Category Archives: Copyright

How Do I Prevent Other People From Stealing My Book?

How Do I Prevent Other People From Stealing My Book?

How Do I Prevent Other People From Stealing My Book?

The best way to prevent other people from stealing your book is to protect your copyright ownership. You protect it by proving you’re the true copyright owner right from the very first written draft. There are a few simple ways you can do this.

How Do I Prevent Other People From Stealing My Book Before it is Published?

Every time you sit down to write a portion of your book, email that evening’s work to yourself. Send it to two or three private, secure email addresses. Save it on a USB drive, too. This not only backs up everything you’ve written so you always have access to it, even in the event of a computer crash. It also acts as date-stamped proof of your copyright ownership all along the way.

Here’s another great way to get this evidence of copyright ownership—a way that is virtually free of charge. It’s as simple as sealing a copy of your completed work in an envelope and mailing it back to yourself via registered mail. When the date-stamped package is returned to you, keep it sealed and stored in a fireproof container. Then, in the highly unlikely event that someone else ever tries to claim copyright ownership of your work after the fact, you will have more date-stamped proof of your ownership to fall back on.

How Do I Prevent Other People From Stealing My Book During the Publication Process?

The likelihood of any professional editor, designer, or proofreader stealing your manuscript is very low. But, for those of you who are concerned about this, I recommend hiring reputable help you know you can trust.

A great site to find freelancers of all kinds, with all experience levels, from all over the world, is UpWork.com. You can browse through the talent already listed there. Get a sense of what their hourly or flat fee rates are. Or you can post your own job, timeline, and payment expectations to see who replies and take it from there. I’ve personally used this site as a freelancer. I can tell you there are many checks and balances in place to ensure the freelancers you’re hiring are exactly who they say the are.

How Do I Prevent Other People From Stealing My Book After it is Published?

This is where things get a little more involved. When it comes to copyright infringement, the laws and remedies vary per each country. Click here to read some important advice from a trademark, copyright, and entertainment attorney free of charge.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.



Estate Planning Checklist for Authors

Estate Planning Checklist for Authors

Estate Planning Checklist for Authors

Anyone who has been reading this blog (or my non-fiction publishing guides) for a while knows about my sales background. I’ve worked in various positions—mainly print advertising sales—over the years while building my authorship on the side. After being laid off from one of those common jobs, I was certified to sell prepaid funeral and cemetary services. I did that for a short time. Now, some of you may find that career path a bit odd or morbid. But I have to say it was an eye-opening education for me. I’m so glad I did it, because I learned so much. It is so important for everyone to have an estate planning checklist completed for the family members they leave behind. It is equally—if not more—important for authors to plan ahead in this way.

The Standard Estate Planning Checklist for Everyone

When a loved one passes away, there are so many decisions to make and things for family members to do. If it’s a sudden passing and that person didn’t leave any instructions regarding his or her wishes, it can be especially traumatic. Unexpected upfront funeral and cemetary expenses can leave family members strapped for cash. They may have difficulties locating important banking or insurance information to cover those expenses. They may be unaware of who all to invite to the celebration of life. The list goes on, so it makes sense to plan ahead. In the very least, everyone should take care of the following three details and let family members know where to find them:

  1. Draft a will that includes who will be named the executor, beneficiary, and trustee/legal guardian (if young children are left behind) of your estate. It is also wise to stipulate a power of attorney in the event you are disabled in any way that prevents you from making decisions for yourself while still alive.
  2. Attach a list of employment, mortgage, banking, and insurance contact information that is easy for family members to follow.
  3. A contact list of those who should be called to attend your life celebration is also great to include. This list is important even if you aren’t preplanning/prepaying your own funeral and cemetary arrangements. It can make things a lot easier for your loved ones to ensure everyone you cared about is aware of your passing.

An Author’s Estate Planning Checklist

Estate Planning Checklist

Estate Planning Checklist

Authors have another important list to include with their wills: all your titles in publication. It’s wise to include where you published each title through (e.g., the name of the publishing house, distributor, or ecommerce site). It’s also important to include all possible editions (e.g., paperbacks, hardcovers, ebooks, audiobooks) and any contracts you have in place for subsidiary rights.

