Rights Aren’t Just for Rights Directors Anymore: Talking with Kris Kliemann

In News by Erin L. Cox

Can you afford not to capitalize on every revenue opportunity your content offers? Rights and licensing specialist Kris Kliemann says that in publishing today, rights are your whole staff’s business.

Image – iStockphoto: Wut Whan Foto

There’s a trend toward rights transactions gaining visibility—and having more impact—not just at trade shows but in publishing’s daily business. As sales evolve in the digital dynamic, how well rights are exploited, Kris Kliemann tells us, now may be pivotal to success. And a reminder: London Book Fair has an Introduction to Rights half-day conference March 13.—Porter Anderson


By Erin L. Cox | @erinlcox

‘Maximizing Opportunities’
London Book Fair will bring together as many as 25,000 agents, rights directors, editors, and publishers from many parts of the world to meet, share their lists, and transact rights deals.

Kris Kliemann

Although book fairs like those in London, Bologna, and Frankfurt are as essential to the rights business as they’ve always been, according to global rights specialist Kris Kliemann, publishers need to expand their understanding of rights and licenses beyond these fairs and even beyond their rights departments in order to take advantage of all the prospects available in this new global marketplace.

If rights and licensing doesn’t become a focus throughout the entire publishing value chain, publishers, agents, and authors not only are leaving money on the table, but they’re also potentially opening themselves up to misuse and misappropriation of content.

“Today, publishers cannot rely solely on retail and library sales as they have in the past,” Kleimann tells Publishing Perspectives.

“Maximizing opportunities offered through licensing rights has now become an even more essential revenue stream for every publisher’s and author’s profits. This needs to be a focus of not only the rights department, but also something publishers should invest in—training every employee to understand rights.”

With what some see as a stagnation of sales (the Association of American Publishers reported a decline in the first half of 2016), publishers must look to foreign, digital, and licensing deals to help shore up bottom lines.

In earlier days, rights deals were siloed in the rights and editorial departments. But now every department must play a part in capitalizing on these opportunities, Kliemann says, while protecting a publisher’s assets and author’s intellectual property to avoid incurring fines or legal fees.

“Digital publishing and the expansion to new markets has made it easier than ever,” she says, “for publishers to sell both frontlist and backlist,” said Kliemann. “It has also made it easier for publishers to make a small mistake—not acquiring photo rights in a textbook for sale in all markets, selling rights (often ebooks or specific markets) they don’t have—that could get them into legal or financial trouble.”

Engaging the Staff in Rights
“Digital publishing and expansion to new markets makes it easier for publishers to make a small mistake that could get them into legal or financial trouble.”Kris Kliemann

Kliemann lists several factors essential to every department’s understanding of rights:

  • Copy editors and production editors should check permissions for any third-party content within a book (quotations, photos, illustrations) for all markets, both print and digitally—not just the publisher’s own print run or primary sales territories;
  • Marketing and publicity departments should clear excerpts, internal photos, and author photos for publicity use;
  • Sales, publicity, and marketing should keep track of key events or anniversaries that can be capitalized on in their work and shared with the rights department to exploit in the marketplace—this is important to all parties as they promote backlist to a new audience of readers and buyers; and
  • Everyone should be trained in the importance of how to read a contract and basic copyright rules and laws. It’s too simple to make mistakes that could cost a publisher money—even as simple, Kliemann says, as Instagramming a photo from a book that hasn’t been cleared for publicity use.

It’s also the responsibility of the whole team, Kliemann says, to be aware of what content they have rights to in order to tap into current events and trends.

With all these new opportunities and items to sell, rights directors must streamline their own business so that they have the time, the relationships, and the understanding of what they’re selling to maximize their opportunities.

Kliemann and Jane Tappuni, consulting head of business development wiht IPR License, put together Ten Rights Hacks: Actionable Advice From Two Key Players, which they presented at Frankfurt Book Fair last fall, to give rights directors and publishers a better understanding of what to focus on and what to automate.


Kris Kliemann, president of Kliemann & Company LLC, will be at London Book Fair. For meetings, she can be contacted at kliemannkris@gmail.com.

Here is more information on London Book Fair’s March 13 Introduction to Rights half-day conference, 12:30 to 5 p.m.

About the Author

Erin L. Cox

Erin L. Cox is the Business Development Director for Publishing Perspectives and a Senior Associate at Rob Weisbach Creative Management, where she represents writers and handles publicity and advertising clients.