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Do I need a lawyer to publish a book?

Reading time: 5 mins

You do need a lawyer in order to publish a book. However, engaging a publishing lawyer will ensure that your rights are protected, your book manuscript does not expose you to legal risk and your publishing contract is fair.

This article explains why authors should hire a publishing lawyer.

Author: Farrah Motley, Director of Prosper Law and a publishing lawyer.

In Australia, copyright is automatically owned by the author (as the creator of the written work). But these rights may be given away, transferred or licensed through a publishing contract or other agreement.

A publishing lawyer will make sure that you only give rights away that you are comfortable with. It may also mean negotiating royalties on your behalf.

Publishing contracts

Publishing contracts are complex and often require a lawyer’s help to fully understand the terms. It is recommended that you hire a publishing lawyer even though there is no legal requirement for you to do so.

You can negotiate your publishing contract by yourself. But if you do hire a publishing lawyer, they can help you to get the best terms possible and ensure you are appropriately compensated for your hard work.

Remember that publishing contracts are negotiable. You can negotiate on your own behalf or have someone else do it for you.

A publishing contract is not just an agreement between two parties; it’s also a legal document that can be used by either party in court. If there’s a disagreement about any aspect of the publication, the publishing contract will describe what rights and obligations each party has.

Even though most people don’t read them at all before signing them, having a publishing lawyer look over the details could save them problems down the road. An author may regret not hiring a publishing lawyer. For instance, where an author signs something they didn’t fully understand at the time or later finds out was unfair or unenforceable in some way. This can occur when non-lawyers negotiate such agreements without legal counsel!

Finally, remember that publishing contracts can change over time as things evolve between publishers and authors so always keep an eye out for updates!

book publishing lawyer

Ensuring adequate royalties

It’s important to understand that royalties are the percentage of the sale price paid to the author. The royalty rate is determined by negotiations between you and your publisher, and it varies widely depending on many factors.

Once an agreement has been reached, the publisher will pay your royalties on all copies sold publicly, via bookstores and other retailers. In addition to paying royalties on copies sold directly to customers (known as “net receipts”), publishers may also pay additional bonuses. These may be based on certain sales thresholds. For example, $10,000 in net receipts earns a 10% bonus.

A legal read of a book manuscript is advised. This is particularly so where the manuscript is non-fiction or contains references to real people and places, but is displayed as fiction.

A publishing lawyer will review a book manuscript and identify whether there are any legal issues. The publishing lawyer will let you know if a legal issue is identified. You can then work together to develop a solution that fits your story and reduces the legal risks.

Rights and permissions

The legal rights to use copyrighted material, such as a song, picture or quote from a book or article, are referred to as “secondary” or “ancillary” rights.

Publishing contracts usually allow the publisher to sell secondary rights. This might involve the publisher selling the right to your story to a theatre production company.

When you publish a book, it is important that you have legal representation to help you through the process and make sure that you get the best deal possible. A good publisher will not be able to give their best offer if they don’t know how much money your work is actually worth. Unfortunately, this means that without proper legal representation, it’s likely that an author won’t receive what their book deserves.

Additionally, it’s important for authors to know where their rights stand and how long those rights last. Without engaging a publishing lawyer, an author could lose control over their work or even give up publishing rights completely.

This can happen even when an author has already earned royalties from a given publication. It is important for an author to understand what rights they are surrendering and whether those rights change over time.

A publishing lawyer can compare your book deal

A publishing lawyer will have experience with other book deals. This means that they will be able to compare your deal with other publishing agreements and book contracts.

A comparison can be made with royalties, copyright clauses, exclusivity and other terms that are important to authors.

How can Prosper Law help?

Prosper Law is Australia’s online law firm. We provide legal advice to businesses and individuals across Australia. Our areas of legal practice include contracts, eCommerce, publishing, legal counsel and employment law.

If you need to talk to a publishing lawyer, get in touch today.

Contact the team at Prosper Law today to discuss how we can provide you with publishing legal advice for a fixed fee or at affordable hourly rates.

Farrah Motley | Director

PROSPER LAW – Australia’s Online Law Firm

M: 1300 003 077

E: farrah@prosperlaw.com.au

W: www.prosperlaw.com.au

Like this article? Check out What legal issues should you consider when looking to self-publish?

book lawyer

About the Author

Farrah Motley
Director of Prosper Law. Farrah founded Prosper online law firm in 2021. She wanted to create a better way of doing legal work and a better experience for customers of legal services.

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