Releasing the profit potential

Clare Hodder
Opinion - Publishing Monday, 09 April 2018

RightZone, a new rights system, launches at the London Book Fair. Clare Hodder introduces it

Rights teams generate pure, bottom-line profit. Yet at least 50% of what a rights person does is administrative. If you could free up that 50% admin time, and turn it into selling time, you could potentially double your rights income without adding any additional headcount.

Back in 2007, that realisation is what drove me, then a rights director for a major publisher, to persuade senior and technology colleagues that rights needed to be part of our new publishing solution. What was initially a single line in an RFP document turned into a fantastic rights sales tool. Following a lot of hard work from my team and the developers, we were able to deliver what we had hoped - halving the time we spent on admin and doubling the rights revenue.

A few years later, when my colleague Ruth Tellis and I set up Rights2 Consultants, we were surprised to discover how many rights teams (large and small) are making do with technology that doesn’t really work for them. Rights people are resourceful, and will find a way to work with whatever tools they have to hand. If that means using a card index system, a complicated matrix of spreadsheets, or having to flit between separate editorial, production, marketing, and distribution systems to get a deal done, they will. Even where teams have access to rights databases (bespoke, off-the-shelf or part of a wider enterprise system) there are still so many workarounds. We also found that they lack many of the "short-cuts" or tools that we had developed previously to get the deal process completed more quickly; and they seem to be built by technology people, who thought they knew how rights people might want to work, and not by actual rights people.

We met up with Ribbonfish, the publishing technology experts who had built our bespoke rights-solution, and shared our frustrations over a coffee. We felt strongly that our clients could do so much more - if only they had modern, intuitive and flexible technology tools to support them through the entire rights lifecycle (from recording the rights you have through tracking expressions of interest, managing submissions, negotiating deals, producing contracts and post-contract management to cancellation or renewal). And so just over a year ago we teamed up with Ribbonfish and formed RightsZone, with a mission to deliver exactly that.

Uniquely, our focus is on the process of selling rights, not on the data. Important though data is (and believe me, there are plenty of opportunities for storing data in RightsZone!), it is only useful to the extent that it drives or informs your processes, so you can get your deals done. We looked really carefully at all the processes involved in selling rights and thought about how you might achieve your objective at each stage, with the least amount of keying and clicking.

We know that no two rights teams work the same way, and we’ve seen too many examples of system implementations that don’t work properly because they impose a rigid route through the system that doesn’t suit users. To address that we have built in flexible options that allow users to choose the method that suits them best. The ability to move seamlessly between your contacts, titles and deal records, collaborating easily with colleagues and customers, together with powerful reporting and analytical tools, make RightsZone a game changer for people working in rights.

We’ve built RightsZone on one of the world’s largest and most trusted cloud platforms - Salesforce. This is significant because it gives users fantastically secure, reliable and fast access to RightsZone wherever they are in the world, from any device. The platform is constantly evolving, so you don’t need to worry about the technology becoming obsolete and IT departments being unwilling to support it in a few years’ time.

An important aspect of RightsZone is our user community. We are passionate about rights and rights people. We know our users have a lot to contribute, and we are excited about listening, sharing and collaborating with them as part of a community of rights enthusiasts, on a journey to innovate and evolve both RightsZone and rights licensing practice more generally. In the digital world, every transaction is a rights deal, and we think that makes the future very exciting for rights people.

We believe that in RightsZone we have built the rights system that rights professionals deserve, going beyond a database, to encompass workflow tools that streamline every aspect of the rights sales process. Using RightsZone, rights people can be free of the overwhelming admin burden so that they can get on with the job they love doing - developing new business opportunities and making great deals - and that can make a huge difference.

As I can testify, helping your rights teams achieve more is a quick and easy way of boosting your bottom line profit - so why wouldn’t you?

Photo: Ruth Tellis (left) and Clare Hodder.

Clare Hodder is director, RightsZone. The service will exhibit at the Ribbonfish stand, 6E70, part of the Independent Publishers Guild collective exhibit at the London Book Fair. Email

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