Why are these things important? M.L. Buchman explains it well in his book Estate Planning For Authors: Your Final Letter (and why you need to write it now) (Strategies for Success) (Volume 2). One important take-away is this: your book’s copyright outlives you by 50 years in Canada, 70 years in the United States. Did you know that? Assuming you self-published and retained 100% of your book’s copyright ownership, this means your estate will still be paid royalties for ongoing sales. Your beneficiaries could still potentially earn a living from your work many years after you pass on. So, you will want to give them instructions regarding how you want your intellectual property managed after you’re gone. I recommend picking up a copy of M.L. Buchman’s book for more details on how to go about this. It’s important, not only for you but for your loved ones.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.



Why is Copyright Important?

Or, more specificially, why is copyright important to an author’s success? That’s the real question, and there are a few answers. But first, we need to understand what copyright is. Here’s a description taken from Frequently Asked Questions About ISBNs, Copyright, and Book Publishing in General:

Merriam-Webster described copyright as a “Noun: The exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work).”

How Do I Copyright My Own Work?

copyright important

copyright important

As the original creator of your manuscript, you own 100 percent of all of the rights to reproduce, publish, sell, and distribute your words in whatever manner you see fit. Your manuscript belongs to you and you alone—from the moment you write it. It is only when you decide that you want to publish your manuscript into book format with the hopes that you’ll earn some money (or educate people, or entertain people, or whatever your personal reasoning is for publishing it) that the copyright ownership of that work might shift to someone else, depending on which publication method you choose.

Why is My Ownership of Copyright Important?

I recently published a free ebook titled Your Ebook is an Asset … if You Own the Copyright that I recommend you read in full because it provides more detail than this post. It can be downloaded from Amazon, Kobo, or E-Sentral. Here is what you need to know.

Your Ebook is an Asset … if You Own the Copyright

Your Ebook is an Asset … if You Own the Copyright

Once your published book becomes popular, you will begin to see the true value of copyright ownership. This is when more business people may come knocking and asking to buy additional subsidiary rights to that work. Maybe someone will want to purchase the exclusive Bengali and Hindi translation rights to your work so he or she becomes the only one who can reproduce, print, and distribute it in these languages in India for a profit. Maybe others will want to buy the exclusive motion picture rights so that they can adapt your book for film. Imagine how much money the licensee must have paid (and earned!) for all the Harry Potter merchandise that was created and sold as an offshoot of that successful book series—never mind all the profits that were earned from the motion picture sales.

You can “divvy up” the rights to a work in so many ways that it would be impossible to list them all here, but this gives you a very basic idea. It is simplified to provide an easier understanding. It also shows you the income potential of your book past royalty earnings alone. This is why copyright is so important to an author’s success. Read the book. It will open your eyes to your potential.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.



When Should Writers opt for Self-Publishing over Traditional (Trade) Publishing?

When should writers opt for self-publishing over traditional (trade) publishing? This is a loaded question because the answer might be different for one person than it is for another. It all starts with your own personal preferences and goals as detailed in this blog post from a while back: Ten Questions To Ask Yourself Before Publishing Your Book. From there, it’s important to research the various publishing options available to you to determine which one best complements your goals. I talk about these three book publishing business models in one of my most recent free downloads titled Your Ebook is an Asset … if You Own the Copyright. Here is a brief excerpt from that ebook:

Some authors will submit their manuscripts to a traditional (trade) publisher for consideration in the hopes it will be published for them free of charge. What they might not realize is that whoever is paying for the publication of a book is the one who ends up with primary control over that book. Trade publishers don’t pick up the bill simply out of the kindness of their hearts. They are business people who are buying a product to try to turn a profit for themselves, and that “product” is the copyright ownership of your work (whether permanent or temporary, whether full or partial—it varies with each contract and each publisher).

The grant of rights clause in a publishing contract is one of the most important clauses because it enumerates the specific rights granted to the publisher by the author. Negotiation of this clause has become even more important in today’s world where increasingly more uses are being developed for literary content.

