There are many reasons why authors choose to self-publish or go with a hybrid model that lets them retain their rights, but one of the most frequently cited reasons is ownership of inventory. Having ownership of their own books allows authors to sell directly to the public at high margins, which is great for entrepreneurial authors interested in back-of-room sales. (In a traditional publishing arrangement, if the author is permitted to sell direct, the contract generally includes a set 40–50% discount for copies the author purchases from the publisher.)
For nonfiction authors who speak frequently, back-of-room sales present a wonderful opportunity not only to sell books but also to sell them for a higher return. An engaged and energized audience will want to bring that excitement home with them, which means you have a group of willing buyers primed and ready to go. At this point, you have to answer the crucial question of how you will go about selling to attendees without missing any opportunities or becoming overwhelmed. To help answer this question, here are the two most common ways it’s done, along with the pros and cons of each option.
Option One: Do It Yourself
The first option is to handle the process of selling books directly to the audience yourself. Like any situation where the middleman is eliminated, you will retain a higher cut of the cover price. This is a great way to earn a higher return per unit, which is enticing for authors who can draw large crowds and who have direct access to their market. On the downside, the time you spend manning a table and taking orders could be spent wooing audience members. There are often potential clients and additional speaking opportunities waiting to be snatched up after a presentation, and missing out on them could mean losing thousands of dollars (and of course, book sales).
There are a couple of other things to consider. First of all, all book sales are great, but only those captured by certain retail outlets are logged into Nielsen’s BookScan, the book industry’s go-to source for tracking the sales history of books. A solid BookScan history is a key steppingstone to additional book deals (and it also affects bestseller status).
Also, you will have to consider how you will process payments such as credit cards and checks. The hardware, declined payments, and insufficient-funds fees can cost you more time and money, ultimately eating up your profits.
One way to get around this is to employ a tactic used by many established speakers: instead of selling the books at the back of the room, you can include a copy for each attendee in your speaking fee. This way you benefit from direct sales, reach every audience member, and capitalize on networking opportunities after the event without worrying about selling books. You could also circumvent back-of-room sales by offering a discount on orders made through your website or by having your books available through the organization itself.
Option Two: Use a Retailer
The other option is to secure a retailer for your book table and have them handle the entire process. Under this scenario you would receive the royalty laid out in your publishing agreement. Yes, you’ll be making less per copy, but instead of spending your time processing sales, you’ll be securing new speaking engagements, clients, and building rapport with potential word-of-mouth marketers. Also, since a retailer is handling the payments, you don’t have to worry about the cost of facilitating each transaction. The retailer already has safeguards in place and the proper equipment on hand to process payments. In addition, every book sold will be logged into BookScan, adding to your title’s sales history and contributing to an auditable tally of your book’s market appeal and the strength of your platform.
There is no right or wrong way to handle book sales at speaking events. Ultimately, you need to decide which option best fits your needs and goals as an author.
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A Little Background
You always hear at writers’ conferences to write what you love, or to choose your genre based on what you enjoy writing. If you’re writing purely for pleasure, this is a great idea. But if you’re interested in selling books in a crowded marketplace, you have to write about what you know. Writing a book within a genre where you have either credentials or expertise is one of the best ways to cut through the noise, because consumers have a good reason to put stock in what you’re saying. As a first time author, start writing where you have an audience. Are you a business owner? Write about entrepreneurship, company culture, or how to start a small business. Are you a life coach or speaker? Address a topic that you encounter or speak on frequently. Medical professional? Tackle health topics pertaining to your field. And the list goes on.
So what happens when you’re ready to write your second book, and it’s in a genre divergent from your original book? This happens frequently when an established author decides to write a fiction book after a nonfiction release, or vice versa. Before you put pen to paper, there are a few things you might want to consider to give your new book its best chance of success.
Leverage the audience you already have. If you’ve already developed a strong readership through your online presence, such as a loyal blog following or large base of newsletter subscribers, you don’t want to lose those folks just because you’re changing genres. The best way to do this is figure out a way to tie your new book to your previous book in your marketing and branding. If your readers loved your self-help book, play up the struggle and achievements of the protagonist in your new novel in a way that relates to your self-help message. If your first book was chick lit, your second book could be a how-to on developing relationships with men or cultivating meaningful friendships, depending on the plot and characters of the first book.
The main point here is to be strategic in transitioning to new genres. Reach out to your current audience with your new title and make sure to tie it to a title they are familiar with. Consistent branding and marketing will also help guide readers to consecutive releases. Choosing what you write about based on your readership, credentials, and previous titles will afford your greater success in book sales. Who wants to read teen paranormal romance by a finance-writing CPA?
