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Self-publishing - the rights way

Tom Chalmers

Tom Chalmers, Managing Director at IPR Licensethe global, digital marketplace for authors, agents and publishers to list and license book rights; launched in 2012

It's a fact that most self-published authors understand the process that takes them from a written manuscript to a published book, but few realise the additional elements that make publishing a profitable business.

Rights licensing is arguably the most vital element in this equation. Whether it's selling translation rights, audio rights or optioning the film rights, these all help balance the book's books. Rights sales are an increasingly important aspect of a title's profitability for publishers, yet the potential income is often overlooked by self-published authors, who focus on selling their edition of their work in their own territory - or, with the help of digital publishing, internationally in their first language.

Sadly it's clear that the vast majority of self-published authors don't fully understand the rights they hold to their work, never mind how to best monetise them. This requires lots of research, which may seem like a daunting task until you realise the wealth of resources now available at your fingertips.

For authors considering signing with a self-publishing company rather than going independent it is vital to know what rights they are giving away. For example, if using a self-publishing company to print a book in English, authors shouldn't assign the world rights for their work to the company, as this would leave them unable to exercise those rights for themselves.

It must be remembered that self-published authors don't just own a potentially valuable book, they own the rights to their work and that these can be licensed to publishers and other companies. Rights may not be a physical product but they can hold within them a huge and renewable revenue stream.

Simply put - rights can be licensed to produce the same book, in English, into different territories around the world - whether US, Australia or India. But rights can also be licensed for the book to be published and translated into different languages - French, Spanish, German and, back to India - Hindi, Marathi, and many more besides. And we can go beyond the book. Everyone would love that film deal - and they are happening with greater frequency - but what about adaptations for TV or radio, selling serialisation rights to a newspaper or magazine, audio or large print editions, book clubs or digest rights?

The list goes on and more licensing opportunities are developing as technology progresses. In fairness, much of the self-published author community is recognising the value attached to technology when it comes to engaging with their readership and the sales process, especially in the marketing of books whether ebooks or printed. However, despite these positives, it still appears that technology isn't being used as successfully as it should for authors to explore new markets and new territories.

However, help is at hand. When an author joins IPR License we immediately make their work part of an online database of available rights, thus enabling authors to monetise these across the globe. Our digital platform allows authors to showcase their work to a worldwide publishing audience, opening the door to a number of international, as well as domestic, markets which may previously have appeared out of reach.

Since work is held on the database for a full year, this helps to level the playing field for self-published, indie and unpublished authors, as member publishers can use our extensive online search to find any type of book, at any given time. We also send out a regular bulletin to over 50,000 publishers (not just our members) in over 90 countries, highlighting our members' work. Enquiries are then passed directly on and we also have experienced rights staff at IPR License supporting all members.

The rights market is only undervalued by those not realising the sheer scale of it (last year, in professional publishing alone, rights licensing was said to be worth £1.5bn). So, as a self-published author, start focusing on what rights you hold and what you can do with them, follow these steps and potentially you could have global business at your fingertips.

If you require any further information on rights just drop us a line at and we'd be happy to answer all your questions.

IPR License was launched in 2012 and is the global, digital marketplace for authors, agents and publishers to list and license book rights. See or email for more information.

In 2005 Tom Chalmers set up Legend Press, a book publisher focused predominantly on mainstream literary and commercial fiction which has also launched successful self-publishing and writer workshops ventures. He then acquired a further publishing company, Paperbooks Publishing, and in 2012 he launched new venture IPR License, the first global and digital platform on which to list and license literary rights.