The scope of the clause may vary widely, it could be all inclusive — granting all the exclusive rights and interests in the author’s work, or the grant could be very narrow — only including a single specific use of the author’s work, or it could be somewhere between these extremes. The critical point is that the publisher only has the right to exploit those rights that are specifically granted to the publisher and any exploitation of rights exceeding the author’s grant could be deemed a copyright infringement of the author’s work.

Copyright ownership of a literary work consists of a bundle of rights which an author, at least theoretically, may assign to the publisher in any manner they choose. Thus, an author may assign all or only a part of his/her rights to one or more publishers while retaining particular rights for himself/herself. (Thomson Reuters, n.d.)

Unfortunately, many authors unwittingly grant all their exclusive rights to one publisher without fully understanding the implications of doing so. As a result, these individuals usually retain only basic rights that recognize them as the author of the work and allow them to be paid a small percentage of its retail price in royalties (usually only up to 10 percent per copy sold). The publisher keeps the rest of the profits because the publisher owns the copyright.

Most trade publishers do not ask for an outright assignment of all exclusive rights under copyright; their contracts usually call for copyright to be in the author’s name. But it’s another story in the world of university presses. Most scholarly publishers routinely present their authors with the single most draconian, unfair clause we routinely encounter, taking all the exclusive rights to an author’s work as if the press itself authored the work: “The Author assigns to Publisher all right, title and interests, including all rights under copyright, in and to the work…”

…The problem is that most academic authors—particularly first-time authors feeling the flames of “publish or perish”—don’t even ask. They do not have agents, do not seek legal advice, and often don’t understand that publishing contracts can be modified. So they don’t ask to keep their copyrights—or for any changes at all. (The Authors Guild, n.d.)

If you choose to follow the traditional route toward publishing a book, you must read and fully understand the contract being presented to you before signing anything away. You should only grant a publishing company the primary and subsidiary rights that it has the full intention (and capability) of exploiting on your behalf so the relationship benefits you both. If any publisher ever tries to tell you otherwise, then walk away.

Interested in reading more about your other two options? You can download a free copy of Your Ebook is an Asset … if You Own the Copyright from your choice of either Amazon, Kobo, or E-Sentral to continue reading. Click on the link for details.



Choosing Illustrations, Graphics, or Images for Your Book

If you want to include any illustrations, graphics, or images on your book cover—or in your book’s interior, for that matter—you must ensure you have the legal right to use them. There are three ways you can do this: one, you can use photos, illustrations, or graphics that you have personally created and therefore own the copyright to; two, you can purchase them from someone else; or three, you can find public domain stock photos that are deemed as “free for commercial use” from whatever design-template program you’re using, or from websites such as Pixabay.com, as I did for this blog post.




It is crucial to respect another artist’s copyright. If you don’t—if you just pull any image file you find off the Internet and use that for your book without first confirming you have the right to use it—you may find yourself involved in an expensive copyright infringement lawsuit down the road. This isn’t only about protecting the rights of other artists; it’s also about protecting yourself. So, do a little research before you use any images for your ebooks. Pixabay.com is one of many websites containing free stock photos. You can find even more resources here: http://www.warriorforum.com/main-internet-marketing-discussion-forum/1257937-avoid-copyright-infringement-use-tool-find-free-stock-photos-your-display-ads.html.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About ISBNs, Copyright, and Book Publishing in General

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Many of your questions regarding PPG-specific policies and procedures will be answered by clicking on the above links and visiting the various other pages on this website. For general book publishing questions and answers, please read below.

What is an ISBN?

“ISBN” stands for “International Standard Book Number.” An ISBN is a unique 13-digit identifier for each edition of your book. For example, the paperback version of your book will have one ISBN, the hardcover version will have another, and the ebook version will have yet another. An ISBN is required for all books being produced for commercial use with Amazon as an exception. Amazon attaches its own unique ASINs to the ebooks uploaded to its site. ASIN stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number.

What is copyright?

