Understand contract terms

Exclusive rights

Exclusive rights means:

  • only this particular publisher is entitled to publish this work
  • any republications of the work through any other publisher will require permission and probably a fee from this publisher

Check if exclusive rights extend to derivative works like revisions or adaptation. This is especially important in the science and medical fields.

Assign or transfer copyright

Assigning or transferring your copyright in the work to the publisher limits your ability to:

  • reproduce the work
  • create derivative works
  • perform your work
  • communicate your work

You will need the publisher’s permission (and maybe pay a fee) to do any of these things, unless stated in your contract.

This is not always as restrictive as it may seem, as publishers may give certain rights back to you elsewhere in your agreement.

Non-exclusive rights

Non-exclusive rights mean that you are entitled to publish this work elsewhere. While this will suit most authors, it is an uncommon allowance in traditional publishing,

Sub-licensing

Sub-licensing allows a publisher to grant permission (and possibly charge a fee) to a requester without needing your permission. The requester can then reproduce your work.

Subsidiary and secondary rights

Subsidiary and secondary rights relate to:

  • potential adaptations
  • derivatives
  • other versions of your work

If you have plans for the future of your work, such as new editions and adaptations, consider if you're happy with the publisher managing those rights on your behalf.

Duration, termination and reversion of rights

  • How long is the contract for?
  • Do rights revert back to you at the end of the contract?

If rights don’t revert back to you, this is something you should ask for. You don’t want the contract to end and rights remain with the publisher.

Territory

Territory specifies which countries the publisher will distribute to. You may want to negotiate your rights for limited territories so you can publish your work in another country with a more well-known publisher.

Crown Copyright

See What is Crown Copyright?