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Louise Henderson, Rights Assistant at Orion Books

We speak to Louise about her varied role as a Rights Assistant and her love of Tomi Adeyemi.

Hello! My name is Louise. I’m a Scot in London, keen traveller, and proud owner of one sassy cat. In my current role as Rights Assistant, I’m responsible for production material sales, subright contract renewals, reversions, handling permissions requests and rights enquiries, and assisting my colleagues in the Rights department.

How did you get into publishing?

I hadn’t been aware of publishing as an industry when I was at university, studying French and Italian. I loved to read and loved books, but never thought about where they came from – they just appeared! When I graduated I had no idea what I wanted to do, and ended up working as a Personal Assistant in a hedge fund. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that someone suggested that with my love of reading and background in languages, I’d be well suited to working in publishing, and particularly in Rights (and she was so right – I love it!).

I then spent a year or so researching the industry, reading Book Brunch and The Bookseller, attending SYP conferences and literary events, speaking to as many industry professionals as I could to learn about Rights, and applying for work experience – I eventually managed to get a week of work experience at Octopus.

During my research, a few people mentioned that I might have to get an MA in publishing in order to get into publishing, but I found that it is possible to transfer across from another industry by highlighting the transferrable skills that you acquired from your previous job.

What does a typical day in your current role look like?

My role as a Rights Assistant is incredibly varied and there are lots of different elements to it. For example, one of my main responsibilities is handling production material sales – this means negotiating with foreign publishers and agreeing on file prices for things like cover artwork, offset files (for US publishers) and internal images. Before I’m able to sell on these files, I need to investigate what rights we hold, and whether or not we can clear the necessary rights on behalf of the third party.

Another aspect of my role is checking in with publishers to see if they would like to renew their sublicense (e.g. French translation rights) after it has expired and then negotiating new terms and advance levels with them.

I also investigate reversion requests. These typically come from literary agents who have requested that we revert the rights to a title that we acquired in the past. I look into the terms of the head contract (which is the contract between the author, represented by an agent, and the publishing house) and title sales, before passing on the request and background information to colleagues in editorial.

As the team assistant, I help prepare the Rights Guides for London and Frankfurt Book Fairs, do the aftercare for foreign rights sales – e.g. send the manuscripts and order physical copies for the foreign publisher to use for translation, pass on film/TV or translation enquiries to the relevant team member, etc.

My typical day is spent juggling all of these different tasks and more, according to their immediate priority – it’s pretty busy but super interesting!

Has your attitude to reading changed since working in the publishing industry?

Yes – I now read much more widely, both because I have access to such a great variety of books, but also because I want to have a better knowledge of the market, which is important in Rights. In a similar vein, previously I was just reading for my own personal enjoyment, whereas now I try to read books with a much more analytical eye. That being said, of course I still read a lot purely for enjoyment!

Where do you buy or access your books?

I’m very lucky as I’m able to access lots of books at work, so that’s where I get most of my books. Every now and then I make myself a treat list of books that I just HAVE to have, which I try and order through an indie bookshop. It’s also a really good shout to check out your local charity shop – there are so many hidden gems lurking in their shelves!

What books have you been reading in lockdown? Do these books typify your usual reading taste, or have you found yourself reading other genres and authors?

When we first went into lockdown, I was smashing through my bookshelf and catching up on my TBR pile, taking advantage of having additional time to do so. A month or so into lockdown, however, I just couldn’t bear the thought of reading anything other than escapist fiction. I needed heart-warming reads, like The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley or fantastical and fun, like The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind by Jackson Ford and The Last Human by Zack Jordan.

Which authors do you look forward to reading more of in the future?

Tomi Adeyemi – I can’t wait for the third instalment in her Legacy of Orisha series! I also look forward to reading more of Ryan La Sala – I came for his hilarious Twitter feed and stayed for his evil drag queen sorceress in Reverie. I need more!

What are the best books you've read in 2020 so far?

Oooft. That is not an easy question as there have been some crackers, but top three would be In At The Deep End by Kate Davies, The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo and The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla.

What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of the year?

Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James and The Betrayals by Bridget Collins.

Which books should everybody read?

Jailbirds by Mim Skinner (it’s a completely eye-opening account of the justice system, both deeply moving and at times hilarious), and of course Queenie by Candace Carty-Williams (it’s just phenomenal).

Where can readers find you online?

On Twitter @ohweezelouise or managing the @OrionRights account.


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