For the first time in its history, all five BISG committees are chaired by women, and this week, PW, in cooperation with BISG, is shining a spotlight on these exceptional volunteer chairs. The interviews have been conducted by industry consultant Julie Blattberg and edited by PW.
Today's interview is with Kris Kliemann, president of Kliemann & Company, a consulting practice that advises clients on rights, royalties, publishing and distribution agreements, workflows, and systems. Prior to starting her own firm, Kliemann worked in the rights departments of FSG, Random House, most recently, Wiley. She is chair of BISG's rights committee.
How did you get into the industry?
When I was 14, I wanted to be a professional magazine reader. Turns out working in book publishing was the closest I could get to being paid for reading obsessively. After college, and an amazing summer publishing course, I deferred graduate school and moved to New York from Texas. I landed a job in a publisher’s rights department and never looked back.
What compelled you to volunteer for a BISG committee?
Rights and licensing is my thing. I grew up in rights departments in publishing, I teach rights in various publishing courses, and many of my best friends are rights people and agents. I’ve watched other areas of publishing grow and flourish with the infusion of technology and digital tools—and I’ve been delighted to see the growth in importance of rights, and to see that investment in tech for rights in finally recognized as a must-do for success.
The BISG rights committee has been focused on articulating how technology can enhance rights processes and lead to increases in income. We believe that having a next-level understanding that intellectual property, copyright, and licensing is at the heart of publishing. The committee members come at the problems and issues of rights from all angles—authors, agents, publishers, system vendors, and so on.
What’s your committee working on now?
In 2020, the rights committee collaborated on the publication of a white paper, "Positioned for Growth: The ROI of Rights and Royalty Management Systems." The research and conclusions (the paper is authored by Bill Rosenblatt and Steve Sieck) show in detail the value of implementing rights management systems. The paper includes measures and use cases showing increased revenue, increases in volume of contracts per year, and perhaps most interesting of all, increased productivity and the ability for a more strategic approach to licensing by using the analytics that become available when a system is in place.
Less time and energy spent on administration, real opportunities for more reach and revenue from the content we’re creating and publishing—these are big benefits.
What’s next in 2021 for your committee?
There’s a working group that will continue to work on the Rights Taxonomy project - we’re developing some pilot projects—mainly publisher-to-publisher—that’ll help us refine the terminology; in addition, the group is tackling the outline for a set of standards for royalty statements. And we’re launching an education initiative aimed at folks from different areas in publishing: editors, CFOs, rights sellers, rights buyers.
It goes back to my feeling that understanding rights can be fun for everybody—and it’s useful for everyone to know how they fit in to a book publishing business.
Personally and / or professionally, what have you gotten out of volunteering with BISG?
Working side by side with folks who care, as I do, about the nuts and bolts of rights, and how those fine details affect the bigger picture and future of publishing. Plus, we’re all a bit nerdy, and I mean that in the most positive warm way possible: publishing is our work and our passion. We love the vocab, the quirky history, the way that a decision here, and tweak in copy there, combined with a little luck can have an impact on the success of a book, an author, a company.
And we’re all happiest when recounting publishing stories and scrutinizing processes for the micro-improvements that could make a difference!