that can take some time. Be ready to persevere.
* Selling International Rights Is a Commitment. “You’ll need this because selling foreign rights isn’t cheap. . . . This is [another] long-term situation. Accept that” (p. 241). International travel can be especially expensive. Is it worth it? Our rights manager just walked in to my office with spreadsheets showing what contracts were signed as a result of two different trips. Comparing how much money they brought in to expenses can be a quick reality check.
* Shoot Straight When Conducting an Auction: Part 1. “Each respective party will undoubtedly ask you what the prior party’s offer is. While you may be somewhat coy, the unwritten rules of the game say that you ultimately must tell the person what the last bid figure is” (p. 256).
*Shoot Straight When Conducting an Auction: Part 2. “What you should never, ever do is misrepresent what is happening. Do not mislead an interested party into thinking someone else has given you an offer if they haven’t. Even if you think they might make an offer . . . the fact is, if you don’t have a valid offer in hand you don’t have an offer. Period. End of discussion. . . . You are in this business for the long haul. Your credibility is everything” (pp. 256-57).
I think I hear a theme here. Instant success may come, but don’t count on it. Be in it for the long haul.