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Upskilling Dictionary: Rights

By Meghan Capper, Sukhpreet Chana, Misha Manani and Joe Pilbrow


Rights is about getting books into the world and the hands of readers. This is an important aspect of the relationship between publishers and literary agents who acquire or sublicense different rights. This is a great way to recognise the legal aspects and kick-start your career in this field. We hope this fourth article in the series helps you understand the terminology used in the sector and builds your awareness.


Approvals: A clause in the right contract which ensures consultation rights for the author before a publisher licenses their work for use. It requests that the publisher will first seek the author's consent before granting reproduction permission.


Audio Rights: The subsidiary rights that allow a publisher to adapt a book into an audiobook. These can be acquired by a publisher alongside print rights, or retained by the author and sold to a specialist audio publisher at a later date.


Author Share: The percentage of royalties that the author is entitled to out of the sum of income made from the publishing rights.


Book Fairs: Events where agents and publishers can meet to discuss rights deals. The International Rights Centre at the London Book Fair is where rights professionals negotiate. Others include Frankfurt, Bologna, New Delhi World and Hong Kong.


Contract: An abiding legal agreement between the publisher and writer before publishing their original work. This can include a written piece or a collection. The Society of Authors gives you an insight into receiving advice and guidance for members or non-members when publishing.


Domestic Rights: These tend to be national such as audio, book club and serial, unlike international rights which involve translation.


Electronic and Digital Rights: It allows the publisher to obtain access to the electronic version (eBook and audio on Amazon) of an author's work, by using licensing and copyright agreements to facilitate this.


Film and TV Rights: This is licensed when selling a book to be adapted for film or TV. A producer acquires this option for a specific time period but is not obliged to use it. When the option expires without action, the rights can be resold by the agent to someone else.


First Serial: A publication such as a newspaper or a magazine is sold the right to publish an excerpt from the book for the first time. This is different to second serial. This is a paid form of publicity.


Intellectual Property (IP) Projects: An editor commissions a book idea which has been created in-house instead of by an author. The editor will then contact an agent with a person in mind to write the book. Publishers have more control over which rights they receive for IP projects; for instance, film and television usually stay with the literary agent, but this can remain with the publisher.


Key Selling Points: The unique elements that make the book stand out which are used to negotiate terms between agents and publishers as well as inform marketing, publicity and sales decisions.


Merchandising Rights: A subsidiary rights agreement, usually found in the copyright section of a contract, which refers to the right to licence, manufacture or distribute any physical items based on the book such as characters, names or events.


Quotation and Anthology Rights: When the publisher has been awarded the right to use a quote from another publisher to include in the work of an anthology.


Reversion: A part of the contract that states that ownership of some or all of the work contained within the agreement will revert to the author after the agreed licence period has expired.


Rights Guide: This is shown to international publishers and agents to secure rights in other countries. This has the publishers’ highlights according to the genre with a short synopsis, the book cover and metadata, such as the author, extent and previous publishers (in other countries).


Second Serial: The right to reprint a story, article, or poem in a periodical or magazine that has already been published in another publication. These rights are non-exclusive, meaning the author can sell them to more than one publication.


Subsidiary Rights: The publisher does not acquire these rights, but can license them out to others. Key examples are translation, film and television, merchandising, book club and serial rights.


Territories: The areas in which the publisher can distribute and sell their editions of the book. Foreign rights agents usually have a specific group of territories that they oversee and pitch books to sell the rights to reproduce the book.


Translation Rights: A contractual agreement that gives permission to reproduce and sell a book in different languages to its original publication.



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