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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Industry Insights: Zoe King, Rights Executive at Hachette

This issue we spoke to Zoe King, who is a Rights Executive at Hachette, about her experience of the rights department and her current role in Sheffield.


What does a typical day as a Rights Executive look like? How does it differ from a typical day as a Rights Assistant?

 

A typical day for me is a mix of meetings (which are predominantly virtual as I work in Hachette’s Sheffield office, not in London), admin tasks and lots of emails! I’m either submitting books to literary scouts or to publishers – I sell large print and audio rights, and translation rights in various territories – along with following up on interest, logging feedback, negotiating deal terms, updating authors’ agents, drafting contracts or processing signed agreements and invoicing, and helping my team with admin. I also, predictably, read a lot – I think it’s important to have a feel for as much of the material as possible before you’re trying to convince someone else they should buy the rights to a book and publish it!

 

The main difference between being a Rights Assistant vs Executive is the additional selling responsibilities – as an assistant I sold some domestic rights and handled translation renewal deals for my team, whereas I now have my own translation territories to look after.

 

What surprises people most about your job or the rights department more widely?

 

I think one of the most surprising parts of rights is the importance of being nosy! We always want to know where big books are selling internationally and to which publishers. We want to know what’s working in the different translation territories and what’s not. We speak to publishers across the world all the time about their markets and tastes. We embrace our inner Nancy Drews to try to track down old copyright holders. We keep an eye on what’s selling well and how books we lost out on acquiring sell internationally. So if you have a thirst for knowledge, and like knowing the gossip then maybe give a rights role a go!

 

How did your experience as Operations & Outreach Lead in the translation industry prepare you for your work in publishing? 

 

While I don’t condone that entry-level jobs should require years of work experience, I can’t not acknowledge that the foundation of skills I gained from my previous roles undoubtedly helped me to hit the ground running when I entered publishing. I had already honed skills like inbox management, juggling priorities and working out the best time and organisation management methods for me (I like Trello boards, Outlook calendar reminders and brain dumping in OneNote!) and I’ve been able to bring my experiences from a different industry to drive efficiencies and improve processes in my team.

 

My operations role is actually a voluntary one; after finishing uni I helped my friend to set up and run a mindfulness-for-kids app called Wee Seeds. I would highly recommend gaining experience through startups and social enterprises as they’re environments where everything needs to be done, there usually aren’t any strict processes or hierarchies in place, and they’re usually formed of very small teams. As such, there’s the flexibility and opportunity to try out lots of different things (helpful for your CV and working out your interests!) and take full ownership over projects. Through Wee Seeds I’ve learned a whole host of things from using Mailchimp and Canva, through to setting up a social impact programme from scratch. I’ve found them to be very flexible environments where you can get hands-on experience in areas you might not encounter in full-time work.

 

Are there any key skills or experiences you feel are ideal for someone who wants to build a career in rights? 

 

My advice for anyone interested in a role in rights is to try to spot rights deals out in the wild as much as possible, and see what trends you can identify. For example, have a look for translated editions on an author’s Amazon or Goodreads profile. If there are lots of translated editions, think about what made it travel; why is it so unique or standout that publishers would choose to translate and publish it, rather than find a local author to write something similar? For example, are they a big bestselling brand author? Is it non-fiction written by a key expert? Take a look at the covers – do they all follow the English edition (á la the TikTok effect), or are they tailored to the individual markets? If you’re more interested in domestic rights, head to your local library and check their large print section; what authors/titles/genres crop up? Scan the weekend newspapers and supplements for book extracts – which types of authors do they feature? You can learn so much about the rights landscape by being inquisitive!

 

What sort of progression can a publishing hopeful expect to see in rights in their first five years?

 

I’m perhaps not the best person to ask as I’ve only been in rights for a year and a half; but I’d say you can expect to be exposed to lots of opportunities and experiences – the chance to sell rights in different formats and markets; to attend book fairs and possibly go on sales trips; to begin building a network of contacts across the industry, and the world. You’ll also get to trace lots of books from acquisition to publication in both the UK market and in translation territories. I find it so exciting to hear about our translation publishers’ campaign plans, and see a book take off internationally!

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