The Truth About Rights and Royalties: What Publishers Need to Know Now

By Richard Whittington, SVP, Media and Entertainment, SAP, and Amos Biegun, Global Head, Rights and Royalties, Vistex

This is the fifth in a series of exclusive industry insights from SAP. You can read the previous stories here, here, here and here.

Literary publishing encompasses a broad landscape these days. It swings from the tradition of producing hardcovers, paperbacks, and textbooks to e-books and audiobooks. But although their services have evolved to remain relevant, the industry is beginning to grow as complex as film and television studios, especially when it comes to rights and royalty management.

The days of the straightforward flow from acquiring rights from the author and publishing books to sub-licensing with other companies and splitting the revenue with the author are long gone. Now, authors are retaining a lot more of their rights, instead of handing them over to the publisher. Meanwhile, publishers are getting more sophisticated in how they manage all those rights, leaving behind the practice of that simple, predetermined split.

Like film and television studios, literary publishers are producing books in a wide variety of forms. And this new model is introducing an ecosystem of professionals, in addition to the author, into the process. The illustrator, audiobook producer, digital e-book programmer, translator, and many others are also packaging the book into different products that readers demand and expect.

The more expansive this value chain becomes, the more complex the rights and royalty equation – making agreements more sophisticated with new financial and settlement terms.

It’s time to bring simplicity back

As the industry evolves, more gaps and weaknesses are being exposed in areas such as co-publications, which are turning into revenue-share agreements instead of royalty agreements. In response, most publishers are using a mix of specialized applications developed by third-party providers and their in-house IT team to handle the intricacies of rights and royalty management.

Unfortunately, this piecemeal approach to digitalizing rights and royalty management can potentially miss critical aspects of tracking underlying activities. Such responsibilities include ensuring the right people are given the appropriate percentage of revenue as well as securing the right to publish the next edition or press run of the book content. And when these areas of the business are not handled with real-time transparency and insight, complexity turns into lost opportunities for revenue growth.

With a complete, end-to-end rights and royalty management solution, such as SAP S/4HANA for rights and royalty management by Vistex, the clearance and handling of underlying rights for all content formats are better coordinated and more forthright.

Publishers can maximize the return on the intellectual property, analyze sales results, project the success of another book by the same author, and collaborate with every internal person and external partner across the value chain.

Perhaps more importantly, they can even pinpoint and exploit new revenue opportunities.

Take, for example, the growing popularity of literary subscriptions. A single, complete solution for rights and royalty management helps publishers handle challenges that have never been considered before. It can automatically map the monthly, quarterly, or annual fee against content selections and leverage a separate algorithm to calculate which contributors should be paid and how much.

Radical transformation calls for a new normal

Sometimes, an industry is transformed from the outside-in. But the sweeping changes happening across literary publishing call for something much deeper, more data-driven, and, above all, intelligent. Even something as familiar as rights and royalties management needs a technology-enabled shake-up – one that has no fear of knocking things over and trying something totally new.

Find out how SAP S4/HANA for rights and royalty management by Vistex can help your literary publishing business move rights and royalty management from an administrative task to an opportunity for operational transformation.