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Submitting material to a publisher
Writing illustrated materials for publication: some tips
Copyright, contracts, fees and royalties
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If your efforts have been successful, and a publishing house has said it would like to publish your
material, what kind of negotiation takes place, and what sort of terms are they likely to offer you?
This topic is probably worthy of a whole PhD thesis, but let me try to provide some pointers.
An idea as such cannot be protected by
copyright (nor can a book title, by the way); but the form in which the
idea is expressed
means that not just direct quotation, but also paraphrasing and even
organisation and presentation of material in a
legislation protects that country's own nationals
in the first instance
– but the protection usually also extends
A copyright holder is generally said to have:
the right to
obtain appropriate financial reward for the work done. The aim is to
fairly the rights of .
– ‘Paternity’ (the right to claim authorship)
– ‘Integrity’ (the right to object to distortions of one’s work which may affect honour or reputation)– These are less widely known than economic rights, but are increasingly protected formally by copyright legislation.
The general rule is that authors are the initial owners of copyright in their work. (One exception in many national copyright laws:
if a work is produced by an employee wholly in the course of his/her employment, the copyright then belongs to the employer.)
In most countries, registration is not required; copyright protection exists automatically once the work has been produced. (Nor is it
necessary for the work to have been published.) However, if you are even slightly paranoid, you might want to be able to show that
you had produced a completed work by a certain date; some countries allow optional registration for this purpose, but a copy
deposited with your bank is another satisfactory way to achieve the same result.
Owners of copyright can:
assign the copyright (i.e. sell it outright) to someone else, such as a publishing house.
license someone else (e.g. a publishing house) to publish the work – but still retaining ownership of the copyright themselves.
I would advise the latter, especially if you have submitted the
material on an
unsolicited basis. Some publishers argue
have a rather stronger justification for asking you to assign copyright
the material is commissioned – in other
is not really a unity, but a bundle of divisible rights
– to produce a hard
cover version, to produce a paperback version,
normally be itemised in the draft contract you receive; it may
make sense to grant the publisher a license for all of them,
Soon after your proposal for a publication has been accepted, you are likely to receive a draft contract.
considerable pressure in many countries to write contracts in simpler
but plenty of jargon can still be found, in
A cautionary tale!
Here is a fairly alarming cautionary tale.
When I first
joined one publishing company,
I queried this, and it was
So for several years authors had apparently been signing,
a contract containing a clause which they could not possibly have understood,
because it was nonsense!
One can only conclude that they did not expect to understand it!
Please make sure you do, before you sign.
What the contract should contain
The contract should normally include coverage of all the aspects listed below:
- licensed or asssigned?
- geographical areas covered (often referred to as “territories”)
- languages in which the licensee may publish the material- arrangements if the publisher goes into liquidation, or is taken over
DELIVERY OF MANUSCRIPT
- by when?- in what form?
ACCEPTANCE BY PUBLISHER
- any limitations on what will be acceptable?
ARRANGEMENTS FOR PROOFREADING
PUBLICATION BY PUBLISHER
- by what date at the latest?
PERMISSIONS FOR COPYRIGHT MATERIAL USED (I.E. MATERIAL FROM OTHER AUTHORS)
- who obtains permission, the publisher or the author?- who pays?
- warranty to the publisher that there has been no plagiarism
RESPONSIBILITY FOR ARTWORK AND INDEX, IF ANY
- who arranges these?- who pays?
PROMOTION- who has what responsibilities?
NEGOTIATION OF SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS (OTHER LANGUAGE EDITIONS, USE IN ELECTRONIC MATERIALS, ETC.)- by the author or the author's agent?
- by the publisher?
ARRANGEMENTS FOR REVISED EDITIONS
ROYALTIES (INCLUDING ADVANCES) AND FEES- arrangements for royalty or fee payments (accounting periods, when paid etc.)
- division of income on any subsidiary rights payments received (itemising each separate kind of subsidiary right)
Publishers Association in the
FEES OR ROYALTIES?
are percentages of the publisher’s income paid to the author on each
The percentage may be based either
that many countries have banned fixed prices for books, there is an
tendency to use a 'price received' basis;
publisher may pay advances
against the hoped-for
royalties. These will vary from a small sum to a new author, mainly
of course, are fixed
sums – most frequently paid only once, but sometimes repeatable in
Which to choose?
you have a choice, should you opt for fees or royalties? This really
how risk-averse you are. Fees are paid
the whole, I would advise most people to choose a royalty arrangement.
the fee may seem the safe choice at the time,
as with advances, the level of royalties depends to at least some
extent on the
relative negotiating power of the author
best-selling popular novelist signing with a publisher for the next
(almost a guaranteed bestseller which will sell
A new author with no track record is a much more uncertain proposition for the publisher, and the royalty will therefore be less.
the author still deserves a reasonable return for all the work done,
and if you have done all the writing work, you
EXPERIENCING THE JOYS OF ‘PATERNITY’ (OR 'MATERNITY'?)!
is often a hard, lonely business, especially for someone with a
in another field; but there is nothing like
It has been
said that producing a book (and
presumably therefore also an electronic publication) is the nearest
So why not seriously consider experiencing the joys of “parenthood”?