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Unlike fiction, where an author must have a completed manuscript ready before they approach a publisher or agent, a nonfiction author only needs to develop a proposal to submit to publishers and/or agents. The proposal should answer the following questions:
- Content: What is the book about?
- Market: Who would be interested in this idea?
- Competitive Titles: What other books already exist on this topic and how does this one differ?
- Platform: Who is the author, why is the author the best person to produce this book, and what are they doing to engage with potential readers?
Section One: Content
This section of the proposal is usually 1-3 pages, unless you include a sample chapter which can range anywhere from 5-20 pages. Length is not as big of a concern as the quality of what’s included.
First, you want to come up with a brief, one sentence pitch that captures the soul of your idea. For example: “Affordable and complete wellness.” This is the hook of your book—the key message we discussed earlier.
Next you want to create a short summary paragraph that goes into slightly more detail about how the book will achieve your hook. For example:
This book is a guide for achieving complete wellness in an affordable and holistic way. It explores the pitfalls of the modern health care system and identifies ways to integrate alternative medicine techniques into traditional medical practices. The book educates the reader on current practices and arms them with new resources and techniques to achieve total wellness.
If you have a startling statistic that stresses the importance of this message, by all means use it here. That information will help sell the importance of your topic to the prospective agent or publisher.
Once your opening summary is developed, you will follow it with your outline. Your outline identifies the chapters and the key topics they will address. Identify any compelling facts, strategies, case studies, or information you will use to support the ideas in each chapter. You may include a sample chapter if you choose. Some publishers and agents require one, but many don’t. It really depends on whether you will be the one actually writing the book (or working with a ghostwriter), and on the agent or publisher’s requirements.
Section Two: Market
This section can be anywhere from 1/2 of a page to 2 pages. Here you identify the market for your book both in qualitative and quantitative terms. To determine who your audience is in qualitative terms, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who would be interested in your topic?
- Where do they live?
- What kind of work do they do?
- What are their hobbies?
- How do they get their information? And so on.
The key is to be as specific as possible. It’s not enough to say your book is geared toward “men” or “businessmen.”
Section Three: Competitive Titles
In your proposal, it is important to note the top 2-3 related titles and how your project is different from them. Not only does this help identify the potential sales numbers for your book, but it also helps the publisher identify exactly where you fit into the market.
Section Four: Platform
In this section list all platform-building activities you are engaged in and those that are in theworks. This includes any speaking you are doing on your topic, organizations you are involved in, articles you written or been cited in, etc. It’s important that the agent or publisher see that you are indeed an expert on the subject and that you are building a career as an author and an expert.
For more information on how to write a book proposal, check out the following resources:
How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen
Book Proposals that Sell: 21 Secrets to Speed your Success by W. Terry Whalin:
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Any opportunity you have to get in front of an agents or publishers and tell them about your book is a precious opportunity, no matter how brief the encounter. Don’t waste it. Make the moment memorable (for the right reasons) by crafting a series of brief, targeted talking points about your project.
Qualities of a Good Pitch:
- It’s brief: A good pitch starts with a single sentence, known as a logline or hook. Prepare one or two additional sentence-long talking points about your project based on the book’s synopsis.
- It gets to the guts of your book: By boiling your pitch down to a single sentence, you are forced to get to the heart of the story or message. The hook should be the book’s compelling central idea and will be used to sell your idea again and again.
The elements of a pitch are slightly different for each genre, but the purpose is the same—to convey the meat of the project in as few of words as possible.
A fiction or memoir logline contains the following elements:
- Protagonist: Name your hero/main character.
- Core conflict: Lay out the main issue of your book (only use relevant subplots for additional talking points if the agent or publisher asks—for example, they may ask if there is a love interest in the story).
- Differentiating factor: Explain to the agent or publisher what sets your book apart.
- Setting: Establish the time period, location, or specific subgenre, if applicable.
Here is a sample logline taken from the copyright page of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins:
"In a future North America, where the rules of Panem maintain control though an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss's skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place."
This logline hits all the elements listed above; we see that
- The main character is a sixteen-year-old named Katniss.
- The main conflict is that Katniss must compete for her survival against other teens.
- The story is different because of the idea of children fighting each other as a means of entertainment.
- The setting is a future dystopian North America.
If you would like additional examples, read the blog post “Writing a Logline” from Query Tracker.
