Why Choose to Work in Content Licensing and Permissions at PRH?
What is Permissions & Content Licensing?
The Permissions & Content Licensing team at Penguin Random House UK licenses third parties the right to use extracts, illustrations and covers of Penguin Random House UK books. They receive a huge variety of permission requests from authors, publishers, exam boards, charities and TV, film and radio producers.
When the Permissions & Content Licensing team receives a permission request, they check which rights, territories and formats Penguin Random House UK controls under the book’s publishing contract. If they control permission rights, often referred to as "Quotation" or "A&Q" rights, they liaise with the book’s editor and author before negotiating a permission fee and drafting a licence and invoice. Licensing permissions is a substantial revenue stream for Penguin Random House UK and boosts the profile of their books and authors.
We spoke to the Permissions & Content Licensing team and they all highlighted how rewarding a team it is to work in, and that “permissions and content licensing often goes under the radar and [they] want to shine a light on how interesting and important this area of the industry is.” They shared with us how they each got into this fascinating area of publishing and what their view for the future might be.
Why Choose to Work in Permissions & Content Licensing?
Pollie and Kate, who are Permissions & Content Licensing Assistants, told us that they both originally went into Law. Pollie worked as a Fee Earner at Eversheds Sutherland, which was an amazing introduction to the legal sector and really honed her skills in drafting, negotiation and client care. She explained that once she realised a career in law wasn’t for her, she was unsure how her skills would fit into publishing, but when her current role came up “it felt like the perfect opportunity to transition.” She also notes that working in “a job with clear progression and growth” is a part of her role she really appreciates. Similarly, Kate completed her undergraduate degree in Ireland and began working in a law office, primarily focusing on property law. She mentions that she “always had a love of books and a fascination with publishing as an industry.” After completing a masters in Legal and Political Theory at the University of Warwick in 2022 she began searching for a route into publishing that would match her skills and education. Contracts seemed an obvious starting point and at Penguin Random House the Permissions & Content Licensing team works within the wider Contracts & Business Affairs department. Her role now “involves a good mix of reading through contracts to understand the rights [the company] holds and in which territories, as well as daily correspondence with customers, authors and agents.”
Andy, Marva and Kimberley, who are Permissions & Content Licensing Executives within the team, all too had some degree of experience in the legal sector before joining the team at Penguin Random House. Andy had worked in permissions before at the Publishers' Licensing Services (PLS) and found it to be “a really interesting area with a lot of opportunities for growth.” He also explains that he was “keen to work for Penguin Random House, so when the two married up, it was a match made in heaven.” Whereas, Marva “had always loved copyright law: exploiting the rights within the work, helping the inner contents of the work take on different life and longevity.”
Marva explains that she has always been in the entertainment industry working within music and TV, but the area she loved the most was literature. After doing her degree and LPC she signed up to an entertainment legal agency and was lucky to get her first publishing job in the Contracts team at Random House, which she says was “a massive dream come true!” She also notes that she “stepped away from publishing to focus on raising a family, and also worked on music pitches for commercials, TV and film trailers but her heart was always with publishing and she is very happy that her experience led her back to a place that she says “feels like home.”
Kimberley went to university set on becoming a solicitor: studied Law at University of Birmingham and then did the Legal Practice Course (LPC) LLM. After five months of applying for paralegal and other entry-level legal roles, she decided to expand the job search to legal-adjacent roles in the creative industries. In addition to law, she also had a creative background and thought that marrying the two would be a good fit. She noted that what she thinks helped her get the role was having varied experience and showing her personality in the application and interview. She also had some legal experience, an internship in an FMCG startup and even a stint as the Secretary of her university’s Karaoke Society!
When researching the role, Kimberley says she “understood what Permissions and Content Licensing involved on paper, but working in this area has totally exceeded my expectations. It’s a great mix of commercial, academic, creative and sometimes personal requests, and it’s wonderful to play a small part in realising peoples’ projects. The team is still growing, which means I have been able to have an impact from day one, and that there’s still so much the team can do.”
Laura Forker, the Permissions & Content Licensing Manager, shared that she “joined Penguin Random House a decade ago as Permissions Assistant. I moved away from Permissions into Contracts & Business Affairs but found my way back a few years ago when the opportunity arose to manage the Permissions team. The team has grown so much since then and we are always finding new ways to license rights and shine a light on our authors’ work. I find the work we do incredibly fulfilling and varied.”
Deputy Contracts & Business Affairs Director, Matt says “I started out thirteen years ago in a role at The Wylie Agency, where a big part of my job was to handle Permissions requests received by the agency – so I have always had a fondness for that area of the publishing world. Three years later I moved into a role in the Contracts & Business Affairs department at Penguin Random House – and two years ago jumped at the opportunity to get involved again with the Permissions & Content Licensing team.” He explained that “in just the last eighteen months the team has gone through some rapid growth and change – and it’s been exciting to feel like we are our own little licensing start-up, evolving the traditional permissions model into a more commercial and wider-reaching content licensing venture. It feels like the sky is the limit and we’re all excited to see what the future holds.”