The Right Knowledge of Rights

How's your knowledge of literary rights? Let's talk about the main rights to a literary work. This is basic information all writers need to know. Every literary work has two kinds of rights, and they're spelled out and divided up in the publishing contract.

Primary Rights

These are assigned to the publisher and they grant the right to publish and distribute a book in a specified geographical area, usually the country in which you live and the publisher does business. It's not unheard of though for an American writer, for instance, to publish in Great Britain and thus sell only those rights rather than North American Rights.

Subsidiary Rights

These are subrights like movie rights, paperback reprint, book club, audio, or large print. These are the ones with which most of us are familiar. Of course, there are myriad rights like foreign translation for just about any country you can think of. I've sold Scandinavian, Estonian, Latvian, Spanish, UK, and more. Then there are special edition rights, electronic, direct mail, and more.


I've written quite a bit about selling subrights since I've managed to do it rather successfully. (Check out The Archives on my website for more about this.

Selling subsidiary rights is like found money. Initially, it's revenue that's applied to your advance so you earn out sooner. With backlist, selling subrights is like an oilwell that keeps pumping up black gold.

Takeaway Truth

Guard your subrights. Be proactive in marketing them or getting your agent to do so. They're an asset for your future.

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