Merriam-Webster described copyright as a “Noun: The exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work).”




How Do I Obtain Copyright Ownership of My Work?

As the original creator of your manuscript, you own 100 percent of all of the rights to reproduce, publish, sell, and distribute your words in whatever manner you see fit. Your manuscript belongs to you and you alone—from the moment you write it. It is only when you decide that you want to publish your manuscript into book format with the hopes that you’ll earn some money (or educate people, or entertain people, or whatever your personal reasoning is for publishing it) that the copyright ownership of that work might shift to someone else, depending on which publication method you choose.

Click here to sneak a peak inside for answers to even more FAQ!

By publishing your book through PPG, your copyright ownership will remain intact. We ensure it. It’s written into your publishing agreement and all other work-made-for-hire agreements we create for the various vendors (e.g., editors, designers, proofreaders, et cetera) who work on your project.

How Do I Protect My Copyright?

This is, perhaps, the real question writers are asking when they refer to the copyright of their books, and the answer is simple: You protect it by proving that you are the true copyright owner of the work. This can be done free of charge simply by sending yourself a copy of the manuscript via date-stamped registered mail and storing that sealed envelope in a fireproof/waterproof container.

How Long Does Copyright Last?

Each country is a little different; but, as a general rule, copyright lasts for the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and for 50 (or more) years following the end of that calendar year. 

Additional Questions and Answers

Click here to sneak a peak inside for answers to even more FAQ!

How Does Working with a Publisher in Another Country Affect My Copyrights?

Is Quoting Another Author’s Work in My Book Copyright Infringement?

You can find answers to these additional copyright questions inside How to Publish A Bestselling Book … and Sell It WORLDWIDE Based on Value, Not Price! from an actual trademark, copyright and entertainment attorney named Ian Gibson, Esq..

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Adventures in Publishing: Why I Chose to Go Independent

Sheri Fink, Best-selling, Award-winning Children’s Author

One of the biggest decisions today’s aspiring authors make is whether to go the traditional route with a publisher (whether large or small) or to explore the independent publishing path. I chose to go independent and many writers have asked me about my decision. So, here’s the scoop:  when I made a commitment to myself six years ago to bring The Little Rose children’s book to life, I had limited experience with self-publishing and was beginning to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the variety of publishing options available.

I attended writers’ conferences and networking events with writers. I asked both traditionally published and independently published authors about their experiences. I learned so much and decided to independently publish The Little Rose for several reasons:

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

Passion and Speed – I felt a burning need to get the uplifting message of The Little Rose to children quickly. I didn’t have the time or patience to woo an agent, find a publisher, go through the whole process, and then wait for a slot on their release calendar several years later.

Control – I wanted to be 100% happy with the final result of all of my hard work. I wanted to choose the right illustrator to bring my story to life and to influence the ultimate look and feel of my book. Even though I published independently, having a high-quality product was really important to me and I knew I could find the right partners to make that goal a reality.

Entrepreneurial Spirit – I’ve always been very entrepreneurial and I was excited about the possibility of building a business around doing something that I absolutely loved. I also learned from other authors about the value of the rights tied in with a book and felt like I would be able to make those decisions for my brand better than a big publisher could. And, my background was in marketing. I believed that I could leverage my knowledge and skills to be successful.

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Happiness – When I talked with other authors, the happiest ones tended to be the self-published authors. They had control over their destiny, their schedules, their agreements, their rights licensing, etc. That really appealed to me.

My best advice for authors who are exploring traditional vs. independent publishing is to talk with successful authors who have already done it. See what their experiences were like and what they would do differently knowing what they know now. Find out who’s happy and why. Writing and publishing my first book was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve done. Since the successful debut of The Little Rose, I’ve independently published six additional books across three genres.

Independent publishing is exciting and easier than it’s ever been before (although it’s still not an easy business), but it isn’t the right solution for everyone. Only the individual authors can truly decide what’s right for them, their books, and their careers.

