Digital Publishing and Your Writer’s Rights

Contract ObligationsI blogged a little last week about the RWA National Conference and the workshop on digital publishing (click here for that post). Since then I’ve been thinking about some of the issues that were discussed in that wonderful workshop and I thought I would elaborate a little more on them for today’s Tuesday Tip.

Of course, let me preface this with that this is not intended to be legal advice and you should always consult with legal counsel before entering into any legally binding agreement. With that said, here goes!

Digital publishing is expanding at an incredible rate and with that expansion, there are more things that writers need to think about when entering into a contract. Here are some of the major things to consider:

  • Grant of Digital Rights: If you are a traditionally published author, namely an author of books that are in print, do you intend to grant to your publisher the rights to publish your books electronically? Some major authors have opted to retain those rights until certain issues related to digital publishing are resolved, such as the 9.99 pricing for Kindle editions. There has been a lot of discussion on how this pricing may cannibalize print book costs. One publisher, Sourcebooks, is holding back digital editions to counteract this possible affect. For more on this, you can go to this link:
  • Option Clause: What can I say about this except LIMIT, LIMIT, LIMIT. If you’re selling a 60,000 erotic paranormal to a publisher/e-publisher, try to limit the option for your next book to a 60,000 erotic paranormal.
  • Royalties: Royalties on digitally published books can range anywhere from 4% or 6% if you are with a traditional publisher to 35% to 40% for an e-publisher. Talk is that traditional publishers should pay higher percentages to authors on digital editions of print books and I’m sure that will happen as digital publishing becomes more established for traditional publishers. But regardless of the manner in which you are first published – print or digitally – make sure that you know how the percentage is calculated. For example, is the royalty calculated based on the cover price, catalogue price or the net price. What’s the net price? The amount the publisher gets after deducting costs of distribution, etc.
  • Territory: Make sure of the territory for which you are granting either digital or print rights. Although you may grant print rights to only North America, the Net is global and it may not be possible to limit digital rights to a particular territory. This may limit your ability to sell digital rights in a particular territory to another publisher.
  • Reversion of Rights/Out-of-Print: This is probably the most important of all the things to consider in any contract, namely, when do you get your rights back. With the advent of digital publishing, it’s possible that a book will never go out of print. Therefore, it’s important that you set a standard for when a print book that goes digital will go out of print. For example, if less than $100 a year is earned in royalties, the book is considered out of print or if less than 100 copies, whether print or digital, are sold a year.

I hope you found this morning’s Tuesday Tip helpful!

Copyright 2009 Caridad Pineiro Scordato

5 thoughts on “Digital Publishing and Your Writer’s Rights”

  1. Pingback: − Work Work Work
  2. There should also be a time limit on when you regain control of your e-book, I would think.

  3. Great post! It helps to know and understand all of this. Thanks for sharing this info.

  4. I am not a writer so this is “greek” to me. 😆 I am glad you are back and that you had fun on your trip. The pictures are great. Where is next year’s conference going to be? Maybe it will be close enough for me to attend. I would love that. Have a great day and hugs to all.

  5. Good info Charity! Easy way to understand the Reversion of Rights… Thanks for posting this.


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