Subsidiary rights ~ what’s an author to keep?

Yesterday, I posted a list of 9 subsidiary rights an author has with regards to a publishing contract.  If you missed it, you can read about it here.  Today, I’m going to discuss those rights that are usually handled by the publisher, those that are negotiable, and those that, if you have the means to keep, you should.

Rights the Publisher usually keeps:

First and Second Serial Rights:  In general, Publishers usually keep 1st and 2nd serial rights.  They are important to the publisher more for publicity and promotion than revenue.  As most people don’t have a publicist lined up to handle this sort of marketing, it makes sense for the publisher to retain the rights.

Book Club rights:  Unless you’re in the know with the “Club”, Publishers usually retain these rights as the Publisher has more contacts than a novice author with little clout and financial backing.  Unless you have a publicist, you might want to allow the Publisher to keep this right.

Reprint rights:  These rights are geared more for the Publisher to keep as they have the “print” power.  Many publishers nowadays offer what is known as a “hard-soft” deal, meaning they’ll reprint the novel or manuscript in paperback if the book sells well in it’s original publication form, whether e-book or hardback.  What you’ll need to focus on are the terms related to this ‘hard-soft’ deal, and if you agree with them.

Rights the author should always keep, if possible.

Performance Rights:  If you have an agent or a dynamite publicity team, the author should do whatever he or she can to retain these rights.  9 times out of 10, an author won’t get a ‘movie deal’ out of the gate.  The author will get what is known as an ‘option’. This means the producer will pay the author money for the option to make a movie.  While they have the option, no one else can touch it.  A producer can re-option your book as many times as he or she wants and as many times as you accept.  This could amount to a big chunk of change to the author.

Merchandise Rights:  What you must remember is that publishers are not in the merchandising business, that which involves toys, action figures, video games, etc.  If your novel is picked up by a studio, you will want to make sure you, the author, has the right to negotiate the merchandise associated with the movie.

Rights that are negotiable between the Publisher and Author:

  • Foreign language rights
  • Electronic rights
  • Audio rights

If you have an agent or if you have the ability to exploit these rights on your own, keep them.  If you do not have the means to exploit the rights, you can let the Publisher keep them.  Just make sure the commitment by the Publisher to exploit these rights is written in the terms of your contract, as well as the rate as to how they will split the monies received.  You will also need to check the Reversion of Rights back to the author in the event the Publisher does not exploit the rights as agreed upon.

For more information on your rights and what they mean, check out these articles:

Writer’s Digest: “Publishing Contracts 101 (Protect Your Work)”

The Author’s Guild: Improving your Book Contract 

Rachelle Gardner: Publishing Contracts

Morse Barnes-Brown Pendleton (law firm): Book Publishing Contracts: Checklist of Deal Terms 



Hurry up and wait

So, I submitted a query to a “dream” publisher on May 30.  I received a request for my full manuscript on June 8.  I had one week to submit.

So, I got 5 sets of eyes on the manuscript.  I edited…read again…edited…read again…rinse and repeat until I couldn’t do anymore.  Around 2 PM on June 14, I held my breath, closed my eyes and hit the ‘send’ button.

Of course, after I submitted, I found mistakes.  It was driving me  nuts.  Several of my lovely writer buddies told me to put it away. It was gone. Nothing I could do about it. Still, I wanted it polished. I wanted perfection.  One side of my brain said there is no such thing. The other side of my brain said yes there is.  I’m conflicted, can you tell?

It’s been 4 days.  I haven’t received a confirmation e-mail that the publisher received the MS, and the website says don’t ask.

So now after all the hurry, I sit and wait.  My nerves are frayed. I may eat a finger or two, maybe a hand, before I hear anything. Pray for me.   My fingernails are already disappearing.

Copyright: robodread / 123RF Stock Photo

What? No teen sex allowed?

A couple of weeks ago I sent off the first 5 pages of one of my YA manuscripts to a publisher to get some feedback.  The editor really liked it and fast-tracked it, but before I submit the full manuscript, I need to remove the sexual references because the heroine is seventeen.  This publisher doesn’t accept stories where teens have sex or where the act of sex is implied.  I understand it.  I get it and I applaud them.  I will submit my manuscript to this publisher once I clean it up, (not that there was any sex to begin with, only references).  But this requirement led me to wonder what the reasoning is behind some publishers adhering to this rule.  I personally don’t write sex scenes, but I have to ask, isn’t sex a part of teen life these days?  Is the reason for not going the sex route a moral issue or a legal one?

I read the Twilight series.  I think most people will agree it was soft porn for teens.  I read Graceling, Bitterblue and Fire by Kristin Cashore.  Her female leads have sex.  Though it wasn’t displayed vividly, you knew what they were doing.  Maggi Stiefvater has a sex scene in Shiver.  Tahereh Mafi turns up the heat in Unravel Me and John Green has a quite vivid oral sex scene in Looking for Alaska, although in his defense, it is rather ‘clinical’.  So, if New York Times best-selling YA novels explore teen sexuality, why do small, indie publishers shy away from sexuality when considering taking on new works and authors?

The answer is, I don’t know.  I’m hoping an editor of a small press will stop by and lend some reasoning, some explanation.

I know the YA audience falls within the 12 – 18 age group, and I understand where publishers wouldn’t want graphic sex scenes to fall into the hands of a 12 – 14 year olds. My take is, most teens already know about this sex stuff.  They’ve seen it on t.v., they see it in movies.  Unfortunately, many of them are having sex themselves, (I know, scary, right?)  Also, if you listen to teens and read their blogs, one of the big topics is sex, and mostly by girls.  Should they?  Shouldn’t they?  How do they know they’re in love?  What if the boy doesn’t love them?  Should the girl bring the condom?  Should the guy?  Is Prom night the “Big Night”? Taking this and the fact that the above-mentioned best-sellers hit the mark with teens and adults alike, does it make sense for indie publishers to stay away from books that explore teen sexuality?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one for gratuitous sex, especially among teens, but sex is a no brainer in teen life.  Teens have sex.  Not all of them, but a lot of them.  Even if you (if you’re a teen reading this) or your teen isn’t having sex, teens know teens who are.  If authors want to write realistic stories about teens, doesn’t it make sense that the issue of sex needs to be addressed at some point, in some fashion?

When I was a teen, I was reading adult books and most of what I read had sex scenes, especially historical romance.  I stumbled upon D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover when I was 14.  So not a novel for kids and let me tell you, I learned an awful lot about sex.  I immersed myself in these novels for the longest time.  There was something beautiful, enticing, about these love scenes to my young teen mind.  Sex was raw, powerful, loving, romantic.  The men were handsome and swoon-worthy.  The women young, beautiful.  There was a fascination, a power, a joy that came from reading these books as a teen.

I doubt much has changed since then.  Teens are still reading.  Teens are still looking for those stories that touch their curiosity, stories that ignite their imaginations. Stories that make them feel and swoon and speak to the parts of them that are considered ‘off limits’ or taboo.

So, why do many small publishers stray from publishing books that touch on teen sexuality?  Your thoughts would be appreciated.  Also, as a reader, do you stay away from YA novels that touch on teen sexuality?  Inquiring minds want to know.


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