If you’re not happy with your publisher and you want to revert some or all of the rights to your book, what can you do? The first thing is to look is at your contract. Each contract is different, but sometimes the rights reversion language is located in an out-of-print clause or even a termination clause. You have to see if the rights reversion has been triggered. Many publishers state that your book will go out of print and the rights will revert to you if you don’t sell a certain amount of copies and/or your book doesn’t make a certain amount of income (for example, 200 copies and/or $500) in an accounting period (or multiple accounting periods). In addition, sometimes contracts are only for specific terms like five years, so your reversion can be triggered at the end of those five years. Again, each contract is different.
Assuming that your reversion language is triggered in your contract (you’ve only sold a few copies, made a few dollars, or the contract has expired), you (or your agent or attorney) need to send the publisher a notice that you intend to revert your rights. Please note that it may take months or even a year for a publisher to respond to you, so be patient.
Now that you know the reversion process, ask yourself a few questions before requesting your rights be reverted:
1) Why do you want to revert your rights? Is your publisher just sitting on your rights or are you upset that they haven’t marketed it properly? If it’s the latter, perhaps a call to the publicity and sales teams may be the appropriate solution before you hastily ruin the relationship with your publisher.
2) What do you want to do with your book? Don’t revert your rights just to revert them. Have a plan. Do you want to try to get published elsewhere? Do you want to self-publish?
3) What rights do you want reverted? Look at the economics of your book. Do you want a single right reverted, some, or all? Context matters.
If you need your rights reverted in your book contract, don’t hesitate to contact Perry Law.
Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice. In addition, this article concerns US law only.
Joseph Perry is a publishing attorney and literary agent at The Law Offices of Joseph J. Perry, P.C. and Perry Literary, Inc. respectively. As an attorney, Joseph counsels clients in the publishing industry, where among other things, he drafts, reviews, negotiates various publishing agreements, and conducts pre-publication review of manuscripts. As an agent he represents bestselling cookbook authors, athletes, musicians, journalists, influencers, academics, and more. You can reach Joseph at JosephPerryLaw.com or PerryLiterary.com. Joseph obtained his Juris Doctor from St. John’s University School of Law and a Master of Arts and Bachelor of Arts in English from St. Bonaventure University. He is a graduate of New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute.
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