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Friday, May 10, 2013

What I learned in school today

At some point in our writing lives we will all - hopefully - be signing a contract with a publisher. Some of us will be fortunate enough to have agents to help us through the process. But for those who don't, it's probably a good idea to learn as much as possible about contracts, rights, and the publishing business.

Today I'm going to tell you about your rights as an author, which ones you typically sign away, which ones are negotiable, and which ones the author should always keep. This is a brief overview and not meant to advise but rather inform, ie, I'm no expert and there's a lot more info out there on this subject.

The following are rights the publisher always keeps: reprint rights, book club rights, and serial rights. The profits derived from these are split between the author and publisher. Reprint rights generally refers to paperback editions of the book, but, according to Donald Maass, "...in some cases--a small-press deal, for instance--we withhold these rights." Book Club rights are what they sound like and serial rights are excerpts of the book - in magazine, or in other books. First serial rights, which are sometimes negotiable, are excerpts of the book BEFORE publication; second serial rights are excerpts AFTER publication.

Negotiable rights include foreign language rights, foreign English language rights, audio rights, and electronic rights. These are the rights the author needs to negotiate with the publish over. For example, an agent might sell the foreign rights if she can keep the electronic rights, or, maybe the publisher will increase the advance if it can acquire the audio rights. It goes without saying that electronic rights are a lot more valuable now than they were say, ten years ago.

Lastly there the rights the author keeps - always. These are Performance rights, as in television, film, plays, video game, etc., and merchandising rights, like calenders, action figures, stickers, dolls...anything based on the characters of your book.


Are you a small-pub author? Care to share your experience?

5 comments:

Huntress said...

It is good to familiarize yourself with the wording in a contract. Even to compare the different contracts offered by publishers.

Musa Publishing believes in full disclosure. They put their contract out front for anyone to see.
http://penumbra.musapublishing.com/includes/musanonagent8-15.pdf

Read it over, dissect it, or show it to a lawyer friend. Education is *always* a good thing.

Liza said...

Oh, the learning never stops, does it?

Jess said...

Very interesting, thanks! And not to sound like a stalker, but I just came over from The Happy Whisk blog and saw your comment about having a dinner of scrambled with apple-smoked gruyere. Sounds awesome :)

Donna Hole said...

Very informative.

But, I have only published in short story e-zines, and from my understanding, they have only one time publishing rights which expire 1 year after publication. After that, the author can re-submit to any other publication, giving first publishing credit to the original publisher.

And if the publication doesn't happen withing 1 year or 18 months of contract signing, all rights revert back to the author.

I imagine publications work differently if you are to be paid for the submission.

.......dhole

Missed Periods said...

Great info. Thanks.