January 13, 2014

Contract Basics: Grant of Rights

Welcome to my first post discussing Publishing Contracts! To start us off, some background:

When you receive an offer (Exciting thought, I know! When you’re done imagining all the squealing and jumping up and down, take a deep breath and keep reading.), it can come as either deal points or a full-fledged contract. Deal points are essentially an outline of the most important pieces of the offer, and all of them will be in the contract, but they are the version without the legalese. If you want to negotiate deal points, this would be done before a contract is drawn up.

Basically, it’s as if the publisher says, “I have a 2-bedroom, 1-bath house, are you interested?” You decide, “Well, I want a 4-bedroom, 3-bath house. And a 1-acre backyard.” This back-and-forth will continue until you find a happy medium or one of the parties decides to walk away. If you can’t agree on these basic elements, there’s no point in seeing the property, i.e. dealing with negotiating a convoluted contract.

Some publishers will skip that step and send a contract as their offer. That doesn’t mean the same points can’t be negotiated!

Now, let’s discuss something called Grant of Rights. This is the part of the contract where you decide which rights to sign over to the publisher, meaning:
  • Which formats? E-book? Paperback? Hardback? Anthology? All of the above? 
    • For instance, a digital-only press shouldn’t be asking you for print rights – they won’t print the book, and you won’t be allowed to accept someone else’s offer to do so because you don’t own the right.
  • What territory:
    • North American English: Basically the right to publish your book only in the USA and Canada (and their territories). Honestly, considering how easy it is to publish digitally throughout the world, I think it’s unlikely nowadays publishers with a digital aspect to the deal will want to go for this, as that means sacrificing the market that is the rest of the English-speaking world, but some still may.
    • World English: The right to publish your book in English-speaking countries and territories.
    • World: The right to publish your book anywhere in the world.
  • Subsidiary rights: Rights other than publishing your book digitally or in print in English; that is: translated editions, film / TV rights, etc. 
    • These will be discussed in detail in my next post!

Questions? Thoughts? Corrections? Please leave them in the comments!

This post is a part of my Publishing Contracts sequence. Please click here to learn more about it and view the very important disclaimer.


  1. This is a little too heady for a gal on her first cup of coffee at 5:30 in the morning, but I created a folder to save your posts on this subject because I've heard horror stories of authors who get excited about being 'published', don't do their homework, just sign on the dotted line...and become trapped!

  2. I've heard of an author's horror story or two, so caution is the word. Do your homework. Your post was clear and to the point, easy to understand. Thanks for sharing Aria. Always a pleasure stopping in.

  3. Those horror stories are precisely why I'm writing these posts! Hopefully they will help writers be more knowledgable when approaching publishing contracts. Part of the problem is some writers don't know they're allowed to negotiate a contract rather than just signing whatever they're offered.

    Thanks for reading, ladies.