Book Rights And Wrongs And Traps For Authors

Protect Your Rights

There are so many avenues available now for authors to publish a book.

At the top of the list, of course, are the five big publishers and their myriad of imprints, followed by medium and small press publishers.

Then there is a long list of hybrid publishers, micro-publishers, vanity publishers and lastly, untrustworthy charlatans.

For a new author, it can be daunting to know which is the best avenue to take, especially for those not confident in taking the self-publishing route.


Whenever an author considers using a publisher, the most critical element is making a decision will be in regard to the author’s book rights. Whether in part or in total, publishers will always want the rights to a book before they publish.

Generally, if a publisher is offering an advance, then it is logical to expect that an author would agree to sign over the rights to a book. But advances are a rarity in today’s publishing world.

For new authors, the far more common occurrence is that a publisher will demand the rights, but offer no money in return.

In an increasing number, due to a lack of financial resources, small publishers ask for money from the author, to cover a part or even all of the publishing costs. This is definitely a danger signal.

Signing up with a publisher might sound exciting, but signing away the rights to your book without knowing how financially sound a publisher is, or checking on how successful they have been, can lead to serious problems.

Almost every day there is news of publishers going out of business, and this is when trouble can really strike. Getting your book rights back could take years, and that may even be optimistic.


So what can a new author do to avoid making a huge mistake?

Generally speaking, if you are asked to sign over the rights to your book, and there is an advance on offer, consider it carefully, because this is about as good as it gets.

If you are asked to sign over the rights to your book, and there is no money up front, think carefully, but perhaps don’t do it.

If a publisher asks for your book rights and also asks YOU for money, definitely DO NOT do it.

If you are not sure about taking the self-published route, because you are not confident in the technical aspects of ebook and POD publishing or book promotion, think about investing in service providers who can do this for you.

Okay, it will cost, but you keep your book rights and total control over your book.

Learn to self-publish. It will take a little time, but in fact, once you gain a little knowledge, you will find out that self-publishing is very easy. Whichever route you take as a new author, just remember one point. Never give away your book rights for nothing in return.


More reading: Is This Publisher Legit? How You Can Make Your Decision



Derek Haines

A Cambridge qualified CELTA English teacher and author of 18 books with a life long passion for publishing in all forms. I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business. Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.

2 thoughts on “Book Rights And Wrongs And Traps For Authors

  • February 9, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    I found this really helpful, thanks a lot. I recently finished a fantasy/ science fiction novel and really need a publisher. I live in Nigeria but I would like to publish it in the west as I know it would do better there.
    Can you offer me any advice or help.

  • March 3, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    Thanks Derek. Good reminder about what’s important.


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