Today I am excited to introduce Nancy Bruckman, Subrights & Royalties Manager at Candlewick Press and my good friend! Nancy and I met when I was living in Boston, working across the street from her (lunch BFFs!), and riding the endless query-go-round. Not only was she an incredible support to me when I was drafting, revising, and then looking for an agent, she was also an invaluable resource on all things publishing.
Rights and royalties have always sort of mystified me, honestly, and I know I’m not alone in that! So I was thrilled when Nancy agreed to give us her insider’s take on what goes on behind the scenes for authors after a book deal.
Without further ado, here she is!
Hey, Nance! Thanks for joining me at Pub Crawl today! To start off, did you always know you wanted to work in publishing? What made you decide to pursue this career and how did you get into the business?
I started college thinking I was going to study journalism, but after my freshman year I realized that wasn’t really the best path for me. I have always loved to read and found that my English classes were some of my favorites, so I decided to shift course and switched to an English major. I began thinking about what careers I could put that major toward—I considered teaching, academia, and law school, but knew that those weren’t the right fits. I came across the idea of book publishing as I was researching and through discussions with friends and realized it was exactly what I’d been looking for.
I still didn’t know which part of the industry I wanted to work in (but I’m one of the rare few that knew it was not editorial from the start). I went to NYU and was incredibly fortunate to have so many wonderful opportunities for publishing internships while in college to gain exposure to the book publishing world. I interned at a literary agency, where I learned what an agent does, and was introduced to the business side of the publishing industry, which I found incredibly nuanced and interesting. I also interned in the book room at School Library Journal, and it was there I reentered the amazing world of children’s literature. My responsibilities included logging and processing every new title that publishers were submitting for review, and I found myself poring over title after title as I logged them in. I paid close attention to where the books I loved most were coming from and made a wish list of the companies I admired.
I’d been thinking about moving back to the Boston area after graduation to be a little closer to my hometown in New Hampshire anyway, so when a position at Candlewick Press (in Somerville, MA) for a Rights and Royalties Assistant opened up it seemed like a perfect opportunity! My internship experiences had led me in this direction in an incredibly organic way and the position turned out to be a really superb combination of so many of my interests and skills.
You’ve been happily working at Candlewick Press for as long as I’ve known you! You began your career as a Rights & Royalties Assistant, then climbed on up the ladder to become a Rights & Royalties Specialist. What were your duties in these roles?
Initially, my duties were largely administrative, but as I gained experience and familiarity with our systems and processes my responsibilities and tasks grew.
As Rights & Royalties Assistant my main duties included preparing materials for presentations to subrights customers, handling promotional and no-fee permission requests, processing income as it was received for subrights deals and assisting with all stages of our semi-annual royalty processing (of which there are many)! Some later responsibilities included processing and sending all author and illustrator advance payments and more autonomy in the income processing and royalty reconciliation that I had been assisting with.
We also implemented a new royalty processing system during this time, so a good portion of my daily tasks involved testing the new system, developing new processes and reconciling the existing system to the new. I also provided support for subsidiary rights deals and processing for our Bookclub and Subsidiary Rights Manager, which prepared me well for my current role as Subrights and Royalties Manager.
At many larger publishing houses the subrights and royalties departments are entirely separate, but at Candlewick the two intersect, alongside our contracts department, in a way that I feel makes so much sense–we all work together quite regularly and collaborate frequently. My position has always been unique in that I process income for all subrights deals as it is received, ensuring that it is appropriately attributed to contributors, reviewing and processing licensee statements and royalties at the same time, but I am also involved in selling rights, making deals, and processing licensee agreements.
Candlewick’s structure allows for these responsibilities to intersect in this way, and I’ve always felt that each side of this job truly helps inform the other—it’s hard for me to imagine working on only one of these things, though I know this is the case at other publishing houses!
It sounds like you are getting a really well-rounded experience! What are some interesting things about rights and royalties that you think lots of people (including authors) may not know?
We’re not a part of publishing that gets a lot of attention, so I’m so happy to have this opportunity to talk about my little corner of this world!
Both parts of my job really involve advocating for our books, authors, and illustrators. In my royalties role, this means making sure book sales are processed correctly, that quantities and earnings are correct and contractually accurate. We know that royalty earnings (while perhaps not the most glamorous part of the industry) really are the bread and butter for our authors and illustrators– they put their trust in us to ensure every single copy of a book that is sold is correctly reported.
