Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Stuff I'm Studying, In the Flesh!

Last night I was having dinner with one of my new roommates, who is completing her fifth year in the chemistry PhD program at MIT (!). We talked for a while about what she does each day in the lab, and then she started asking me questions about the Emerson publishing program. Of course I got excited, because I love talking about publishing, and I told her how much of a crazy hit-or-miss kind of industry publishing is. Then she asked me a question that actually relates to some of the things I'll be studying more in-depth later this semester.

Her parents live in Switzerland and she asked, "Why is it that some books seem to come out sooner in other countries, or that the paperbacks come out sooner in other countries?"

I was then able to explain to her a little bit about subsidiary (sub) rights and how the sale of these rights impacts when books are published in what country. For instance, My Great Novel may be published by Pidal Press in the U.S. in hardback, but the rights have also been sold for it to be published in English and in paperback in France. (Of course there's more to this subject but I'd like to delve into it more deeply as I learn more about it later this summer.)

She had no idea that the whole sale of rights in publishing was such a huge thing, and she seemed genuinely interested. It served to further validate what I'm studying and it also made me think that yes, people who aren't involved in publishing are interested in this stuff too, because they genuinely have no idea what goes on behind the closed doors of the publishing industry. (Not that I know a ton more than they do, having not yet worked in the "pub biz" [as my old coworker used to call it] myself, but I'm just going by what my professors are telling me.)

So there you have it. Relevance! Interest in my studies by someone who is not studying anything remotely related to it! Validation! Fun anecdote! Call it what you will, but it was really cool to talk about the stuff I'm studying outside of the classroom. I just wanted to share/brag about that in here. Longer post on fair use coming soon.


Lauren Stephenson said...

That is interesting-- I didn't realize that paperback rights were ever arranged before hardback ones in other countries. It seems that anything worthy of a hardback always comes out that way first, then paperback.

In my lit class the other night we discussed trademark, and I was surprised that a lot of people didn't know you couldn't copyright the name of a book. Thus, I can name my book War and Peace and get away with it! Also, we discovered through one of our classmates that brandnames risk losing their trademarks if they become verbs or nouns instead of adverbs. For instance, "I'm going to xerox this report." Xerox would kill me for saying that! They want people to say, "I love my Xerox copier" or "I'm going to make Xerox copies of this." When it becomes part of the common usage (thermos is a really great example of this trend), companies will lose their trademark. I'm not sure if this is something that the publishing business has to deal with too often, but it's still pretty interesting in the grand scheme of things.

Raquel said...

Thanks for your comment, Lauren! I do love the fact that people think they can copyright titles, and how dismayed they are when they learn that they cannot do so. This used to happen, on average, once a week at the writers' educational organization I worked at.

I agree that it is interesting how trademarked words make their way into the daily vernacular. It must drive the proprietary companies nuts to hear all facial tissues referred to as "Kleenex" and all adhesive bandages called "Band-Aids." While trademarking doesn't tend to affect publishing quite as much, it's still interesting to think about in the scheme of ownership of ideas.

john said...

This is part of what a publisher's contracts department does for new titles. But I would like to clarify trademarks in titles. While you can't copyright a title, you can trademark a name and make it part of a title (You'll see that some books have a little t after the titles for some books), which means no one else can use that phrase in a title. Yes you can call a book "War and Peace," but you can't call a book "What to Expect When You're Expecting the Mailman" unless it's a parody, which has it's own special laws in regards to copyright and trademark protection. But that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish that had we but world enough and time. . .

And this is an American phenomenon. Google (see that's an abuse right there) MTV's "Pimp My"+ England. This is important in non-fiction publishing in order to brand a series.