A break from the norm today, as I interview Hannah Sheppard, Creative Director at IPR License. IPR License is the new digital and global marketplace for listing and licensing digital book rights. I asked Hannah about membership, what their service has to offer indie authors, and what evolutions we might see in the future.
Interview with Hannah Sheppard, Creative Director at IPR License
IPR License is the first digital and global marketplace to list and licence digital book rights. Already, you have a number of publishers in the program. Congratulations!! Could you please tell us how the membership works?
Publishers and agents can join IPR License to list the books they have rights in and are actively seeking deals for. While many publisher and agency rights departments are incredibly busy and active in selling international rights for front list titles, there often isn’t the resource available to devote time to looking for back list opportunities. It’s also true that, unless publishers have a really huge rights department, it’s difficult to maintain relationships across a range of territories and markets. By listing all their titles on IPR License publishers have the opportunity for their back list to be spotted and picked up by publishers in other territories. For example a publisher in another country who spots a particular gap in their market can search the site on very specific criteria and find a list of titles from around the world that might fit the bill then get in direct contact with the publisher in question.
Publishers Marketplace also lists digital rights offerings. How is your service different and/or better?
We think of ourselves as LinkedIn meets eBay for global publishing, so we’re there to help make international contacts as well as operating as a marketplace for the buying and selling of book rights. We also spend a great deal of time looking for helpful ways to link our clients to help them forge new working relationships.
For agents and traditional publishers, this seems a no-brainer. It provides an opportunity to list offerings as well as to assess the competition. What sorts of advantages do you see for indie authors? Why should we join?
The key advantage for authors is the detailed search engine. Our member publishers will use the search to find work that is specific to what they are looking for at any given time. This means that you have a better chance of being found at the right time for the right publisher as they could search and find your manuscript at any point during your membership – it isn’t a one shot submission. The publishing market is changing all the time, new trends pop up and publishers react (just look at the spate of self published erotica being snapped up by traditional houses since FIFTY SHADES OF GREY) and joining IPR License means that your work is ready and waiting when the market demands it.
Membership pricing begins at £99 ($160). Many indie authors write simply because they’re passionate about writing; for authors who don’t sell many books, this price is steep. What benefits come with author membership?
Publishing has always been based on people (traditionally publishing execs at major houses) putting money behind projects that they passionately believe in – if you believe in your writing and want to turn it into a career maybe now, with the renaissance in self-publishing, is the time to make that investment in your own work.
Publishing markets are fickle and there are many authors who report that they have greater success for their work in foreign markets than they do at home (Jonathan Coe is quoted as saying that his French editions outsell his UK editions 4 to 1). It would be very difficult as an English speaking author to know which markets your book might work well in and then to produce and sell a quality edition in an unfamiliar language – but getting a translation deal may bring in more revenue than the sales you’re making in your own language.
It’s all about creating opportunity and giving yourself every chance possible.
On your site, you mention working with UK literary agents. How likely is it that a self-published book would be picked up? For authors who may be interested, could you possibly share the criteria?
I have worked in trade publishing for over ten years and during that time I’ve built up relationships with a number of agents. I’m working with a couple of them to alert them to work I think has potential. This will primarily come down to the quality of the writing, the commercial appeal of the subject matter and what I know of their taste and what they’re likely to find appealing. It will also change as the market and various trends come and go though so it’s hard to be specific.
How likely do think it is that any author will actually sell their rights? I realize the site is new, but can you offer any concrete statistics? On what evidence are you basing the assumption that authors will sell their work?
Joining IPR License is a way to give yourself that extra chance of selling your rights. We don’t have any concrete statistics yet but we’re working with publishers to actively try to find opportunities for them and we’ve already passed enquiries between our member publishers so we definitely see the potential.
We know from recent publishing activity that publishers are looking more and more to self-published authors to find the next big thing (E. L. James, Sylvia Day, Abbi Glines) and joining IPR License can help that process.
Your site will enable authors to sell film, translation, audio, etc. rights. Is this advisable? Many authors hire an agent to negotiate the sale of rights. Wouldn’t DIY negotiation put authors at a disadvantage? If not, why not?
The aim of the site is to open up the opportunity for these types of sales to authors who either want to remain independent or who don’t have an agent. We would advise seeking advice at all stages, and can offer advice to member authors as well.
What, if anything, will IPR License do to facilitate relationships or help authors match with rights buyers?
It’s in our interest to ensure that deals happen and to prove that the IPR License site can create new opportunities so we’re keeping the communication open with all of our member publishers and are keen to find out what they’re looking for so that we can identify projects that they might be interested in.
Will interested authors have the opportunity to purchase marketing upgrades to showcase their work? If so, could you please share the details?
This isn’t something we’re considering at the moment but we do send out a regular newsletter to over 3,000 publishers in over 60 countries which highlights projects available through the site and we’re going to make our indie authors a regular feature of those. We’d also love to hear suggestions from our member authors of what they’d like us to offer and we can certainly discuss those ideas.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, we’re going to launch a ‘Know Your Rights’ campaign towards the end of January/early February as we’re keen to educate authors about the potential value there is in their work and the opportunities that are out there for them – this will also include a rights clinic for advice on how to handle different aspects of deals and we’ll be holding a free panel event featuring industry professionals towards the end of March – keep an eye on IPRLicense.com for more information about that.
We’re also happy to answer any questions people might have – you can reach us on [email protected].
About IPR License
IPR License is the platform on which to list and license literary rights. The ground-breaking platform offers the opportunity to monetise or find the best new content in a global marketplace. It also acts as a copyright hub making it easier to locate copyright holders to clear permission for use of their work.
About Hannah Sheppard
Hannah Sheppard started her career in trade publishing in 2002 as part of the editorial department at Macmillan Children’s Books. In 2007 she left to join Headline (part of the Hachette Group) where she established and ran their YA and Crossover fiction list. She has worked with authors such as Judy Blume, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Eva Ibbotson, Lian Hearn, Matthew Riley, Cecily von Ziegesar, Julianna Baggott, Cathy Brett, Andrew Hammond and Tanya Byrne. Books Hannah has edited have been nominated for various awards including the Crime Writer’s Association John Creasey Debut Dagger, the Richard & Judy Children’s Book Club, the People’s Book Prize and the Young Minds book award.
Hannah joined IPR License in 2012 as Creative Director and is responsible for working directly with authors and other content creators to add unlicensed work to the platform. Hannah Sheppard’s wide and varied trade contacts mean she is ideally placed to launch the IPR License agency which will select authors to represent under a traditional agency contract.
In your interview with Hannah Sheppard of IPR License, you are only seeing one side of the picture. IPR License may well serve a useful purpose for established writers with copyright issues but they seem to have discovered a lucrative sideline in taking subscriptions from unknown self-published authors like myself. They claim to have an ‘agent recommendation service’ for books they judge to be ‘commercially viable’. This raises two questions: (a) what proportion of subscribers are judged viable and (b) what do the rest get for their money (and it’s not cheap!). From my experience the answers are (a) only an occasional token writer (such as a subscriber recorded in Silverwood Books newsletter) and (b) nothing at all. Inquiries about viability are ignored. One only ever receives requests for more money for various book fairs. One’s book record remains in an IPR License database that supposedly is made available to agents but what agent on earth would want to search IPR License’s slush pile when he has one of his own that grows by the day? I don’t need to pay good money to have my book judged non-viable by default. I can have that service done for free by writing directly to any agent I please. A typical UK agent received 8000 submissions last year and took on five of them. Money paid to IPR License is not a subscription – it is merely a donation.
Regards Rob Collinge