A nonfiction logline is slightly different from a fiction logline. A typical nonfiction hook will contain
- Genre: Whether stated or implied, the agent or publisher should be able to surmise the book’s genre—business, new age, health, etc.
- Key problem addressed: Are you helping women with weight loss, new parents with discipline skills, business managers with communication skills?
- Promise: How does the book solve the problem? Are you teaching people how to be more assertive, how to eat better, how to delegate?
- Differentiation: What makes this title different from its competition?
Here is a sample logline for the upcoming title Briefcase Essentials by Susan Spencer:
“A woman’s guide to discovering the 12 natural talents that can help her achieve success in a male-dominated workplace."
We see that
- This is a business book that deals with success in the workplace.
- The problem addressed is women competing in male-dominated industries.
- The promise is to give women 12 tools to help them find success in a male-dominated workplace.
- The book is different in that it encourages women to embrace their natural abilities rather than try to adopt masculine traits.
Again, you can refer to the examples in Query Tracker or look on the copyright page and back cover of comparable titles for ideas on how successful authors and publishers have crafted their pitches.
As you develop your pitch, avoid the following mistakes:
- Don’t talk about the process: Although the journey has been the most exciting and rewarding part of your writing experience, it is not relevant to the agent or publisher’s decision-making process. Refrain from explaining how you developed your characters or where you got your ideas. Those topics are better reserved for author interviews.
- Don’t pounce: Take the time to open up a natural conversation if at all possible (if you’re pitching roundtables or attending a crowded conference, you may not have this luxury). Building rapport before the pitch makes the agent or publisher more receptive to your message.
- Don’t verbally vomit: Stick to short, one- to two-sentence talking points that make them respond with “Tell me more.” People lose interest during long-winded pitches. Pause, take a breath, and if you see their eyes gloss over, stop.
- Walk away when you’re ahead: Once you hear the magic words “Send it to me,” say thank you, stop talking, and move on. You’ve done your job, now congratulate yourself and end the conversation before you undo the progress you’ve made.
Again, the pitch is not a retelling of the whole story. It is a brief statement depicting the core idea of your book. When you’re competing against hundreds of other writers, a well-crafted pitch can make or break your chances of connecting with a potential agent or publisher. Take the time to do it right. Practice saying your pitch out loud. Test it on a couple of friends. Whittle it down until it contains only the barest essentials. You’ll be glad you did.
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We receive quite a few memoirs, a good number of self-help books, and, unfortunately, far too many that straddle the line between the two. And there is a line (we’re not the only ones who think so either—check out this great article by Jane Friedman). There is a natural tendency to take an inspirational story and try to weave lessons into it, but the problem is that consumers are generally looking for a memoir they find uplifting or a self-help book with actionable, structured advice written by an appropriately credentialed author. A book that tries to be both of those things usually fails at one or the other.
Based on the difficulty we see with these two genres, I’ve put together a distinct profile of each genre that may help guide you as you write or revise your book. Try to make your book fit into one of these categories without creeping into the other.
DO THIS: Target a specific area of personal improvement. It’s all about focusing your content and providing unique direction to readers. Pick a topic like changing a habit, letting go of anxiety or fear, becoming more confident/organized/patient/etc.
NOT THIS: Speak broadly about happiness, achieving goals, or spirituality. Writing on vague ideas like “life goals” provides no marketing hook and little helpful advice to your readers—plus, the market is saturated with books on these topics.
DO THIS: Use your professional experience and credentials to establish yourself as an expert in the field pertaining to your book. It’s crucial for the retail success of your self-help book that you have a certification, degree, or career in fields like therapy, psychology, or holistic healing. Alternatively, it can be helpful to have significant experience as a life coach or professional mentor or own a successful business that relates to your content.
NOT THIS: Write a book solely based on overcoming a personal struggle. Publishers, retail buyers, and consumers are generally not interested in reading a book by an author whose sole credentials are personal experience.
DO THIS: Structure content in a clear progression towards an end goal for the reader. For example, your book may be divided into three sections: 1) Acknowledging the problem and developing a plan 2) Implementing the plan and overcoming the problem 3) Following through and sticking with the plan. Despite my trite example, the point is there needs to be forward momentum and ideas that build to a solution.
NOT THIS: Write free-form thoughts about self-improvement without a sense of order and advancement. Writing this way provides little help to the reader in solving the problem they bought the book to address.
