Neil Walker joined IPR as Senior Account Manager in October 2018. We caught up with him recently to ask him about his new role, and about the future of rights and permissions transactions.
1) How did you get into publishing in the first place? Tell us a bit about your background and about some of the roles you’ve had to date?
Much by accident — while working a till at Waterstones, Amalgamated Book Services approached me to represent their lists for companies such as Mitchell Beazley and Kogan Page in the London territory. Apart from a few years working in New Zealand as a Communications Advisor, I have worked in pretty much every aspect of the trade from supply chain management, digital library sales to account management. In my previous position at Greenleaf Publishing I was responsible for permissions and rights which is what brought me to IPR License.
2) Can you tell us what your job as Senior Account Manager at IPR entails?
In essence, we promote, identify sales opportunities and generally facilitate foreign rights sales from our members titles to publishers globally. Central to my role is developing positive collaborative relationships with all relevant stakeholders and be the first point of call for members to effectively sell their intellectual property. Coming from a publishing and sales background rather than a straight rights one, my approach is very much from a publisher’s point of view. In particular, exploring alternative and new sources of revenue generation. Consequently, a day in the department is typified by a number of conference calls across time-zones to develop online rights strategies, discuss key titles and fine tune the platform where necessary.
3) Rights and licensing automation is central to the IPR offering. Can you briefly explain how Instant Rights and Instant Permissions are helping to facilitate business deals for your customers?
The profitability tools enable the automation of activities that allow publishers to buy and sell rights and permissions in the virtual sphere 24/7. Thus a rights-holder in Kansas can wake up to see a completed rights deal through to payment from a buyer in say Shanghai.
The nice thing is that the tool it fits into existing rights ecosystems. Hence, publishing companies and rights departments of all sizes will use the same tools but in different way. For instance, some of our larger members are using Instant Rights to automatically handle low value transactions in order to concentrate on high level deals, while some of our smaller partners who don’t have a rights department use the tools to establish presence in market for the first time. In all cases the instant functionality improves ROI on all rights activities. Because it is customisable, the publisher controls which types of deals (such as language, territory) are serviced automatically and which deals are directed to the rights team.
A flat fee option also means no more chasing royalty statements on low value deals and with payments collected on line it means no more chasing payment. Because it is online, it allows you to monitor where interest for your rights is located.
I think it is obvious that this new model represents the future of rights and permission transactions and opens a myriad of exciting opportunities for publishers whatever the size .
4) At the end of last year, you went to Singapore to speak at StoryDrive Asia. Can you give us your impressions of the Asian market right now and did you get to meet some interesting publishers?
The two-day event brought together a panel of international experts to offer advice to different media industries including publishing from Southeast Asia and the Pacific in order to use new technologies and innovative approaches to ‘future proof’ business in the creative industries. I certainly learnt a lot about the quality of content being produced in places such as Singapore and Indonesia and was particularly impressed by the drive and energy of the Malaysian book industry and their campaign to secure Kuala Lumpur as World Book Capital City for 2020. Within this vibrant and creative context the potential to sell rights to places such as North America and Europe for example is greater than ever. What I would say is that I think more rights business could be done between rights professional within the region. Naturally, events such as StoryDrive Asia are positively changing the way publishers in this market are viewing their rights potential.
5) What kind of books do you like reading for pleasure?
Of late it has been largely non-fiction titles that have made it onto my nightstand. I have just finished reading The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by The Secret Barrister which I found an eye-opening, depressing and grimly hilarious look at a world I fortunately know little about.
6) If you could meet one fictional hero of yours, who would it be and why?
This is the toughest question but, right now, it would be Frank Owen the itinerant prophet from The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. From a book that could have been written yesterday, I would love to hear Owen’s analysis and prescription for our current day socio-political maladies.
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