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