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Kim Williams, International Rights Director, Princeton University Press

Career Spotlight: International Rights Director

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By Kim Williams, International Rights Director, Princeton University Press

Pre-office hours

On a good day, my work as an international rights director starts with a school-run walk, a plan, and a cup of tea. Whatever else happens, I need some time to think about the day’s deadlines, offers, meetings, and tasks: with so many competing priorities, I have to be ultra-organised.


I’ve been responsible for Princeton’s translation licensing since 2010, but only recently took on audio rights, so I’ve been listening to audiobooks on my commute; squeezing a little more book into my day. First up is wrangling my inbox so I can look at it without getting palpitations. Then a celebratory brew is usually called for, at which point I head upstairs to talk to the team, see which translated editions have come in, and talk over any new offers, author queries, crises, or bright ideas.


One of the brilliant things about rights is that we work with publishing partners around the world, giving us insight into global trends and the most innovative publishing. It also means that people are in contact about our books almost 24/7. We try to prioritise deals from our partners and sub-agents in Asia first thing in the morning, so we can get back to them before the close of their working day.


Then there’s usually a quick catch up with social media – that might be world news, publishing news, author events, or tweeting about our translated editions (@PUP_Rights). At this point, I need to decide whether to tackle Contract Mountain (which looms ominous at almost any point in the week), Translation Crisis of the Day (too varied and numerous to describe), Pivot Table of Glory (hours of my life back when writing reports) or spend some time on Hot New Title (or indeed Hot Old Title) to make sure everybody knows what they need to know.


Now, this might be peculiar to European offices of US companies, but around midday is crunch time if you work for an east-coast American company. Inevitably, I’ve just spent the morning dealing with queries from US colleagues and authors who were hard at work until late UK time the day before. Around midday, I need to have finished, because soon They Will Be Online Again.

So by midday, I have to have carved out some time for those projects which require serious thinking (which I’m underreporting here, but trust me, there are many); I need to have talked to publishers in Asia, and crossed off any urgent and important tasks from my to-do list. Ideally, I will have talked to my colleagues in other departments a bit because they’re smart publishers and wonderful people, and otherwise the day will pass us by.


Here come the emails.


This point in the day is usually spent preparing for any meetings or calls I might have in the afternoon – so, commenting on upcoming book projects, talking to authors, planning our next book fair, etc.

2pm (GMT, 9am EST): 

Now I have to start thinking in US time too. This is often my first video call of the day, usually with the Princeton office. It’s a good time to share news of our rights activity and check in with the varied departments we work with on a routine basis. I also meet regularly with our Director for Global Development, to whom I report, and together we work on strategy and planning.


Cheer because the meeting finished up ten minutes early and I can use that time to review and approve a contract before it goes off to be signed.


On a typical day, I might now talk to one of our audio partners about a book or an offer, or talk to an author about something that has come up in relation to an audio edition. Or equally, with my translation hat on, take a look at some rights data to try to identify trends and successes so we can continue to grow rights activity, or talk to one of our fabulous sub-agents about our books and offers.


Look at my six-section planner and notebook and reassess what I can realistically get done today, and what needs to go on tomorrow’s list.


Awesome deal alert! If I’m lucky something fabulous will come in at this point in the day, ideally something easy with no complications, author or agent approval, permissions problems, contractual brain-teasers, or other complexities. Then I can approve the deal and fire off a notification to the author. If I’m really lucky, they’ll be delighted and I’ll have made their day too.


I’m never quite sure how it gets to this time already and there are always half a dozen more things I’d like to have done with my afternoon. I like to check with the rights team that we covered the urgent stuff, and make a plan for the next day. Then, all being well, I can lose myself in an audiobook on the journey home.

Published November 2017 as part of #workinpublishing week.