Rights Management Database: An Essential Tool

How choosing the appropriate rights management database will save a foreign rights seller time, money and a lot of worries (and we have found it in E3-The Rights Manager*).

By Marleen Seegers — article first published in February 2018
My innate love for organization

I am obsessed with all things organization—I’m Dutch, and born into a family of engineers. It’s in my genes. I love spread sheets, tagging, labeling, color-coding; you name it, I’m familiar with it, and can spend hours talking about it with as much energy and enthusiasm as a crazy cat lady about one of her 20 or so feline friends (by the way, don’t get me started about our office cat Millie).

Now, a foreign rights seller, and particularly one who travels a lot and has set up a virtual office with staff that works remotely, cannot be anything but an organizational freak. Dealing with the amount of titles, contracts, international tax forms, royalty statements, etc. like we do at 2 Seas requires to stay on top of everything while remaining vigilant to the tiniest details.

A good rights management database tool is therefore essential to the well-functioning of our agency (and to the peace of mind of our clients). When I started the agency in 2011, it was mostly a one-woman-shop. One of the roles my partner Derek organically stepped into was to introduce me to smart online tools that help run a small business. He had tried and tested these tools himself for many years, in the businesses he had started in different areas, before I took a try at entrepreneurship.

Starting out with Highrise

One of these tools was Highrise, a CRM (customer relationship management) tool, which was so user-friendly, intelligent and fun to work with that I immediately fell in love with it. Derek quickly dubbed me the ‘tag-queen’ referring to the hundreds of tags I had created to navigate our 6,000+ contacts in international publishing.

You have to know that I came from a very traditional set-up, at one of the oldest publishing houses in France. When I started out there in 2006, all our contacts and submissions were registered on physical paper, organized in physical folders. An Excel sheet where we’d register all our contacts and submissions was merely a vague dream my colleague and I were entertaining: one day, when we’ll have enough time… When we finally did it, a few years later, it was a revolution. (I am glad to report that in the meantime this publishing house has implemented a rights management tool developed by the publishing group to which they belong.)

Discovering this wonderful online tool Highrise was like a dream I didn’t even know I had came true. I managed to keep track of and check up on all my submissions and relationships at any given moment, anywhere in the world, with just one click. Talking about saving time, instead of having to go through physical folders or even Excel sheets to see which German/French/UK/… publishers had received XYZ title on submission. (Update: As of August 20, 2018, Highrise is no longer accepting new signups. However, if you already have a Highrise account, you can continue to use Highrise forever!)

A more specific software needed

Yet as the agency grew in terms of sales, clients and staff, it became clear that, while Highrise is an amazing tool to keep track of your relationships (and relationships are such a big part of our job), it is far from ideal to keep track of submissions, contracts, royalty statements and other more specific elements of foreign rights selling.

So I started researching. I knew there where specific rights management databases out there. Big publishing groups like Hachette have them developed and tailored to their specific needs. But what about basic and affordable cloud-based tools that could be customized up to a certain level? Our set-up with staff working remotely and foreign rights sales from and to many different territories and languages is a little unusual, to say the least (which I believe makes it so much more interesting and fun).

My choice: E3-The Rights Manager*

I talked to many fellow rights sellers from around the world, met with a few sales reps, did calculations, and ended up choosing Barcelona-based E3-The Rights Manager* (with that name, what can go wrong?). After an initial meeting at the Frankfurt Book Fair and several Skype conversations between Barcelona, Porto (where Jr Agent Chrys is based) and California, we were ready and excited to get started.

It took Chrys and I quite a few hours (or rather days) of work to get our contacts and submission data prepared for migration from Highrise into The Rights Manager (TRM). Then again, it turned out to be a good occasion to clean everything up, which was long overdue. The migration which took place in July 2017 went smoothly. Raül Cavaller, the software developer and CEO of TRM was always there via Skype to provide guidance, information and, if possible, tweaks to customize the program according to our needs. Raül even came to California and made a stop at our HQ in Ojai to speak to me in person, and to Chrys via Skype, to further explain the different uses and possibilities their software offers. He also took note of several further tweaks and customizations we would need.

Transition: do it gradually

I’ve come to understand it is of vital importance to proceed step by step during a transition of so much data. Not only does ‘regular’ work continue, but we also had accumulated 6 years of contacts, submissions, contracts, royalty statements, etc. in Highrise before working with TRM. At the time of writing (February 2018), we have by far finalized the migration of all those elements.

All our most recent and new submissions, contracts and royalty statements however are processed in TRM. It is such an improvement from Highrise! Like with all things new, it took us some time to get used to the interface, which is a little clunky. And the software certainly has a few flaws; for instance the registration of the key points of our negotiations, contracts and royalty statements is quite rigid and therefore time-consuming. But then again, who is perfect?

We love the way it tracks submissions

Indeed, we’re happy with the transition so far. The biggest improvement I’ve noticed is in the way we keep track of our submissions. It is much easier and faster to get detailed information about what we sent to whom, when reminders were sent, etc. and also to send reminders, as it connects to our email accounts.

I know we don’t take advantage of all of the possibilities and uses TRM offers (we continue to use our own template contracts for instance, and our separate invoicing and accounting program) and we have yet to experience our first big ‘royalty statement season’ since we migrated our data (spring 2018). But I appreciate the time and efforts Raül and his team have spent listening to our needs and the issues we run into, and their willingness to act on them and customize the software whenever this is possible. It was a necessary decision (and investment) to support the development and growth of the agency. To be continued!

PS: I continue to be a big fan of Highrise, which our team still uses to keep track of our relationships with currently over 8,000 international publishing professionals.

PPS: Publishing Perspectives also dedicated an article to E3-The Rights Manager.

*Disclosure: The above links to The Rights Manager are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will be paid a commission if you click through and sign up for their rights management database.

 

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