The publishing industry is a complex business that includes many different aspects of content creation and distribution. Because of this complexity, publishing agreements contain many provisions that may not be familiar to authors such as morals clauses, options clauses and subsidiary rights. One of the key revenue streams for the industry is the exploitation of subsidiary rights. Essentially subsidiary rights are rights granted to a publisher to exploit additional sources of revenue from a literary work. Understanding the significance of sub-rights is crucial for authors looking to navigate the publishing industry and make informed decisions about their literary works and how to best maximize exposure and profits.
The term subsidiary rights or “sub-rights” in a publishing agreement refers to the rights granted to a publisher to exploit additional sources of revenue from a literary work, beyond the primary rights of publishing and selling the book in print or electronic form in its original form. These can include rights to produce and sell audio books, foreign language translations, merchandise, film adaptations, and other derivative products such as mini-kits, journals and calendars. These rights can generate significant additional income for the author and publisher and the exploitation of such rights are crucial to the success of the work.
Sub rights in a publishing agreement matter because they provide additional sources of revenue for both the author and the publisher. By granting these rights to the publisher, the author may be able to negotiate a larger advance. The sub rights can also help to increase the visibility and reach of the work, potentially leading to increased sales of the original publication. Sub rights are a key consideration when negotiating a publishing contract and can play a significant role in the financial success of the work.
A common but often misunderstood category of sub rights are first and second serial rights. First and second serial rights in a publishing agreement refer to the rights to publish a portion of a literary work in a magazine, newspaper, or other periodical.
First serial rights refer to the right to publish the work as a preview or excerpt in a magazine or other periodical, usually before the publication of the book. This can help to build anticipation and interest in the book and can also generate additional income for the author and publisher. First serials provide an excellent opportunity to market an upcoming book while also generating revenue.
Second serial rights refer to the right to publish additional portions of the work in a magazine or other periodical after the publication of the book. This can help to maintain interest in the book and can also generate additional income.
Like all sub rights, the terms and profit splits for first and second serial rights are negotiable and will depend on the language negotiated by the publisher and the author. In many cases, the author and publisher will negotiate a fee for the first serial rights and a separate fee for the second serial rights, which will be split between the author and the publisher according to the terms of the contract.
Perhaps the most influential author to utilize a serial release of his work, was Charles Dickens. Every Dickens novel from The Pickwick Papers to The Mystery of Edwin Drood was initially released as a serial. Famously, Dickens published The Mystery of Edwin Drood in serial installments while still writing the book. Dickens only finished six of the twelve planned installments leaving the mystery of who killed Edwin Drood famously unsolved.
The revenue from sub rights in publishing is typically split between the author and the publisher according to the terms outlined in the publishing agreement. The exact split will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of rights being sold, the terms of the contract, and the negotiation between the author and the publisher.
It’s important to note that the split of revenue from sub rights is negotiable and will vary from contract to contract. It’s also common for the terms of the agreement to specify that the author and publisher will split the revenue from sub rights in a different manner than the primary royalties earned from sales of the book itself. The author and publisher should carefully consider their respective interests and negotiate terms that are mutually acceptable.
Some authors may not want to grant their sub rights to their publisher. Although publishers typically have entire departments and vast networks of international agents dedicated to selling sub rights for their authors, some authors may wish to reserve their sub rights and have their agent sell them. Many literary agencies also have in-house sub rights departments that are well equipped with the resources and connections to sell sub-rights. Authors should carefully consider whether their publisher or agent are in the best position to exploit their rights before granting or reserving their sub rights.
Another option that authors have is to grant their sub rights to their publisher on a “use it or lose it” basis. This essentially means that any sub rights granted to the publisher that are not exercised after a specific period of time revert back to the author.
In conclusion, sub rights can significantly impact the financial success of a book. By granting these rights to a publisher, the author may be able to negotiate a larger advance, while additional revenue is generated by exploiting these rights. Understanding the concept of sub rights is crucial for both authors and publishers to make informed decisions and to negotiate favorable terms in publishing agreements. Ultimately, sub rights provide a valuable source of revenue for both parties and can help to ensure the success and longevity of a literary work in the marketplace.
If you are an author negotiating a publishing contract, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney. A lawyer can help ensure you are signing a fair contract so you can focus on what’s important to you – the writing itself.