Publishing rights manager

Publishing rights manager article illustration


Publishing rights managers are responsible for the copyrights of books. They organise the sale of these rights so books can be translated, made into movies, etc.

The duties of a publishing rights manager typically include, but are not limited to:

  • managing a small team (both freelance and in-house staff)
  • liaising with publishers, editors and production teams
  • agreeing rights for foreign editions, updates and co-editions
  • negotiating translation rights
  • maintaining positive working relationships with publishers
  • sharing information and opinions with contacts about the company’s range of books
  • identifying suitable new material for publication and liaising with relevant contacts
  • developing new links with UK and overseas publishers
  • writing ‘pitch’ letters to new contacts and ‘soft selling’ publications
  • undertaking negotiations with relevant partners regarding, for example, complex legal agreements and contracts
  • identifying new publication opportunities and initiating contact
  • submitting proposals for new publications to the editorial team, using your market knowledge
  • preparing for and attending major trade events, such as book fairs, to make new contacts and sell publications
  • ensuring that the publication of specific books progresses to schedule
  • travelling overseas to attend meetings and develop new contacts
  • assessing the financial viability of agreements
  • overseeing invoicing systems and monitoring payments
  • keeping accurate and up-to-date records
  • setting departmental targets and ensuring these are met.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to publishing rights manager:

senior rights manager
publishing rights coordinator
rights and publishing manager
publishing and rights director
publishing & rights director
rights manager
foreign rights director
rights executive
digital rights manager
rights coordinator
publishing rights director
digital rights director
domestic rights director
rights director
rights & publishing manager
domestic rights manager
foreign rights manager
head of rights

Working conditions

Publishing rights manager work for an agency or a publishing house, and they need to build up a good network of contacts to become successful. They may need to travel to negotiate sales and to attend book fairs.

The job is largely office-based, but it does require the usual travel to meet with contacts and authors for rights negotiations. Travel opportunities (to attend book fairs and conferences) are also common here, although this may depend on seniority (more experienced managers may get to travel).

Freelance work as a rights manager in publishing is not usual, but it is possible for those who already have established credentials and, more importantly, the contacts.

Minimum qualifications

Publishing rights managers usually have degrees in humanities and in publishing, with some employers preferring one over the other. Trade or specialist companies may want applicants to have a background in their field as well, but in general those with a background in publishing, media, and marketing are favoured.

The job requires good communications and negotiation skills. Smaller companies even require rights managers to handle the marketing of titles too, so marketing skills are essential as well.

In general, this area is one which involves a lot of persuading and negotiating. Companies dealing with foreign rights may want their rights managers to know some a foreign language.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Publishing rights manager is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Publishing rights manager career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to publishing rights manager.

broadcasting programme director
talent agent
sport official
tour operators manager
assistant video and motion picture director

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of publishing rights manager. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of publishing rights manager with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

music producer
book publisher
video and motion picture producer
movie distributor

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of publishing rights manager.

  • Copyright legislation: Legislation describing the protection of the rights of original authors over their work, and how others can use it.
  • Financial jurisdiction: Financial rules and procedures applicable to a certain location, whose regulatory bodies decide on its jurisdiction

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of publishing rights manager.

  • Follow work schedule: Manage the sequence of activities in order to deliver completed work on agreed deadlines by following a work schedule.
  • Manage staff: Manage employees and subordinates, working in a team or individually, to maximise their performance and contribution. Schedule their work and activities, give instructions, motivate and direct the workers to meet the company objectives. Monitor and measure how an employee undertakes their responsibilities and how well these activities are executed. Identify areas for improvement and make suggestions to achieve this. Lead a group of people to help them achieve goals and maintain an effective working relationship among staff.
  • Negotiate publishing rights: Negotiate the sale of the publishing rights of books to translate them and adapt them into movies or other genres.
  • Finish project within budget: Make sure to stay within budget. Adapt work and materials to budget.
  • Develop professional network: Reach out to and meet up with people in a professional context. Find common ground and use your contacts for mutual benefit. Keep track of the people in your personal professional network and stay up to date on their activities.
  • Assess financial viability: Revise and analyse financial information and requirements of projects such as their budget appraisal, expected turnover, and risk assessment for determining the benefits and costs of the project. Assess if the agreement or project will redeem its investment, and whether the potential profit is worth the financial risk.
  • Negotiate with artists: Communicate and negotiate with artist and artist management about prices, terms and schedules.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of publishing rights manager. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Market analysis: The field of market analysis and research and its particular research methods.
  • Marketing principles: The principles of managing the relationship between consumers and products or services for the purpose of increasing sales and improving advertising techniques.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of publishing rights manager. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Plan marketing strategy: Determine the objective of the marketing strategy whether it is for establishing image, implementing a pricing strategy, or raising awareness of the product. Establish approaches of marketing actions to ensure that goals are achieved efficiently and over a long term.
  • Liaise with book publishers: Establish working relationships with publishing companies and their sales representatives.
  • Liaise with financiers: Liaise with people willing to finance the project. Negotiate deals and contracts.
  • Manage contracts: Negotiate the terms, conditions, costs and other specifications of a contract while making sure they comply with legal requirements and are legally enforceable. Oversee the execution of the contract, agree on and document any changes.
  • Consult with editor: Consult with the editor of a book, magazine, journal or other publications about expectations, requirements, and progress.
  • Perform market research: Gather, assess and represent data about target market and customers in order to facilitate strategic development and feasibility studies. Identify market trends.

ISCO group and title

3339 – Business services agents not elsewhere classified

  1. Publishing rights manager – ESCO
  2. Publishing rights manager job profile –
  3. Publishing Rights Manager: Job Description, Salary & Benefits – All About Careers
  4. Featured image: Photo by Stephen Phillips – on Unsplash
Last updated on February 21, 2023

What do you want to do with this job?

You will be brought to the forum page

Requires a business account

Requires a business account