What is Important to Know About a Publishing Contract (Part 1)

EPGD Law Intellectual Property Law

What Are the Current Trends in the Publishing Industry?

The general trend in the publishing industry today is the growth in sales of ebooks and a decline in the print market. In 2018 it was observed that the bestseller lists have become dominated by mostly political works. Since then, it has also included many books with lifestyle themes. One can also observe a boom in the sales of comics and graphic novels by as much as 20% from 2006 to 2019. Additionally, there is an ever-increasing boost in sales of works adopted for movies and TV series.

However, the long-term market in general (print books and e-books) remains rather flat, with an annual growth rate of -0.1% between 2013 and 2018.

What Provisions Need to be Included in a Publishing Contract?

A solid publishing contract should include the following provisions:

  1. Rights granted by the author to the publisher as well as the author’s copyrights. This includes territory of allowed publishing (domestic and/or foreign), languages of the publication, formats of the work, etc).
  2. Amount of royalties and any discount schedules.
  3. Timeline for the publisher. This clause creates a certain deadline for the publisher to deliver the published copies and distribute a certain number of them.
  4. A proper description of the manuscript. This provision serves to protect the author by clearly describing the work that is the subject of the contract.
  5. Advertising and promotion commitment by the publisher. This clause describes the duties that the publisher is taking on with respect to promoting the work.
  6. Warranties and liabilities by both parties.
  7. Termination of contract provision. This includes the author’s right to get back his rights in case when the publisher fails to publish the work or if the publisher sells fewer than a certain number of copies per year.
  8. Assignment of rights. Under this clause, typically, the author retains the assignment rights, whereas the publisher is not granted them.

Why Are Specific Rights Important?

It is important to only grant specific rights to a publisher without giving up absolute control. Such specific rights include:

  • Format of the work (hardcover, audio, etc.)
  • Territory (where the author authorizes the publisher to make the work available). This category would also include the languages that the author would like the book to be published in.
  • Performance Rights. The author does not have to grant the publisher exclusive or non-exclusive performance rights (movie, audio, theater play, etc.) These can be granted to other entities such as studios or negotiated with the publisher separately.

All of these specific rights are up to the author to decide upon and negotiate.

What is a Deadline for a Publisher?

It is important to set a deadline for the publisher to preserve the author’s copyrights to the work. For example, the author can include a provision with a 3-month deadline for the publisher to register the book with the Copyright Office in the author’s name. There is no rule on the number of years a publisher can own rights to publish a book. It should be negotiated in the publishing contract.

If you would like to read the second part of this blog, click here to continue.

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and historic Washington D.C. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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Silvino Diaz

Silvino E. Diaz’s practice ranges from Civil and Commercial Litigation to Entertainment and Intellectual Property Law. Silvino has earned a reputation as one of Puerto Rico’s foremost advocates for independent musicians and artists. As a result of his sustained commitment to creative industries, he was named Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Atlantic University College (Guaynabo, PR) – the Caribbean’s leading digital arts institution – where he spearheaded the “Introduction to IP” course for both the graduate and undergraduate programs, and was appointed by the Office of the President to develop an Intellectual Property graduate curriculum, where he served until moving to Miami in 2017. He is the founder of the service known as Starving Artists, where he offers innovative business and legal counsel for artists and creatives.


*The following comments are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is limited to the basic facts presented. Additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.

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