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A Peek into Publishing

Top Ten Terms: Rights in Publishing

Hi everyone and welcome back to a Peek Into Publishing! In an effort to demystify the jargon used in publishing meetings and around the office, we’ve asked each of our departments to name and define ten terms they wished they’d known when they first started in the industry. We’ve already published the Top Ten Terms chosen by our sales and marketing & publicity departments. This week, we’ll be taking a look at the Top Ten Terms our rights team have chosen.

These terms are useful for anyone looking to work in publishing, or for someone who has recently started out in their first publishing role, whichever department it’s in. They are mentioned in meetings with all departments, so we hope you’ll benefit from learning them! 

1. Licensing

This is when we (the licensor) grant the rights of one of our titles to another publisher (the licensee). In most cases we are granting the right for the publisher to publish a translated edition of one of our titles. A licence will come with certain terms which we’ll negotiate – for example, the advance, royalty rates, the term of the licence (how long it will last) and when they will publish their edition.

2. Co-edition

This is the second kind of deal we do with publishers. In this instance, the foreign publisher will translate the book into their language, but we will then arrange the printing and have the books shipped to them. This is more common for full-colour titles, and we will often print our own English language edition at the same time as the foreign language edition.

3. Royalties

Royalties are the percentage that a licensee pays the licensor on sales of their edition. This will usually be a percentage of the publisher’s recommended retail price, or the net receipts.

4. Net receipts

This is the amount of money the licensee actually receives from sales of their edition, after discounts have been applied.

5. Territory

A contract will state the territory or territories in which a publisher can sell their edition. This can range from a specific country to worldwide.

6. Agent

We have many agents around the world, working in specific territories. They act as our representatives, doing deals on our behalf, and they take commission from the deals they organise. They can be very useful as they have detailed knowledge of the territory. If there is a language barrier, it can be handy to have somebody who speaks the same language as the foreign publisher too!

7. Auction

An auction occurs when more than one publisher makes an offer for one of our titles. It depends on the situation, but an auction can go for a few rounds of offers until we decide which publisher to agree a deal with.

8. Exclusivity

Most of our licences specify that the foreign publisher has the exclusive right to publish the title in their language – this means nobody else can publish their own edition of the work while the contract is active.

9. Reversion

When rights ‘revert’, it means they return to the licensor, and the licensee ceases to have those rights.

10. Subsidiary rights

These are rights granted in a contract which are additional to the main rights agreed upon – for example, producing a large print edition.


That’s all for this week! We hope you gained a little more knowledge of the rights terms that get used a lot. We wish those of you seeking a job in rights (and in publishing in general) the best of luck!

If you want to learn more about upcoming Peek Into Publishing projects, follow Watkins on Twitter. To catch up on previous blog posts, see below:

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