• The Publishing Post

Upskilling for the Rights Department

A new year has begun: that means a new addition to our department series at the upskilling team! We covered a lot of ground last year but we wanted to finish off this series in 2021, featuring a few more departments that we think are important to acknowledge. With translated co-editions being published in different territories, rights are a key part of international sales. For those who might have an interest in rights, there are a variety of skills that you can develop in preparation for your first job. Here are our top tips:


Job-specific Advice


Administrative skills are key to most publishing jobs. Maintaining your personal admin in an organised and proactive way is one way that you can prepare for an office environment, remote or otherwise. This is particularly important in the rights department. When writing contracts between authors, publishers and other stakeholders in the publishing process, you need a meticulous eye for detail.

Microsoft Office skills, especially Excel, are essential. Having the ability to create invoices and process orders, as well as maintaining internal database systems and tracking production information, could all be part of an entry-level position. A knowledge of these areas could really give your application that competitive edge!

While language skills are not mandatory, having a second language under your belt could definitely help you when working in international rights. If you have an interest in foreign languages and linguistics, why not look for online courses to boost your fluency in your chosen language(s)?

Despite some dates being subject to change due to the pandemic, commercial awareness can be gained at book fairs such as Bologna (June), London (July), Beijing (August), Frankfurt (October) and Shanghai (November). Since so many industry events are virtual during COVID-19, we recommend following these events on social media to hear the latest news.


Bonus tip! Educating yourself on cultural values and beliefs around the globe is key to understanding what types of titles may or may not sell or translate across worldwide territories.


Online Resources


Getting subscriptions to Publishing Perspectives and The Bookseller will keep you up to date with industry news such as international sales and rights developments across the publishing sphere.

How to Get Into Publishing powered by Book Machine is a recorded webinar now available on the Society Young Publishers (SYP)’s YouTube channel. It covers several publishing sectors, including rights and licensing with Sabby Kaur (Content Licensing Manager, Emerald Publishing).

The SYP London Autumn Virtual Conference 2020 had a full week of comprehensive panel and webinar discussions across various publishing specialisms. If you missed it, there are a series of blog posts that accompanied the conference, including a conversation with a Rights Assistant!

Introduction to Children’s Publishing is another recorded webinar on Nosy Crow’s YouTube channel. This talk features Senior Rights Manager, Michaela Pea, covering the skills that are required for a job in rights and what her specific role involves.

Online Courses


As always, please don’t feel like it’s compulsory to have completed numerous online courses before your first publishing role because most companies provide in-house training. However, if you have a particular interest in a specific area, here are some of our recommendations:

Though not necessary for entry-level positions, it may be useful to have a solid understanding of ‘Copyright Essentials’, including rights and permissions. This paid course from The Publishing Training Centre offers insight into the basics and beyond.

If you’re super keen on getting to grips with the details, you could check out this free Future Learn course that explores both the history and the importance of copyright.

Top Podcast Recommendations


Listening to international book podcasts can improve your global perspective of the literary world. From the UK and the US to Africa, here are some highly recommended podcasts:


The Guardian Books offers weekly insights into the book world. This includes interviews with authors around the world, book reviews and discussions about consumer publishing trends.

London Review Bookshop features recordings of live events including readings, debates and a variety of special guests with over 200 episodes so far.

Not Another Book Podcast takes a dive into the African literary scene. These refreshing, humorous discussions about African authors and their titles explore explore the meanings of recent publications.

The Book Review, hosted by the New York Times, interviews critics, authors and journalists about the weekly bestsellers and more broadly explores the literary world. Click here for a list of previous episodes.


Thanks for reading our feature on the rights department. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Issue 15, where we will cover upskilling for publicity and PR!

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