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Terra Chalberg of Chalberg & Sussman

Agent Advice

Posted 3.4.13

Is it typical to give a publisher rights for all media? Is there a standard practice regarding adaptation rights into other media and/or translation rights when initially signing a contract?

Beth
from
Denver,
CO
Chalberg & Sussman
115 West 29 Street
Third Floor
New York, NY 10001

I’ve seen contracts that grant the publisher all rights to the book, including all media. Most frequently such contracts are used when there is no agent involved. Sometimes the author signs one because she would rather have someone other than herself responsible for the rights, or because she lacks firsthand knowledge of industry standards. Independent and university presses, which are wonderful for many reasons, are most often responsible for contracts such as these because they publish unagented work and because their rights income is on a smaller scale, so they like to have as many rights as they can. However, at small presses there is not always someone specifically assigned to pursue selling foreign, audio, first-serial, and especially media-subsidiary rights. There are now also other rights to consider because of evolving technology, like e-book rights and enhanced e-book rights. Publishing is undergoing many changes, so it’s a crucial time for authors to protect themselves from contracts that assign rights to a publisher not equipped to exploit them.

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