- This is part of an on-going blog series called "Being a Professional Manga Artist in the West". Table of contents is here: queeniechan.deviantart.com/jou…
- My comics-prose stories "Short Ghost Stories: The Man with the Axe in his Back" is available on Smashwords (www.smashwords.com/books/view/… ) and Amazon (www.amazon.com/dp/B00LV00IKK ). Read more at this link: queeniechan.deviantart.com/jou…
Part 4: You Got a Publishing Deal!
Assuming your agent is successful in selling your work, and you got a publishing deal! Likewise, I can also assume that you were successful in selling your own work to a publisher (with or without an agent), and the publishing house has offered you a publishing deal. This means that the publisher will now forward a copy of your publishing contract, plus your advance. So, what does this all mean?
Anyway, this section will tackle some of the issues that crop up in a publishing contract, and also what to expect. There will be much talk about copyright, licenses, advances, copies printed, shipped, sold and returned, and royalties (if any).
Disclaimer: I talk about the publishing contracts, but this is not a definitive guide. I try and keep my information accurate, but if there are any corrections, please let me know. This is also not in any way meant to be legal advice – I have no authority to give out legal advice. If you’re offered a publishing contract and you’re unsure of the terms, please find a legal professional who can help you.
Part 4a: Dealing with a Publishing Contract
Every single publishing agreement is different, but I shall try and take a more generalised approach. The other thing is that it’s impossible to talk about publishing contracts without also explaining the concept of copyright. Still, it’s important I lay some ground rules down, because without it, you may end up not understanding much in this section.
There’s also the incidence of unscrupulous publishing contracts increasing, so I feel the need to warn people. A few years ago, publishing contracts only covered limited publishing rights, but now, many of them make a rights-grab for everything you have. The other issue is with the way money is accounted for inside various publishing houses for various publishing deals. What were once egregious accounting practices has now become the new normal.
This means the next big topics are these two things:
LEGAL STUFF and MONEY.
These are things that need to be addressed, in order for people to understand exactly what it is they’re selling when they sign a publishing contract with a publisher.
Part 4b: Firstly, What are you Selling to a Publisher when you Enter into a Publishing Agreement?
Read the question I posed above, and give me your answer.
If you answered “a story” to my question, then you’re wrong.
If you answered “a book”, “a novel”, “a manga” or a “manga-style comic book”, you’re wrong too.
If you answered “my story”, you’re even more wrong. If you sold “your story” to a publisher, it may well mean that you sold the entirety of your copyright to your story, which means that your publisher now owns your story, not you. When your publisher owns your copyright, they can make TV, movies, comic books, novels, audio books, video games, picture books, etc from your story without paying you a cent, because you don’t own the copyright anymore
So, what do you sell a publisher, when you sign a publishing agreement?
You sell a license. Typically, a license to publish your work in book form, and book form only. A license is a “right”. It’s not any of the copyright you own on your story.
Specifically, it’s a license that gives the publisher an exclusive right to copy, distribute and sell your work, in a particular language, a particular region, and a particular format.
- Region rights cover where the book can be published and sold. Usually the planet can be divided in whatever way you wish, but normally it’s by continents or countries. I can bag “US” rights, or “Canadian” rights, but typically people go for “North American” rights. I can bag “Japan” rights, or I can bag “Russian” rights. Alternatively, I can go “English-speaking region” rights, which would include the US, Canada, UK, Australian and New Zealand. (Oddly enough, it’ll leave out Singapore and India, which are considered different regions of the world)
- Language rights are usually intertwined with Region-rights. It doesn’t make sense for a Korean publisher to bag “Japan” rights, or for a French publisher to bag “German” rights. However, it does make sense for a Taiwanese publisher to try and bag “Hong Kong and Macau” rights, including “China” rights if they can profit off it.
- Format may be a hardcover book, a paperback book, an audio book, an e-book, or a book in braille format. (Once upon a time, the rights to these different formats were sold separately, though they’re now bundled into one publishing contract.)
The rights to make foreign-language translations, movies, plays, musicals, video games and novelizations off your story is a secondary right, known either as a “derivative right” or a “subsidiary right”. You can sell all the book publishing rights to your story (world-wide rights, all languages rights, all book formats) without selling a single derivative right to your story.
Now, a book publisher has no real business trying to get movie rights to your book, but they’ll certainly try to get it from you if they can get away with it. I call this sort of thing a ‘rights grab’, and creators need to be wary of this sort of thing cropping up in publishing contracts. Believe me, copyright is important, and understanding how to sell a license your copyright (or purchase a license for a copyright) is crucial to being a creator in this day and age.
Next week, I'll talk about copyrights., which is very important.