Jonas LennermoRalph MollersMichael HealyRachel LoveFrom the title, you might think we attended an environmental conference for a session looking at waste management as a strategy to drive incremental profitability. Instead, the program was a part of CONTEC 2014, held just before the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

How can publishers efficiently and affordably monetize their backlist content?  What new opportunities and business models exist for publishers, agents, and authors to license, remix, and resell that content?  And how does direct to consumer publishing fit into the mix? The potential of the backlist may have never been greater, yet the challenge to make more of your backlist is, likewise, more difficult than ever.

“Every publisher should be in licensing.  It’s just a fantastic opportunity to take backlist titles and then see how those titles can be republished in other languages around the world,” Rachel Love of National Geographic said. “Right now, we’re in 38 languages on the books side of our publishing business. And I’m amazed that all publishers don’t do this.”

While the panel urged publishers to leverage technology in their licensing efforts, CCC’s Michael Healy warned against this approach as a panacea. “It seems to me you’re never going to automate, to a great degree, the kinds of transactions that bring us all to the Frankfurt Book Fair.  It’s an intensely personal as well as being a global business.”

“But a vast proportion, I suspect, of these transactions are susceptible to the type of automation in which the publisher dictates the terms and conditions under which republication happens or relicensing happens… This is the future,” Healy declared. “We have got to automate this marketplace.  Not to sell German language rights to the J.K. Rowling novel, of course not – that’s an intensely one-to-one thing.  But for the vast long tail, there’s real money out there.”

Also appearing on the panel were Ralph Mollers of Munich-based Flipintu and Jonas Lennermo of Sweden’s Publit.

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