In my subsidiary rights role I want to make sure as many people as possible are able to experience a work in as many formats as they can—through school or home subscription book clubs, or library clubs/special editions, audio or video editions, electronic subscription services, or even through textbook curriculum programs! We also don’t want this material to be used unfairly—whenever interior work from a book is being used we ensure it is being used within rights we hold or have been granted, and that all work is appropriately credited. We negotiate with potential licensing partners so that each title receives the credit and compensation it deserves, we owe this to our authors and illustrators!
You now serve as Subrights & Royalties Manager for Candlewick. What do your current duties involve?
As Subrights & Royalties Manager I am the main contact for subsidiary rights for book-based licensing of our titles as full works. A major portion of this is bookclub licensing (you may recall the thrill of a Scholastic bookclub flyer or book fair– we license rights to Scholastic to produce special editions of our titles to sell through their clubs and fairs), audio, hardback library editions, etc. Other colleagues in my department focus on our merchandise, dramatic, electronic and curriculum based licensing.
We also have a foreign rights team based out of Walker Books, in the UK, which is our sister company. This structure and distribution of responsibilities varies from house to house, but at Candlewick that is how things are organized. We present titles to our licensing customers, preparing samples and highlighting titles that we think would work best for a particular format –for example, a fun picture book read aloud may work well for audio while a title with bright, bold art may be a better candidate for video.
I also continue to process all income we receive for these subsidiary rights deals, process payments for author/illustrator advances and work to check, recheck, and then check a third time all parts of our royalty processing. As I’ve taken on more subsidiary rights responsibilities it’s been so interesting and fulfilling to see how these deals translate to licensee earnings!
Any other interesting facts about subrights and royalties you can share with us?
From time to time we receive inquiries from film and television studios looking to use our books in their movies/films as props or set dressing. Before working in this position I hadn’t given that much thought to the massive number of clearances that are involved in this type of thing! Now if I’m watching something and see some books in the background I always look twice! (And yes, my friends and family do make fun of me when they see me do this).
I also work with our publicity and marketing departments on upcoming promotional use of material from our books, through both our own campaigns and outside publicity. Sometimes this is as simple as providing a copyright line for use on one of our own promotional materials, but it can also be very complicated! I once spent an afternoon poring over copyright registrations to confirm a recording found by an author on a royalty free music site truly could be considered in the public domain and used in the book’s trailer. And I do also regularly check the copyright pages of the books I read– especially when song lyrics are quoted.
It might also be surprising to learn how complex royalties truly are. An incredible amount of time and effort goes into this processing and we spend months reconciling and calculating royalty earnings. The end result is a stack of 10,000 pieces of paper that end up being sent to authors, illustrators and agents, and each item on each sheet of paper has been looked at several times by a few sets of eyes!
It sounds like an incredibly complex part of publishing, yet totally crucial! And I bet it’s also a lot of fun at times. Do you have any exciting author experiences or stories to share?
Sometimes we make a really large subrights deal right away (sometimes even before publication), and an author/illustrator will earn their advance out immediately, which is so exciting!
Or sometimes a backlist title will be absolutely perfect for a new curriculum program resulting in a wonderfully surprising royalty statement–we once had an author call up thinking we’d made a miscalculation with their statement and were paying too much because this title had never earned so much in one period before! It’s always incredibly satisfying to be able to share those types of situations with our authors.
On the other hand, some of our older titles may have lower earnings during a royalty period and sometimes we have to track folks down so they cash tiny checks. Once an author said they’d framed their $.10 check instead of depositing because they’d never received a check for such a small amount of money!
Do you have any advice for teens who may want to pursue a career in publishing?
Do your research—what types of books do you most enjoy reading? Look at who publishes your favorite titles and types of books, and pay attention to the things you appreciate about those books! Read the acknowledgements and see if you recognize names, and learn who your favorite authors are working with.
Don’t limit yourself to just one area—if your heart is set on becoming an editor and you are really passionate about that work, that’s wonderful! Realistically, editorial jobs can be quite hard to come by and there are so many other interesting parts of this industry, so you should be incredibly passionate about editorial work if that is your dream. It’s important to familiarize and expose yourself to as many different areas as possible and think about where your interests lie–seek out internships, informational interviews, etc in any area that interests you! Publicity, marketing, production, design, sales, promotions, web design, contracts, rights, etc, are all fantastic and interesting areas worth looking into!
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about subrights and royalties, Nancy! I think our readers will be taking some valuable information home with them today!
For the folks reading, was any of this information new to you? Did anything surprise you? Feel free to sound off in the comments!