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MetaComet President David Marlin was a recent guest on the UK Independent Publishers Guild’s Podcast, discussing how to eliminate stress from royalty management. Here’s an edited transcript of his chat with the IPG’s Tom Holman. We have broken it down into two articles (first article here). Please find the second of two below:
Tom Holman / Those benefits of accurate, efficient, stress free royalties are great, but in business it often comes down to the cost. How much do you think a new system can save you in terms of money, person-hours and other resources? How can you be sure that the investment’s going to repay itself?
David Marlin / That’s a good question. There are a lot of different ways of looking at return on investment, including how much time you’re spending on work and how you value that time. In my experience, most publishers undervalue their time and don’t realize the importance of their efforts. They’re wasting their time on royalties when there are much more productive and revenue-generating things they could be doing. When we implement our systems we typically see about a 90% reduction in labor—sometimes as high as 95%.
There are also more subjective ways of looking at the return on investment, like the elimination of financial risk and the benefits to the author-publisher relationship. It goes from authors worrying about whether their statements are accurate and whether they’ll be on time to being excited to go online and see all their statements. That’s another thing that’s tough to measure in financial terms, but it’s a positive return on the investment in automating royalties.
Tom Holman / And finally: for any publishers who can see all these benefits and the need for good practice, what should they look for in a new system? As with any investment, some solutions are better than others, aren’t they?
David Marlin / It’s hard. Even though I’m in the software business, it’s still hard even for me to pick good business software. Probably the biggest thing to consider is the experience level of the company you’re looking to work with. We work with close to 200 companies now, and our capabilities and reliability are so much higher—we have a much deeper bench of people supporting clients. That experience and positive track record is crucial.
Reputation in the industry is another important thing. Look at companies’ customer bases to see if they have experience with similar types of publishers to you. For example, university press contracts tend to be quite different from traditional trade publishing, so you must make sure that an automated system can handle your types of contracts.
Security is very important these days as well. You have all of your revenue data, confidential contract information, and sensitive author information in your royalty process. We used to talk about how our data was hosted on the most secure platforms, but that’s just a small part of it. We’re now SOC 2 Type II certified here in North America—very similar to ISO 27001 in Europe. Those are the two main security standards. The key thing is for a platform to have official certification, and to not just take the company’s word that they are “secure”. To compare it to running a marathon, certification shows you’ve put in the months and months of training and effort and have had an official person check to make sure you were running it legitimately. Otherwise it’s just aspirational—like saying we intend to become secure.
There are so many aspects to security and you hear about breaches all the time. Your employees must be trained, because one of the biggest weaknesses is phishing attacks and your team has to be trained to recognize and avoid them. And to maintain your certifications, you have to test, and hire a third party to try and hack into your software and tell you all the weaknesses that they find so you can close those doors. Not just saying you’re secure, but having certification from an outside party to prove that you’re secure, is very important.