DO THIS: Offer clear, actionable advice such as bulleted to-do items at the end of each chapter (or interspersed throughout) that build on the content and require reader involvement. This is the imperative for a successful self-help book. People buy self-help books so that they can learn tools to better themselves, so you absolutely must give readers a takeaway. Otherwise, the content is just fluff. For example, if you ask your readers to answer questions, make sure to give them guidance as to how to interpret their answers or what to do based on the results.
NOT THIS: Give your readers vague questions and platitudes like “Think about a time you struggled and how you overcame it” or “The power of positive thinking will help you achieve your dreams.”
DO THIS: Establish a story arc. Even though it’s a story about your life, it still has to have some of the elements and structure of fiction to make it compelling. Consider how you will tell your story based on what elements you’re trying to emphasize. Remember, you still need character development, a compelling struggle, and a resolution.
NOT THIS: Include every detail of your life in your memoir. If you’re focusing on your relationship with your siblings, don’t put unnecessary details in about your college years or your European vacation with friends unless it relates directly to the story.
DO THIS: The inspiration needs to come from the story. If you’re writing an inspirational memoir, it’s the story, the characters, and the action that should incite emotion. When you read an amazing memoir, it’s not uplifting because the author is telling you it is; the inspiring nature of the book is written into the story.
NOT THIS: Tell the reader why the story is inspiring. Don’t say things like, “In overcoming my illness, I finally realized how strong I was.” Show your readers how you felt, and let them infer from your storytelling the lessons you learned. This is an important distinction between self-help and memoir, and a key place where authors unintentionally blend the two.
DO THIS: Find your hook and emphasize an element of your story that makes it unique and marketable. Telling about your struggle isn’t enough. Research comparable titles and figure out an angle for your book that is new and different from what is already out there.
NOT THIS: Write a very broad book about overcoming a difficult situation. For example, instead of a book about addiction, write a book about beating alcoholism with your supportive, madcap Southern family at your side.
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Oftentimes authors are quite confused about what exactly each person does in the publishing process. There are so many people involved in developing and promoting a book that it is easy to get overwhelmed by the many functions and responsibilities of each department. To help make it easier, here’s a quick breakdown of the general jobs in publishing and how each one functions.
If pursuing a traditional publishing deal, the author must first secure an agent. The agent serves two roles. One, the agent acts as a gatekeeper for publishers, vetting books for quality and marketability and sorting through the many authors vying for a publishing deal. Two, the agent is the author’s representative in the negotiation process for securing the book deal. The agent’s job is to get the best deal possible for the author and to sell author’s rights in a way that is most beneficial (e.g., the agent may recommend selling subsidiary and film rights separately). In exchange, the agent takes 10 to 15 percent of all payments made to the author in advances and royalties.
The publisher is the person who actually produces the physical book. Inside a publishing house the author will work with a variety of people:
- Editor: The editor helps polish the manuscript and makes sure it is free of typos, grammatical errors, and other mistakes.
- Designer: The designer works on both the cover design and the interior layout for the book (some house separate these functions out).
- Print buyer: The print buyer works with vendors to secure the best deal on printing services. Traditionally published authors may not deal with this person directly (but trust us, they’re there).
- Production associate: This person works as the puppet master, making sure all the pieces of the publishing process flow into place on time and on budget.
- Distribution team: Depending on the publishing route you take, you may work with an in-house distributor or a third party, but in either case the distributor is responsible for getting your book into the internal and bookseller systems and making it available to wholesalers and retailers.
- Marketing team: Each publisher has a marketing team that works with the trade to drum up interest among corporate buyers, indie bookstores, libraries, schools, and some specialty stores. They may also help with securing some reviews and advertising, but again this depends on the publisher.
Some publishing houses have a staff publicist, but for the most part authors will need to hire their own publicist to help secure media coverage, interviews, reviews, and other coverage to help create demand for the book. Some publicists work online and may also schedule and coordinate events, provide media training, and schedule speaking opportunities. While the publisher works with the bookstores and the author connects directly with the reader, the publicist’s job is to work with the media—all three parties aiming to drive book sales.
Authors nowadays must wear many hats, including “writer,” “entrepreneur,” “marketer,” and “ringmaster.” You are largely responsible for serving as the producer of content and as the face of your brand as an author. You are the driving force behind your platform and are ultimately what attracts people to your book. As mentioned above, it’s your job to connect directly with readers, and you should be doing this in as many ways as possible—through social media, speaking, and other platform-building activities.
As you can see, it takes many people to take a book from idea to the bookstore. There are additional functions depending on the publisher, but overall this is the core staff for any book that ends up in a reader’s hands.
