Managing Contracts, Permissions and Royalties
Moving toward the utopian paperless operation, book publishers benefit from streamlining front-office operations.
Digital workflow technologies have changed the way books are created, produced and printed. Now, digital tools are beginning to spark some interest in other areas of the publishing organization—specifically, to better manage the wealth of information surrounding rights, royalties and contracts a publishing company amasses.
Nick Allen, vice president of marketing and sales of Quality Solutions Inc., an integrated publishing software and business solutions provider, recalls recent conversations with a woman who manages contracts for a medium-sized publisher. "She lives with this problem every single day," he says. "I can tell you that, in her office—which is about the same size as mine, 12 feet by 14 feet—she has floor-to-ceiling bookcases lining the walls … They're filled with binders of paper contracts. That's how she has to track the information. And that may seem incredibly archaic to some, but that is absolutely the reality for many publishers today."
Managing contractual and royalty information may seem like a problem that could be easily solved with technology—perhaps with a simple relational database—but it can be quite complicated, depending upon a publisher's volume and relationships with contributors.
"Contract administration has really grown out of the relationship between authors, agents, publishers and lawyers," Allen explains. "Think of how lawyers work. For the most part, they have a boilerplate contract that they've perfected over the years. And then they have variable terms and conditions that get plugged into that boilerplate contract. And that's the information that publishers really have to keep track of."
Seems simple enough, right? Hardly. Think about book publishers that collaborate with an unlimited number of contributors—from writers to illustrators to photographers. If there isn't a system in place for tracking who they've worked with, what their contracts stipulate, how the title has performed in terms of net sales and what they owe to contributors, it can enable things to fall through the cracks and compromise the publisher's reputation in the industry, especially with its network of contributors.