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Do Authors Own The Rights To Their Books? (Understanding Publishing Agreements)

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The management of intellectual property in the publishing industry is an important concept to consider and discuss. If you are an author, it is something you need to have a great understanding of, because it can potentially affect the rights of your book. 

When a book is published through a publishing industry, there are legalities and publishing agreements that need to be decided upon and met. These agreements will cover a wide variety of different aspects, one of which includes the rights to a published book. 

In this article, I will be providing you with a clear idea of what publishing agreements are, and what they entail. I will also be discussing whether or not authors own their rights to their books. 

Do Authors Own The Rights To Their Books?

Being an author, you should always be aware of the copyright laws and publishing agreements before signing a contract. It is vital you are happy with everything the contract entails, and you should always read the contract in full. 

When it comes to signing a contract with a publishing house, the same may attempt to ask you to sign over the copyright of the book to them. This is something you will want to avoid doing. The copyright to your book should be yours alone.

In the vast majority of cases, a publisher will never ask you to sign over the copyright of your book to them. The contract will typically contain information that states that you are the author. 

If you were to sign over the copyright of your intellectual property to a publishing house, essentially this means that they are able to use your book in a way that they see fit. It would also mean that they would not need to seek permission from you, the author. 

Reputable publishing houses will not do this. If you were to agree to this, it would impact you financially, because you will no longer be seen as the owner of the book. 

The main concern with authors and copyright typically links to academic publishing within university presses. The rules surrounding authorship of a piece of writing is more complicated when compared to typical publishing. While some academic writers will ensure that their work remains their own when publishing, not all academics will do this. As a result, the copyright of their work then falls to the university presses.

This is why it is so important to ensure that there is a clear agreement between you and the publisher before you agree for your writing to be published. Even if you are publishing your debut piece or novel, you should never be afraid to ensure you are receiving the correct contract and agreement. 

Can Authors Sell The Rights To Their Books?

While it is not recommended to pass on the copyrights of your book to someone else. There are many authors that have chosen to do this to some extent, especially if their book has become a large franchise. 

Take Harry Potter, for example, JK Rowling still owns the copyright to the books and the characters, but Warner Brothers own the rights to the Harry Potter movies and much of the merchandise that has been released as a result. This means she will not profit from these two aspects.

The majority of authors will come to an agreement with a publishing house. This agreement will state that the publishers can use the material within the book and distribute it, but the overall copyright still belongs to the author. 

What Are Publishing Agreements?

As discussed, when you are working with a publisher to release a book, you need to ensure you have a publishing agreement and contract. This agreement is typically called a publishing or licensing agreement. 

These agreements can differ depending on the publishing house, and what you want out of the agreement you sign. This is why it is important to consider your options if you have received interest from more than one publisher. One publishing house may offer a better option than another. 

The publishing agreement typically covers aspects of the publishing process, and your rights as an author, including, but not limited to:

  • Royalties, and how much the royalties will be
  • Copyright and management of the book
  • How many copies will be printed
  • The format of the book
  • Publishing date
  • Initial payments

In addition to this, as an author, you will be asked to agree to certain aspects of the publishing agreement, such as the ownership of content, third party copyright material, and whether or not your book complies with publishing laws. You can also discuss further printing of your work, and distributing rights.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to the publishing process, and you need to ensure that you carry out thorough research before committing to anything. 


There is a lot to consider when it comes to copyright, and if you have any concerns, I would recommend reaching out to a professional lawyer regarding this. 

The important thing to remember is that you should always retain ownership of your work, and ensure that you have looked into listening agreements correctly. It is also worth registering your worth with the U.S. Copyright Office to ensure that it is protected.

Author Community

If you are an author who is looking to gain more reviews and engagement for your published book, I would highly recommend using Author Community. This free, text messaging service allows you to send unique and interesting messages to your readers when they sign up to your service. 
A unique Author Community number is given to you, and can be placed inside your book. A reader can then text the service to receive more information about your book. The service is free to sign up to, and it will not only help to increase your engagement, but it will increase your revenue too. You can try out author community here.