Beyond “Blokey” DIY: UK Rights Pro of the Year Graham Cook on Expanding Opportunities

In Growth Markets by Liz Bury

Graham Cook

By Liz Bury

LONDON: In the eight years that Graham Cook has sold rights for Haynes he’s seen it transform from being “the car manual specialist” into a publisher with much broader reach.

In its early days Haynes produced books about how to deconstruct and reassemble cars. Its range of customers was limited to car book publishers. Since branching into new subjects like computers, home and leisure, and children’s books, the pool of potential buyers is much more varied. It’s for building up these new relationships that Cook recently won the Rights Professional of the Year Award, sponsored by Frankfurt Book Fair, at the UK Bookseller Industry Awards.

He says: “In the past when I went to book fairs people knew Haynes’ brand very well — for the car manuals. We only had conversations with publishers who do car books. Now, we have many more opportunities.”

Haynes built its reputation on manuals which involve bringing a vehicle into the studio, disassembling it and photographing it, and then documenting how to put it back together again. The technique has more recently been applied to new subjects like bicycles, computers and electric guitars; and the publisher has developed instruction manuals and other types of books like cycle route guides to compliment its new and existing subjects.

Cook admits that the list is still “blokey” — its first foray into the health and family reference market was the popular Man Manual, about men’s health — but it’s also aiming to appeal to the broader family market too, with books like the Baby Manual, the Teenager Manual and the Woman Manual.

The children’s list has brought Haynes’ brand to a younger audience: The Thomas the Tank Engine Manual gives the Haynes treatment to the popular children’s train character, showing how Thomas works, how his driver operates him and how the engineers keep him in top condition. While Egmont publishes Thomas the Tank Engine stories, Haynes has found a way to apply its distinctive style to the property.

Deals for the car manuals were originally made mostly with publishers in other English-speaking markets like South Africa and Australia, as well as some northern European countries, and regions like South America. The new lists have broadened the range of publishers to which Haynes sells within these markets.

Cook, who studied modern languages and speaks fluent French, says the best part of the job for him is making and developing contacts from all over the world. “I can look down my list of appointments at a book fair and see that I have a conversation with a Russian, and then maybe someone from Denmark. Over time many of these people become friends. They are contacts that I socialize with in the evenings, too.”

Cook joined Haynes first as marketing executive to establish the publisher in France, and in 1998 became overseas sales and rights director with responsibility for all export sales, foreign rights and co-editions. His latest innovation has been building up an email distribution list for a monthly rights e-newsletter, which details the latest available titles. “I usually get a few leads from it. It’s a useful way to keep customers informed of what’s coming up,” says Cook.

After a quiet London Book Fair this year, Haynes is anticipating a lively time in Frankfurt. “Publishers of all sorts now stop by the stand, when in previous years they would know us only for car books. I’m selling rights now to lots of new and different people.”

DISCUSS: Who is your favorite foreign rights rep?

VISIT: The Haynes Web site

About the Author

Liz Bury

Liz Bury is a full-time journalist who lives in London.