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Why Do Rights and Royalties Matter?

last updated 30 March 2017


Bright’s Contracts Manager, Sandra Tharumalingam Willmer, is excited about the rights and royalties opportunities Bright artists have, as well as the changes and opportunities for growth within the publishing industry for authors and illustrators.

Sandra says, “Our main aim is to make a contract work harder for each of our artists and authors. Both in terms of the rights we license for an artist and the royalty rates we obtain for those rights in the first instance. My focus is ensuring these rights are meaningful in terms of greater royalties earned and for the agency to be pro-active in exercising the rights retained.”

So what are rights? Why are they so important within the publishing industry and, in particular, to authors and illustrators? Is it important to think about royalties – yes! We discuss this hot topic in the lead up to Bologna with Sandra.

Previously Senior Business Affairs Manager at Walker Books in the UK, Sandra has also worked in Contracts at The Random House Group, Hachette and SAGE Publications Ltd.

Her move to the Bright’s London office last year was her first role within an agency after many years working for publishers across children’s, adult trade and academic/STM publishing. Bright is hugely advantaged by Sandra’s previous expertise across the industry with the insight and detailed knowledge of both our artists and clients’ needs.

“Having worked on the publisher side of the contracts equation, I’m excited to finally work for the artists and their best interests alongside their agents,” she said. “Bright offers a unique blend of exceptional artist and author care with forward-thinking entrepreneurial rights management.”

Sandra reviews and updates contracts across the group, as well as improves the overall contractual service Bright offers their artists and clients to ensure contractual integrity and compliance.

“Bright harnesses great vision for their artists’ talent and careers and delivers on high volume projects with the highest level remuneration possible with true artist and author care that few businesses can now offer.”

Sandra says, “From the point of signing and onboarding a new artist or author into the Bright family, we strive to provide solid, practical advice and support for our artists…not just in relation to their artwork, but across every other aspect of our representation of them. We aim to ensure that our artists retain more creative control and receive greater respect for their rights and how those rights are exploited, whether by a publisher or a film or television production company. Ultimately what’s best for our artists is best for Bright, and that is all part of the Bright vision.”


She continues, “We champion our artists’ work from their roughs all the way through every level of rights exploitation that we assess to be appropriate for them. Although a given for any agency, we vet every contract for every job we agree for our artists and authors, and add value to their contract, from not only a financial perspective but from a creator’s intellectual property and moral rights position.

“By having both a dedicated agent and contracts manager doing this ensures the process is watertight. This includes strong contract review, negotiation and revision, obtaining higher rates, improved advance payments and delivery terms, marketing, sales and royalties analysis, procuring better long-term royalty provision, generating media rights deals, greater copyright/intellectual property and moral rights retention and protection with a view to building up an artist’s IP across their properties/brand(s); secure and creative licensing of all rights for these properties/brand(s); and best practice for our artists’ rights in line with key UK artists/illustrators associations, including the AOI, the SAA, CRA.

“Bright’s position in the global arena, agenting across commercial, publishing, licensing and media, with a phenomenal share of the publishing market, gives us the real edge that artists, illustrators and authors need today. We share our collective knowledge and expertise and initiate, negotiate and gain more for our artists: greater income, greater exposure, greater opportunities.”

A Rights and Royalties Q&A with Sandra…

What are rights?

A creator has both economic and moral rights in their work. Economic rights cover the various ways in which a creator’s work, be it artwork and/or text, is used and the financial payment made in exchange for that use. In the publishing and art licensing industries, where publishers acquire rights in an artists’ work in order to publish them in various formats, namely books and ebooks, they may also sell subsidiary rights in the work, such as foreign language rights or TV/film rights.

What are Royalties?

Royalties are a sum paid to a creator for each use of their work in various editions or formats, such as a payment for each print copy of a book sold. Subsidiary rights royalties are payment for the licensing and use of the work in formats following on from the original work, such as a translation, a radio reading or merchandise.”

What happens upon striking a deal?

When we discuss a deal, our rights department will put together a deal memo. The terms on offer will be analyzed, and vetted against UK or US industry standards (depending on the market).

What’s the difference between flat fee, royalties and an advance against royalties?


How does Bright approach the negotiation process?

Bright has a unique agency approach, working hard with the artist’s best interests in mind to review, negotiate and improve all contractual terms, financial, practical and logistical to ensure their success. Bright aims to provide our artists with the best possible contract for each of their projects, where there is scope to improve best practice and remuneration across the spectrum of royalty rates and rights.

Can money be made by selling foreign rights and film rights?

If your contract includes these rights with strong royalty rates, then yes.

Tell us a bit about co-editions for a title or an advance and royalty basis…

For every foreign territory that your publishers sell your book into, you will earn more money on your co-edition or translation rights royalties.

For translation rights deals, you will get an advance sum from each foreign publisher/territory, with the possibility of more royalties should the book sell well in that market.

For co-editions with foreign publishers, the English language publisher will usually negotiate sales of copies up front with a co-ed publisher on a price per copy basis, and again this will translate into royalty earnings for you based on the co-edition rate in your contract.

Being able to sell your work across different markets and multiple languages is invaluable for any artist – not just in expanding your audience and increasing exposure for you and your work, but in building your profile internationally, as well as financially rewarding with royalty income across multiple territories, not just one.

…and rights concerning film and media?

If a production company or producer wants to acquire your television or film rights, they would have to pay for these rights. In the first instance, they would most likely offer to “option” your book, meaning that they buy the film rights temporarily in exchange for a limited amount of money.

Once these rights are optioned they will pitch it to television/film studios to reach the next step in development: a full television or film deal, with a contract and financial gain that would reflect that. And when doing so the respect for an artist’s creative control is retained – a key principle for Bright that must be valued if the work created is to carry through the success of the artist’s ideas.

We are continuing to make sure our updated and improved deal offer memos and contract negotiation processes are in place. This enables these rights to be licensed effectively, and all rights opportunities commercially maximised to the best of our ability.

Of these rights retained, Bright’s media department are always exploring ways to make them reach their full potential. Agents simply can’t wait for the phone to ring! It is our job to make these opportunities happen and inspire joint ventures; forging partnerships with production companies; working directly with broadcasters and championing our content to the next stage.

How do we process payment in Bright to make sure our artists get their royalty money as soon as they can (where applicable)?


Bright’s MD and Founder, Vicki Willden-Lebrecht, onrights and royalties…

“Agents have the support of a key person in the Contracts Manager. This allows them to focus on the artist and their work, and in finding the right jobs and clients — thereby enabling the contracts team to oversee the minutiae of the contract itself, and cementing the deal terms,” says Vicki. “We have built a business that ensures our artists have strong contracts management that creatively and securely licenses the rights in their work while protecting their IP and best commercial interests.”

Contact Sandra for Bright artists’ Rights and Permission enquiries here.

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