Guide to Publication Rights

Knowing your publication rights is a crucial factor in navigating how you want your work to be published. While you own the copyright to anything you write, registration with the U.S. Copyright Office will entitle you to monetary damages in cases of infringement. Here is a guide to publication rights, the types of rights available, and how to keep autonomy over your work.


Source: Poets & Writers

ALL RIGHTS- The right to own your work. When granting a publisher all rights to your work, you can no longer use that work in its current form, despite creating it. The owner of all rights is allowed to reprint your material or to sell it elsewhere without paying any additional money to you. The owner would also be free to use all of the rights listed below.

ELECTRONIC RIGHTS- The right to publish or allow others to publish electronic versions of your work, including e-books. May also be known as as “e-book rights.” Other features such as audio or video features may be labeled as “enhanced e-book rights” or “multimedia.”

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS- The right to publish your work without the work appearing elsewhere at the same time. Often, publishers request exclusive rights for a given length of time—three months, six months, or one year, for example. After the exclusivity period has ended, you are free to publish your work elsewhere.

FIRST NORTH AMERICAN SERIAL RIGHTS (FNASR)- The right to be the first publisher of your work one time in North America. Selling first North American serial rights allows you to sell first serial rights to the same work in places other than North America.

FIRST SERIAL RIGHTS- The right to be the first publisher of your work. After the work is published once anywhere, all rights revert back to you.

REPRINT RIGHTS- The right to print a work a second time. Reprint rights imply that first rights for the work have been sold.

SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS-The right of a publisher to license your work to others, which includes first and second serial rights, audio rights, film rights, foreign rights, translation rights, book-club rights, the right to reprint excerpts of your work, rights to electronic editions and versions, performance rights, and merchandising rights.

WORLDWIDE RIGHTS-The right to publish English-language versions of your book in all countries.


How to avoid infringement and keep autonomy over your work

  1. Especially with larger works, such as a book, consult with a lawyer or agent with publishing experience
  2. Choose publications that have rights you are comfortable with- check the Submission Guidelines to see what publication rights are given upon acceptance. If it’s not clearly stated, contact them. When a work is accepted, publications often ask for a reply to have written indication of the agreement.
  3. Submit to publications your favorite writers have submitted to- especially if you want to reuse your work. For poetry, find out if certain poems have been shown in multiple publications. Look at the acknowledgements to see if earlier versions of a work have been featured in other places.

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