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Say you’ve written a book or are still in the process of writing it. How do you use your existing content to create more value for your readers? Or maybe even use that same content to create useful products to compliment your book? Ancillary materials, like reading guides and workbooks, are one way to leverage and monetize the content you’ve already created. Here are a few basic categories these types of materials fall into.
Content chunking and social media
Pulling out nuggets of useful content from your book can be an easy way to create material for blogs and social media. Blog posts are an excellent marketing channel for sharing a top-ten list, how-to steps, a high-level exploration of a concept, or tips/recommendations for common problems. You can also submit articles to content syndication websites to generate more online exposure. A few such sites that include free services are e-Articles, Article Alley, ArticlesBase, and there are also paid services like iSnare.com or RcpLinks.com.
Nonfiction and business authors can include content chunks in how-to PowerPoint presentations and then upload the presentations to SlideShare.com, the world’s largest community for sharing presentations. Authors who redistribute bite-sized pieces of book material over the Internet—whether through blogs, video-sharing sites, or PowerPoint presentations—build brand awareness and instantly boost their visibility online.
Workbooks can be a great tool for books that present a step-by-step approach to improvement or that instruct the reader to perform a number of activities (typically health/fitness, business, self-help, etc.). Authors of books like these can create workbooks in line with the content, incorporating any activities mentioned in the text and building from there to create a comprehensive resource for readers to use as they apply the concepts in the book.
By including a bonus workbook with every book purchase, you are offering readers an incentive to buy the book through your website instead of Amazon and giving them exclusive, value-added content. If you instruct seminars or workshops, you can independently sell workbooks to attendees or include them within the cost of registration. Alternatively, you can post an abridged version of the workbook on your website or use the workbook as a reward to readers who signed up for your newsletter or RSS feeds. Emailing readers a PDF of your workbook is another great way to thank your customers!
Author Q&As are typically included in the backs of books, along with reading group guides. All you need to do is prepare a list of questions and answers that are relevant to your content and audience. By sharing personal details and revealing the creative process behind character creation or plot development, you encourage a higher level of reader engagement. As a bonus, an author can leverage the Q&A as a part of the book’s publicity campaign. Many publicists include an author Q&A within online and print media kits to inform print, radio, and TV media contacts of potential angles for interview questions and human-interest stories.
Reading group guides
Reading group guides are discussion questions presented in the back of the book or on the author’s website. By including reading group guides, you encourage the adoption and, ultimately, purchase of the book by interested book club members. If you’ve already printed your book, you can add a reading group guide to your website or the next printing of the book.
Self-assessments are a great tool for engaging readers and establishing yourself as a subject-matter expert. These assessments can be presented as part of the book but are typically more effective online, and you can use them to capture customer data, evolving trends, or industry opinions. Self-assessments may take the form of a quiz or survey and you can embed charts, graphs, and real-time survey results into your website to give fans statistics about the data they’ve provided.
How do you incentivize readers to complete the self-assessment? Consider holding a book giveaway on Twitter or Facebook where each completed assessment counts as a contest entry.
A training guide is typically a separate publication that is paired with a nonfiction book. It should offers a week-by-week or half-day seminar approach to implementing the author’s content, and it can be intended for individuals or organizations. Training guides usually include concept summaries, points to consider when implementing the concepts, and activities for groups and individuals.
Authors can use training guides in several ways: as the foundation for the author’s own training or coaching program, as one component of a training package, as a bonus readers receive when they buy the book, or as an add-on the author can sell.
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It’s a commonly held misperception that authors are rich. Yes there are some authors who are well off, and yes some of them sell thousands of books, but here’s the real reason those authors are making money—they’re thinking beyond the book.
The truth is that quality books are costly to develop and produce and they must sell through several reprints to become profitable. As such, much of the money authors make doesn’t come from the sale of the book itself but from the opportunities the book gives the author.
As an author, a book gives you instant credibility and opens doors to other streams of income previously unavailable to you. For nonfiction authors, the book is often an extension of your business or expertise. It’s a marketing tool, demonstrating your philosophy and unique approach to potential clients, media outlets, and speaking opportunities. For fiction authors, a book demonstrates your ability to perceive and recreate the world, and opens up opportunities to teach, speak, and educate other authors.
Here is a sample list of the many ways you can make money as an author:
- Speaking: Authors are sought after speakers for seminars, conferences, charities, and other events. Speaking gigs are also great opportunities for back-of-room sales, which often yield a higher return than selling through retail channels.