About Sheri Fink

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Sheri Fink is an inspirational speaker, a #1 best-selling author, an award-winning entrepreneur, and the creator of “The Whimsical World of Sheri Fink” brand. Sheri writes books that inspire and delight kids of all ages while planting seeds of self-esteem. All five of her children’s books have become #1 best-sellers, including The Little Rose which was a #1 Amazon Best-seller for over 60 weeks.

CBS Los Angeles selected her as one of the top three authors in the local area, a distinction she shares with Dean Koontz. Sheri’s brand is the recipient of the prestigious Gold Mom’s Choice Award for the best in family friendly entertainment. She was recently named an inspirational beauty by supermodel Cindy Crawford’s “Beauties Give Back” campaign.

Sheri’s newest adventure is a contemporary romance. She was inspired to write Cake in Bed, her debut novel, to empower women to be their authentic selves and to not settle for less than they deserve in life or in love, because everyone deserves to have their cake and eat it too … preferably in bed! Discover more about Sheri and her books at www.SheriFink.com.

© Sheri Fink 2017



The Elements of a Professional Book Interior

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

A book’s interior is comprised of three basic elements: front matter, the body, and back matter. Each element might differ slightly depending on the type of book being published. For example, a non-fiction book will contain an index in its back matter whereas a fictional novel will not. Following is a list a various components you might find within a book’s interior and what their respective purposes are:

The front matter of a book might contain some or all of the following components:

Primary title page: This is usually the very first page of the book in which the title appears on an otherwise blank right-hand page.

Secondary title page: The secondary title page repeats the book title along with the author and publisher’s name on the next right-hand page.

Copyright page: The copyright page will contain the book’s ISBN(s), publication date, copyright owner’s name, and a copyright notice such as, “No portion of this book may be duplicated or used in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) for any profit- driven enterprise without prior permission in writing from the publisher.” If the author also wishes to credit any of the book’s contributors (e.g., photographers and designers), that can also be done on this page.

Quote page: Sometimes a quote will be placed in the front matter if it sums up the essence of the story quite well.

Dedication page: Oftentimes, authors will dedicate their books to their loved ones. That dedication is placed in the beginning of the book.

Acknowledgments page: An acknowledgments page allows an author to provide more detail when crediting the book’s various contributors rather than just listing their names on the copyright page. Here, a heartfelt thank you can be expressed in a much more meaningful way.

Foreword: Usually, a foreword is written by someone other than the author. Its purpose is to provide a history leading up to the story being told or explain what inspired the publication of the book.

Preface: Where a foreword is an introduction to the book written by someone other than the author, a preface is an introduction written by the author for the same purpose. An author might also use a preface to explain what methods of research were used during the creation of the work.

Contents: A table of contents lists the various sections (i.e., chapters, articles, poems, et cetera) within the book and that page numbers on which they begin.




The body of a book usually contains at least the following two components:

Title Pages: A title page is used at the beginning of each section within the body of a book. The purpose of the title page is simply to differentiate between the sections to help organize the flow of the work.

Sections: Sections of a book’s body can be divided up as chapters, poems, articles, et cetera. It all depends on the type of book being published.




The back matter of a book might contain some or all of the following components:

Appendix: An appendix contains supplementary details that help to clarify further any legal, technical, or scientific information within the book.

Bibliography (a.k.a. Citations): A bibliography is a list of the books, articles, webpages, et cetera, that were sourced and referred to throughout the book.

Glossary: A glossary of terms contains a list of specialized words that can be found throughout the book along with their definitions.

Index: An alphabetized index is used to help readers pinpoint the exact pages where they can find an important name, place, or subject throughout the book. (It provides a much more precise, defined search result than the table of contents at the front does.)

Promotional Content: A great way to sell your back list titles is to promote them in the back matter of each new release. It is best if you can provide a graphic of each book’s front cover along with the corresponding ISBNs. This way, readers can search for these back list titles online or at bookstores if they wish to purchase them.

