Buying Book Rights? Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes

Whether you are an author or an independent publisher, keep in mind that book publishing—in its very core—is a business. You need to understand how book publishing rights work in order to thrive in this industry. Book publishing rights, book royalties, and intellectual property rights (which include translation rights and film rights, among others) are some of the major considerations book publishing companies look at when determining a book’s potential profitability and viability in the market. These are essential concepts you should fully understand when planning to buy book rights. If you are someone looking to enter the book publishing business or a film producer who wants to buy book rights to be able to make TV or movie book adaptations, here are common book publishing rights mistakes you should definitely avoid:
  • Not knowing who owns the book’s copyright - Finding who has rights to a book is fairly easy. Simply looking at the manuscript or the cover letter of the book would usually tell you who the copyright owner is.  In many cases, authors reserve intellectual property rights to their works. This is something you should consider when looking to buy book rights from book publishing companies. 
  • Not checking whether the copyright has been signed over to a different owner - In other cases when the book author might have already been approached by producers or book publishing companies, he or she may have signed the rights over to another entity. To be certain, you may search the US Copyright office’s online records to see whether or not you can buy book rights to your prospective piece or if you are better off moving on to another. 
  • Not calling the author - Another common mistake book rights buyers make is failing to confirm whether or not the author still owns the rights to a book. There is no point bargaining and negotiating for rights with an author if those rights are no longer with them. 
  • Not knowing the right people to speak with - Before ever making an offer to buy book rights, make sure that you know to whom you should address your proposal. This could be an author’s agent (if not the author himself) or the publishing house that ran the book initially. 
  • Not determining the book advance - Paying a book advance allows you to defer royalty payments to the book rights owner, until the advance’s equivalent in royalties has been reached.