Rights, Royalties & Reaching a Global Audience: My Placement at Canongate Books

The beautiful entrance at Canongate Books.
The beautiful entrance at Canongate Books.

Before I started the MSc Publishing course, I had been lucky enough to acquire some good work experience within the publishing industry, mainly through various marketing and editorial roles.

What I hadn’t achieved, however, was any kind of understanding on how the legal side of the book business worked. Terms like royalties, contracts and copyright were all a bit confusing and unknown, and it was a desire for clarity, mixed up with curiosity, that led me to seek a placement working within a rights and contracts department.

When I was told I had secured my placement at Canongate Books, centred in the heart of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, I couldn’t have been more excited. Founded in 1973 as a small press with a focus upon Scottish interest books, Canongate’s journey to the internationally focused publisher it is today can only be described as one full of commitment and passion.

My first day within the office was full of energy and warm welcomes. I was greeted by the staff, taking a tour through the various departments until I was settled into my desk. Working within the rights department, I had the opportunity to admire the many foreign editions of Canongate’s titles that had been published in various languages and with varying book covers, as they towered over me in their beautiful displays.

Within my first few weeks in the office, I was quick to see the unyielding passion the rights team had in working towards having Canongate’s titles reach an international audience. Comprising of four members in total, with three in Edinburgh and another based in London, it was apparent that Canongate place a large importance on selling and acquiring the rights of many titles around the world. This was something I hadn’t come across within my previous experience in publishing – It gave the company a unique and admirable feature. Although they may be nested in Edinburgh, this didn’t deter Canongate’s global presence in any sense.

A selection of Canongate's latest titles on display.
A selection of Canongate’s latest titles on display.

My ten weeks at Canongate undoubtedly helped me clear up those complex terms; I was able to pour over royalties until they made sense and finally get my head around contracts, with the support of the rights team to help me whenever I needed it. I was encouraged to ask questions whenever something didn’t make sense to me, and it is this small gesture from the Rights Assistant, Lina, that I have to pay great thanks to, as it gave me that confidence to ask those “silly” questions I might usually hesitate to ask.

Now that I’ve finished my placement at Canongate, my knowledge of the publishing world has grown even more, and I no longer retreat into a state of perplexity whenever I see a French royalty statement! Seeing the company’s drive to bring their books to audiences worldwide shows the Scottish book trade’s certainly not short of passion, hard-work, or a love for publishing good books.

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