Lawrence G. TownsendIntellectual Property Lawyer

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Introduction to book-publishing contracts

At our law firm, we are well versed in legal and practical issues that come up in the negotiation of book-publishing agreements. We represent book authors as well as publishers throughout the process of publishing-contract drafting, review and negotiation

As with players in any industry, each party needs to make a fair profit for its efforts and risks assumed, and each needs its own kind of protection. Historically, publishing houses have held relatively unequal bargaining strength as compared with individual authors.

Nowadays, small or non-traditional but agile publishers are gaining a foothold in the industry, permitting them to compete for local and national authors and creating a different balance-of-power playing field. 

In addition, technological advances like electronic reading platforms complicate book publishing rights. 

Common terms 

While each negotiation has its own issues because of the uniqueness of the participants, certain terms unique to book publishing must be addressed in every contract. For example: 

  • Advances
  • Royalties
  • Important dates such as date of author delivery, payments, ready for market and others
  • Territorial and foreign-language translation rights
  • Marketing and promotional expectations
  • Copyright ownership, registration, and enforcement
  • Subsidiary rights to spin-off products like audio books, serial versions, paperbacks, film, television, and others
  • Governing state law
  • And many more 

Whether you are an author or a publisher, it is wise and important to consult an attorney with experience in book-publishing agreements to advocate for your rights and interests throughout the negotiation process.


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Lawrence G. Townsend

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