by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
Many times in the past five years, I’ve heard from traditionally-published writers who want to get the rights back to their characters and story worlds for their backlist books.
I’ve also heard from writers who’ve had a hard time getting a rights reversion granted by their publishers.
Some writers weren’t exactly sure what they wanted to do with their rights. They only knew that they’d been told that they should try to have them reverted.
Yes. If you’ve been traditionally published and your series has been dropped by your publisher, you should try to get your rights back.
Things you can do with your book when you have rights back:
Publish prequels or sequels to books. Publish spin-offs where supporting characters now have their own stories.
Put your books up for audition on ACX for audio.
Have your books translated into other languages on Bablecube or similar sites.
Expand into hardcover for the library or collectors’ market. Expand into digital if your books are older. Have your books available in paperback again.
Make your books available overseas in English by using aggregator sites like Draft2Digital, Smashwords, PublishDrive, or StreetLib.
The process is fairly simple, at least at first:
Review your contract. What rights did you sign over to your publisher?
If you need help understanding your contract, there’s a nifty PDF that’s available from Authors Alliance (and Berkeley Law). You can download it for free, although they do ask for a donation of $20 (which is not required, however, only suggested).
Some pertinent chapters:
Write to your publisher:
My email, asking for my audiobook rights for my Southern Quilting mysteries, looked like this:
” Consult a Publishing Attorney. If the contract doesn’t grant you obvious termination rights and the publisher refuses a polite request for termination and reversion, there may still be creative ways to obtain termination of the contract and reversion of publishing rights.
However, in most cases the author’s right to terminate a contract and obtain a reversion of publishing rights is limited by the language in the agreement. If the contract doesn’t grant you termination rights, and publisher isn’t in breach, your options may well boil down to persuading the publisher to agree to termination—or waiting until the contract allows you to terminate without the publisher’s consent.”
I’ve also been asked if it’s been hard to not have the digital rights for my first book in my Myrtle Clover series (Midnight Ink holds the ebook rights). In some ways, yes. But because my books are written as stand-alones with no real story arc between books, it’s been easier. I don’t have the first book included in my first box set, but readers have never complained about that.
Other writers might get around this issue by creating a prequel trilogy and have a box set of those. Or have a novella prequel that could work as a permafree introduction to the series.
At any rate–why not see what you can get? With any luck, it will only be a matter of pulling out your contract and writing an email.
Have you asked for a rights reversion? Have you got a series that’s partially trad-pubbed and partially self-pubbed? How has that worked for you?Thoughts on getting our rights back from publishers: Click To Tweet