subrights and the small press—extending reach, adding value, increasing revenue

I had the privilege of chairing this session; so, I was sorely tempted to post on it right after the meeting—early Sunday morning, in fact—thanks to the collegiality of the subrights community, support of the AAUP, not to mention our tier-1 book sponsors, and especially thanks to the brilliant panelists (all of whom came together at the eleventh hour to prepare and give their talks!), we had a great meeting, and it was a delight to be a part of! I waited until some post-meeting follow up took shape, however, to provide a fuller picture. Results of the subrights post-meeting survey have since been published to respondents and shared with the home office (AAUP). Here are some of the highlights from the discussion.

Comprising nearly a century of subrights experience at both academic and commercial houses, our panel shared strategic advice for growing subrights at u presses. Notes and other resources have been posted to the wiki. The recording captured Q&A as well as all talks. All panelists are fielding questions privately.

In discussions prior to and during the meeting the panel realized that advice often came down to: “So, those are the goals and the places to start; with years of hard work and strategic investment, you can grow revenue and exposure for your press.” As we were focusing on how tier-1 and tier-2 presses can grow subrights programs, presumably sooner than many years from now, we wanted to drill down to specific advice/recommendations for shortening the runway and minimizing costs for AAUP member presses.

Best options fall into three categories: 1. AAUP-wide collaboration—AAUP-level programs a la Livres Canada Books initiatives for sharing information and building tools; 2. Vertical partnering—e.g., Harvard and JHUP sharing information on vetted and interested subagents with smaller presses; and 3. Lateral partnering (or tier-to-tier networking)—presses with complimentary lists pooling resources and sharing information to access economies of scale usually only within reach of tier-4 houses.

All of which called for some canvassing and coordinating—hence our post-meeting subrights survey. 64 press directors and subrights managers from 62 member presses (roughly half of the AAUP) responded. 100% would like a shared database of foreign houses (and possibly subagents) with whom other member presses had worked and are working. Favorability ran to 90% for being put in touch with new subagents and with other presses interested in pooling resources and information. 70% are for our forming at least an ad hoc committee to explore growing our subrights programs in concert with one another further—to outpace and displace our for-profit competition. We shared information accordingly.

As a result, 60+ presses are discussing ways and areas in which to partner or form strategic alliance(s)—thank you to our Friends up North, Phil Cercone especially, for sharing great ideas on the IP export front! 60+ presses are following up on leads on new subagents—thank you to Harvard University Press and JHUP! And 24+ presses are looking at looking to continue the discussion, e.g., finding ways to build a shared database and other promotional/program development tools to foster all the above.

Findings have been forwarded to Peter Givler and Brenna McLaughlin for their review. Anyone interested in joining one of the groups or discussion can email me at pfroehli@indiana.edu I look forward to working with you and will continue to share news as I learn more.