"I can help you!"


I've worked for over 25 years in advertising, promotions and sales, and spent nearly 2 years as a motivational speaker for a major international company. Currently a bestselling novelist and 'shameless' promoter, I've shared my experiences and techniques as a Book Marketing Coach for nearly a decade.

Whether you're published or unpublished, I can help. My last publisher called me a "marketing guru" and "whiz", although I prefer to think of what I do as teaching, or coaching.

"Dare to Dream...and Dream BIG!"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Reversion of rights: do I need a signed letter from publisher giving me back my rights?

This question came up on one of my Yahoogroups: do you have to get a letter of reversion of rights from the publisher? The quick answer is YES. If your book has gone out of print or if you want to end your relationship with your publisher, or vice versa, then you'll need that letter of reversion.

A reversion of rights simply means that any rights you initially signed over to the publisher will be signed back to you. You'll own them again. However, if the publisher has sold your rights to third parties, your reversion of rights won't include those.

Someone suggested that an author could assume their book is out of print and that the rights have been reverted to author if the title isn't in the publisher's current catalog. I would warn authors never to assume they have their rights back. It's too difficult to determine if a book is actually no longer in print. My novel Whale Song has been out of print since February, yet Amazon has it listed as "out of stock"--or at least it did last time I checked, which wasn't long ago.

ALWAYS get a letter of reversion of rights from your publisher. With their signature. As an author, you can't afford to make assumptions that could end up costing you a lot of money, or worse--a new book deal. Most publishers won't even look at that book if you don't have the reversion letter. And that was something a publisher told me.

So, unless you're going to self-publish that book afterward and don't care that you could be taken to court if the previous publisher wants to claim they still own rights, get the letter.

In the event of a publisher that is so unethical that they refuse or don't answer your emails, you can then claim your rights back by sending a registered letter to the publisher (one he has to sign for so there's proof) demanding your rights are returned and giving him 30 days to dispute your letter. That will work in most cases, provided the publisher isn't completely unethical and provided that the publisher actually accepts and signs for your letter.

I'm not a lawyer, but I've been through this and dozens of my friends are going through this right now. My advice to anyone in this position is: get the letter of reversion from the publisher or send the publisher a 30-day notice. If possible, talk to an entertainment lawyer who knows book contracts.

My agent said it was vital to get the letter of reversion if I wanted another publisher to look at Whale Song. Now Whale Song is in negotiations for a major motion picture and a 3rd print edition. So believe me when I say, having your book's rights revert back to you isn't all bad. In my case, it was the best thing in the world. :-)

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif


Karen said...

Hi, Cheryl,
Rights to my first book have reverted to me because my publisher is struggling in this economy. I have a letter, with the publisher's signature, reassigning rights to me. I still have a contract with this publisher, however, which contains a clause specifying that they have first right of refusal on my next manuscript. I'd prefer to find another publisher, especially since my current publisher is barely keeping its nose above water. Do I need an intellectual property lawyer to help me void the contract? Or is there another way to avoid publishing with them?


carl brookins said...

Wise words that every author ought to follow. Yes sometimes it takes a long time for the publisher to respond. Going forward, be sure your next contract contains explicit language regarding the possibility of rights reversion.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author & marketing coach said...

Karen, thanks for dropping by. I think many of the smaller publishers are struggling right now, and some of the big ones. Regarding the active contract you're still bound by, I'd suggest that you have an entertainment or contract lawyer take a look. They'll know best what to do. The other thing you might want to do is simply ask the publisher if you can take your work elsewhere since you know they're struggling. Again, it's best to get the answer in writing, or at the very least, save your emails from him.

*I'm not a lawyer, so these are just my opinions.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author & marketing coach said...

Great tip about having a clear contract regarding rights reversion, Carl. Thanks for sharing it.

Eric Hammel said...

There's another way. On the assumption that publishers who send contracts late when they want your book will not deign to reply when they no longer want it, I write a reversion request that provides a date-certain, referring to language in the actual contract, on which I will assume the rights have reverted. I am a forty-book author and I have employed this technique at least twenty times without any blowback whatsoever when those books are reissued (usually by me). Again, I cite actual terms in the relevant contract language--written by the publisher.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cheryl,

I recently ran across this as I am currently in a situation with an unscrupulous publisher and I am trying to get my rights back.
Do you have any advice if the publisher is refusing to accept certified letters?

Cheryl Tardif said...

If a publisher will not accept certified letters and you cannot serve them personally, it's most likely time to get an entertainment lawyer involved. You best bet is to find one and get proper legal advice.

You can get free legal advice via The Authors Guild if you're a member.

Good luck!! It's a tough ride but worth it if you get your rights back.