Author Biography: An updated author biography helps personalize your book for readers by giving them a bit more information about the storyteller. It is also a great way to promote past titles, thereby increasing the chance of more sales.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2017 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Learn at Your Own Pace: Online Courses in Writing, Publishing, and Selling Books

Through Udemy‘s online learning portal, PPG can help you build on your book writing, publishing, and selling skills from the comfort of your home and at your own pace. Here are just three of the courses that can help you with every aspect of your next book project from start to finish:


ONLINE COURSE: Writing A Book: The First Draft


ONLINE COURSE: Writing With Flair: How To Become An Exceptional Writer


ONLINE COURSE: Self-Publishing Success in Bookstores and Online!

Check them out today. Just click on the above pictures to be redirected to the course landing page where you can enroll and start learning immediately. Good luck and enjoy.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2017 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.



What Could Surrendering Your Copyright Potentially Cost You?

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

The CEO Magazine recently published a piece I wrote for their 8020 Blog titled Your Book is an Asset … if You Own the Copyright, and it generated many comments from both authors and publishers alike … some more passionate than others. Many thought it was too simplified, as though a more complicated explanation of copyright is somehow more acceptable. I disagree, hence this additional blog post on the topic.

Here is my personal belief: when people are unable to explain their topic matter to others in layman’s terms with ease, then they are either hiding something or they don’t fully understand it themselves. This is why I’m cautious when it comes to publishing contracts that are filled with complicated legalese. It is also why I challenge those who try to defend such contracts by saying, “It’s not that simple. There are different types of licenses. There are several factors to consider. Authors may be relinquishing some of their control, but not necessarily their copyright; or, if they are giving up their copyright, it may be only temporarily, not permanently.” And on and on.

Semantics. Legalese is confusing by design. I could utilize immoderately byzantine phraseology and labyrinthine reasoning with the best of them if I chose to, but that rather defeats the purpose of communication, don’t you think? 

I’d rather be clear and helpful. So, let’s keep it simple. Because, at the end of the day, it’s unnecessary to complicate this.

COPYRIGHT SIMPLIFIED (UNDERSTANDING PUBLISHING CONTRACTS)

  cop·y·right
/ˈkäpēˌrīt/

  noun
noun: copyright; plural noun: copyrights
1. the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film,   or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.
“he issued a writ for breach of copyright”
* a particular literary, artistic, or musical work that is covered by copyright.

  adjective
adjective: copyright
1. protected by copyright.
“permission to reproduce photographs and other copyright material”

  verb
verb: copyright; 3rd person present: copyrights; past tense: copyrighted; past participle:
copyrighted; gerund or present participle: copyrighting
1. secure copyright for (material).

As the original creator of your manuscript, you own 100 percent of all of the rights to reproduce, publish, sell, and distribute your words in whatever manner you see fit. Your manuscript belongs to you and you alone—from the moment you write it. It is only when you decide that you want to publish your manuscript into book format with the hopes that you’ll earn some money (or educate people, or entertain people, or whatever your personal reasoning is for publishing it) that some or all of the copyright ownership of that work might shift to someone else, depending on which publication method you choose. In other words, you might take a few different routes toward having your book published, and each of these book publishing methods affects your copyright ownership a little differently.

It is vitally important that you review a publishing contract in full before you ever sign it; and, if the contract before you is filled with a bunch of hard-to-understand language, then ask the questions you need to ask to ensure that you fully understand the agreement you’re about to enter into. Hold the company accountable for explaining it to you and putting you at ease. You have that right as one of their clients.




TRADITIONAL (TRADE) PUBLISHERS

Some authors will submit their manuscripts to a traditional (trade) publisher for consideration in the hopes that it will be published free of charge to them. What they might not realize is that whoever is paying for the publication of a book is the one who ends up with primary control over that book. Trade publishers don’t pick up the bill simply out of the kindness of their hearts. They are business people who are buying a product to try to turn a profit for themselves, and that “product” is the copyright ownership of your manuscript (whether permanent or temporary, whether full or partial—it varies with each contract and each publisher).

And fair enough! If I was paying for the whole thing, assuming all financial risk and responsibility for the project myself, then I would want majority control and ownership, too. That’s the only way I would be able to earn a decent return on my investment. So, this isn’t a criticism of the publishing model itself. It’s simply intended to educate authors about the true implication of publishing through this type of publisher. If someone else is paying for it, they own it. They control it. Plain and simple.

