As an author, I wish I could write and write and have someone else worry about publishing contracts and marketing. We, authors, can avoid these to some extent by having an agent work for us to try to get the best deal. Even then, we still need to become involved in the process to make sure the agent is doing what is best for us. Whether agented or unagented, authors need to understand what is presented in black and white to make sure they maximize current and future revenues. To do that, we have to understand some publishing contract terms.
Today, I’m going to talk about subsidiary rights as they pertain to U.S. contracts. This information is in no way to be viewed as legal advice. I am not an attorney. These terms are for educational purposes only. I will try to explain as much as I can so you, as an author, will have the knowledge to make an informed decision if you ever find yourself with a publishing contract in hand.
Authors have nine (9) subsidiary rights. They are:
- First serial – This is your right as an author to publish excerpts or condensed versions of your manuscript or book in magazines and newspapers before the book is published. You may not see any $$ from these, but they are awesome for exposure and getting readers excited to buy your book.
- Second serial – This is same as the First Serial right except this covers the same right to publish excerpts after your book is published. Again, few $$ if any, but extremely valuable book promotion.
- Book Club – This is a fierce and competitive market, and if your book can break into “the Club”, there can be substantial royalties. It is said you’ll need excellent contacts or an awesome agent/publisher to open the door of this exclusive Club.
- Foreign rights (also called foreign language license) – As the right implies, this is your right as an author to publish and sell your book outside the US.
- Reprint – This is a natural progression of your book. The norm used to be Hardback, then paperback. Rarely was the paperback printed first and then hardback upon reprint, but it did happen every now and then. With the advent of e-books, the norm seems to be e-book, then paperback upon reprint, or ebook along with Hardback, then paperback on reprint.
- Performance (also called dramatic) – This is your right as the author to have your novel or manuscript adapted into dramatic performances to be enacted on radio, TV, in a movie, play, etc.
- Audiobook – This right (and the electronic or ebook right) is your right as an author to produce your manuscript or book in audio (or electronic) format.
- Electronic – You might see this combined in Audio rights. Some publishers call it Reproduction.
- Merchandise – This right allows you, the author, to produce merchandise like T-shirts, video games, action figures, etc. based on your story or characters. This right is usually associated with film rights and will most likely be purchased by the studio/producer in a package deal along with your performance rights.
Tomorrow, I’ll pass on which rights the publishers usually keep, and which ones the publishing agents and gurus suggest that you, as the author, should keep, if at all possible.
11 thoughts on “Publishing contract ~ what are subsidiary rights?”
Thanks for a very practical post! And I’m glad you found one of our Writers’ Rumpus posts helpful to link to, too.
OMG, this is SO valuable, Jenny!! Thanks!!
Great information. Thank you!
I hope it helps, even just a little.
I didn’t know about the first and second serial rights, so that was good to learn.
Great explanations, Jenny 🙂 I hardly understand any of it, but luckily, I have some friends who have been in the biz a lot longer than I have who offer me advice when it comes to contracts.
It’s always hard negotiating on your own so it’s nice to know what you’re going up against.