- Teaching: Authors often teach their subjects at workshops, conferences, universities, continuing education classes, online, and in other venues (again, you can roll the cost of the book into the cost of the workshop or sell directly to students—just be sure to teach them and not sell to them!).
- Ancillary Materials: Books can be repurposed into teacher’s guides, workbooks, pamphlets, e-books, and other products.
- Merchandise and spin offs: T-shirts, posters, DVDs, and other merchandise either based on the book or related to it offer additional streams of revenue.
- Endorsements/Packaging: Outlets like Open Sky let authors package and/or promote their books with related merchandise for a commission. Does your lead character have a penchant for coffee? Sell coffee, coffee mugs, and related merchandise as you promote your book. Did you write a cookbook? Create a culinary store where you sell the tools used to create the dishes in your book.
- Articles: A book gives you the credibility to write and publish articles on your topic. Magazines pay anywhere from $25 to $2,000 for well-written, expert-supported articles.
- Resident Expert/Correspondent: A book also gives you the credibility to serve as an expert or correspondent to media and organizations.
- Consulting/Clients: Nonfiction authors can build a consulting business or add to their client list. Fiction authors can coach other authors through the process.
The list goes on and on and is only limited by your creativity, topic, and ability to recognize and chase down opportunities presented by your book. The key is to think beyond the book and look for ways you can leverage your new position as a published author to find ways to generate income, grow your platform, and identify new outlets for your talents (and your book).
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There's nothing to say. Sometimes a picture truly is worth a thousand words . . .
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*Disclaimer—This post is not legal advice and is not meant to substitute for the knowledge and experience of a lawyer or agent. This post is intended to serve only as a basic introduction to your rights as an author. Always refer to a certified lawyer for any questions you have regarding your contracts before you sign any agreement.
When it comes to legal issues dealing with your book, it can be daunting to wade through the different types of rights available to you as an author. Here we want to give you a brief breakdown of those rights and differentiate between copyrights and other author rights.
As soon as you write anything, from an article to a book, you have a copyright to that work. However, the only way to have 100% ownership and proof of that copyright (and, most importantly, to be able to defend it in court if an infringement issue pops up) is to register your title with the Library of Congress. You can do this for $35 and the website has lots of great information on copyrights and what they entail.
In addition to your copyright, your created work also automatically comes with a bundle of rights that you can keep or sell at your discretion. There is an abundance of different author rights; a literary agent or lawyer can fully enumerate them, but a sampling is listed here:
- First North American Serial Rights: This is the right to be the first to print something throughout all of North America
- Electronic rights: This is the right to publish only in electronic form
- Hardcover or paperback rights: Rights specific to each format
- Foreign rights: The right to publish in foreign markets
- Language rights: The right to publish in another language (can be domestic or foreign and can be sold separately or bundled with foreign rights)
- Exclusive rights: The exclusive right to publish across all formats, languages, etc. This right can be held for a specific time period or indefinitely
- Film rights: The right to adapt the book to film
The major distinction between a copyright and an author right is that your copyright is something that always remains in your control. While you can sell different author rights, your copyright is always yours and cannot be sold.
It is important to remember that if you publish through a traditional publisher, you often are not allowed to reprint anything from your book without giving the publisher some form of payment and/or getting their consent. This includes using excerpts on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, in presentations, etc. Which rights you sell to the publisher will depend on your contract, but once they own those rights, you will have to buy them back if you are in any way dissatisfied with the publisher’s services. You can also wait for your rights to revert back to you, but with the advent of digital technologies, some publishers can keep titles on backlists indefinitely, so often buying back the rights becomes your only option. Also, you oftentimes forgo any further creative control over your content when you sell your rights, which is certainly worth considering if you are trying to build a brand.
Your options when publishing your book are not limited solely to traditional publishing, of course. There are self-publishing routes and independent publishers to consider as well, so if you wish to maintain all your rights, you will want to explore these avenues.
Following are a few resources to explore for more information about rights:
- Writer Beware: Information on legal issues concerning authors
- Mark Levine’s book Negotiating a Book Contract: A Guide for Authors, Agents, and Lawyers
- Publishers Marketplace/Publishers Lunch: Information on agents and current deals being made
Hopefully we’ve been able to give you a good introduction to rights that clear up some of your questions. Again, working with a literary agent and/or lawyer is the best way to know what rights you have as an author, and they can help you fully understand how to approach the keeping or selling of those rights.