In this business model, writers usually retain only the basic publishing rights that recognize them as the author of the book and allow them to be paid a small percentage of the retail price in royalties (usually only up to 10 percent per copy sold, but it varies). The trade publisher keeps the rest of the profits because the trade publisher owns the book. Thus, as the owner of the book, that trade publisher also reserves the right to sell off additional reproductive (a.k.a. subsidiary) rights for additional profit down the road.

VANITY PUBLISHERS (UNSUPPORTED SELF-PUBLISHING FOR “INDIE” AUTHORS)

Authors who choose the vanity publishing route usually retain 100 percent ownership of their written words; however, if the vanity publisher has produced the cover artwork for them, (nine times out of ten, in my personal experience) that company usually retains the copyright of that artwork. This means that authors must always go through the vanity publisher to have their marketing materials and books printed.

A contract with a vanity publisher will usually also give that publisher non-exclusive online distribution rights throughout North America, the United Kingdom, Europe, and possibly the whole world. All this means is that the publisher reserves the right to sell and distribute copies of the book through its various channels for the duration of the contract; however, this is a non-exclusive contract; therefore, the author (and any other distributor designated by the author) is also free to sell copies of the book within those regions. If it were an exclusive contract, only the publisher would be allowed to sell the book online within those regions.

HYBRID PUBLISHERS (PROFESSIONALLY SUPPORTED SELF-PUBLISHING)

Last but not least, authors can also choose to publish through a supportive self-publishing house (a.k.a. hybrid publisher) where they will retain 100 percent copyright ownership of both their words and their artwork. Much like the contracts with vanity publishers, a contract with a supportive self-publishing house would also include non-exclusive online distribution rights worldwide for a specified term. This gives the authors much greater exposure without limiting their ability to sell wholesale author copies on their own wherever they choose to sell them.




WHAT COULD SURRENDERING YOUR COPYRIGHT POTENTIALLY COST YOU?

Eventually, once you’re selling lots of books and making a name for yourself with the general population, you’ll begin to see the true value of retaining majority (i.e., FULL!) copyright ownership—because this is when more business people will come knocking and asking to buy additional reproductive rights to your book. Maybe someone in Quebec will want to purchase the exclusive French language rights to your title so he or she can be the only one to reproduce, print, and distribute it in French to that region’s Francophone population for a profit. Maybe others will want to buy the exclusive North American film rights so that they can adapt the book for film in this region.

You can “divvy up” the rights to a book in so many different ways that it would be impossible to list them all here, but this gives you a very basic idea. It is simplified to provide an easier understanding.

What are all these rights worth? In any industry, a thing is worth what someone will pay for it. It could be worth millions to the primary owner of the book, so it’s a good idea to retain as much, if not ALL, of that ownership as you can right from the start. Then, when the movie producers and foreign publishers start calling, hire an intellectual property attorney to help you determine the best price for each sale of rights to each different buyer.

“I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU” BY DOLLY PARTON … A PRICELESS COPYRIGHT

Whether you’ve written a book, a movie script, or a song, the value of retained copyright ownership is much the same. It’s all intellectual property that can generate additional income through the sale of subsidiary rights.

Most, if not all of us are familiar with Whitney Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s song titled “I Will Always Love You.” What you may not be aware of is that, as the copyright owner of that song, Dolly gets paid each time a copy of it is made. She doesn’t have to lift a finger, and she gets paid.

Millions of copies of Whitney Houston’s cover of that song were made. And Dolly got paid on every one of them.

Retained copyright ownership of your intellectual property is potentially priceless. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Related reading: Your Intellectual Property is Priceless! 

Related reading: Authors, Keep Your Copyrights. You Earned Them. 

Related reading: Managing Intellectual Property in the Book Publishing Industry

Related reading: Copyright Ownership: Who Owns What?

Related reading: Subsidiary Rights: Acquisition & Licensing

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