You Are the Story: 5 Minute Interview with Lynette Owen

You Are the Story: 5 Minute Interview with Lynette Owen

As we return to a face-to-face event in April, we wanted to spotlight the publishing industry, focusing on the people who make the industry what it is. As part of this, we’re running a series that interviews leading figures within publishing to introduce them and their story – our You Are the Story series. Up next is Lynette Owen.

Lynette Owen is an industry-leading Copyright and Rights Consultant and one of our expert speakers at this year’s Introduction to Rights conference, which takes place on Monday 4th April. Discussing key topics, the conference will cover the basics of a rights contract and the fundamentals of copyright and licensing – and more. View the complete programme.  

Born in Bangor, North Wales. Graduated with degree in English Language/Literature from Bedford College, University of London. Commenced publishing career as rights assistant in London office of Cambridge University Press; Rights Manager, Pitman Publishing; North American Sales Manager, Marshall Cavendish; Rights Manager and latterly Copyright Director at Pearson Education (formerly Longman Group Ltd). From May 2013, freelance copyright and rights consultant.

I run regular rights training courses both in the UK and abroad, and lecture on rights on a number of UK university publishing courses. I am the author of Selling Rights (8/e, Routledge 2019) and the General Editor of and a contributor to Clark’s Publishing Agreements: A Book of Precedents (11/e, Bloomsbury Professional, January 2022). I have also written a number of practical handbooks on rights for publishers in China and in a number of countries in central and eastern Europe, published in the local languages.

The London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award 2003; inaugural Kim Scott Walwyn Award 2004; OBE for services to publishing and international trade 2009; IPG Services to Independent Publishers Award 2017.

What do you love about your career?

Publishing is above all a people industry and my career in rights has enabled me to travel extensively and to meet a wide range of amazing people.

In your opinion, what impact has the pandemic had on the publishing industry, and what are your predictions for its future?

The pandemic has obviously affected the publishing industry significantly: constraints on international travel, the cancellation of many book fairs; working from home etc. This has led to changes in working practice, some of which are likely to remain after we emerge from the pandemic – in particular, a move away from 5 days a week in the office, and more use of video meetings via Zoom, Teams etc. Brexit has also had a considerable effect – increased price of materials and freight, slower shipping schedules, increased paperwork for both exports and imports; some publishers may move to printing nearer to home.

Likewise, how has Covid changed you?

As a consultant, I work from home in central London so did not have to adjust to abandoning an office environment. However, I have greatly missed face to face meetings, both with individual colleagues and customers as well as industry committee meetings. We are lucky to have video conferencing facilities, but it’s so much nicer to see people in person!

What/who is your reason for working in publishing?

I entered the industry immediately after graduating, initially hoping for a copywriting role. I entered the rights field by accident – it was not then widely recognised as a career path – but found it fascinating, so have never wanted to change. The industry attracts interesting and intelligent people, and working in rights facilitates working with a wide range of contacts both at home and abroad.

Of all your achievements, of which are you most proud?

When I first joined Longman Group, our CEO Tim Rix was a major advocate of training, and also encouraged staff to contribute something back to the industry.  I hope that through training courses in the UK and abroad, and through my publications, I have helped to explain the practicalities of the rights business – it was particularly gratifying to try and help publishers in countries which were making the transition to copyright compliance and international rights trading.

What advice would you give to someone starting in the industry, and what, in your opinion, should the generation of young people coming into the industry do next? 

First, consider carefully what kind of books you want to work with – there are major differences between trade publishing on the one hand and educational/academic publishing on the other. Then I think much would depend on whether the person was joining a dedicated department in a large publishing house or starting a role in a smaller house. For the first scenario, there is a chance to learn on the job from more experienced colleagues; in the second scenario, there may be a chance to tackle a variety of roles and decide what suits you best. In both cases I would recommend researching and applying to attend relevant courses, and also networking with other young publishers, e.g. through the SYP.

What’s the one thing you started doing that drastically improved your life/career?

Long before the pandemic, I moved to working out of the office for one or two days a week, either to attend industry meetings or to work at home – the latter proved really productive for detailed work e.g. drafting contracts.

Likewise, what’s the one thing you stopped doing that drastically improved your life/career?

For many years I used to work in the office (a lengthy commute from home) on Saturdays, often to catch up with work after an overseas trip. Stopping that enabled a better work/home life balance (although I can’t say I never work at weekends now!)

In your opinion, what books should we be reading? And what’s next on your reading list?

Impossible to say – it depends so much on individual taste! I have just finished Vivian Maier Developed by Ann Marks, a biography of the mysterious photographer nanny. At the moment I’m reading There is Nothing for You Here, Fiona Hill’s account of her career including working in the White House during the Trump presidency. Next on the list is Book Parts by Dennis Duncan and Adam Smyth, which puts the spotlight on the anatomy of a book.

What is your biggest hope for the future?

I hope that as we move out of the pandemic, life will return to normal, although inevitably it will be a new normal. In particular I long for unrestricted travel, both for business but also because my immediate family live in North America.

And lastly, how would you like to be remembered?

I hope as someone who was able to contribute something back to our industry?

One comment

  1. Thank you Lynette. You gave a talk to our MA Publishing student at University of Plymouth via Zoom last year – always helpful and full of relevant information for those aiming to build a career in this area of publishing.

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