Who Owns Your Book Manuscript “Edits”?

Many thanks to Virginia and Victoria, for alerting us to this issue…

Just Can't Help Writing

Who owns your edits?

Are you considering traditional book publishing? Do you have a contract in hand but haven’t signed yet? Did you work with an editor? Then beware.

Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware has another warning for you—and for those of you considering self-publishing your out-of-print books.

Check out the contract language from these publishers claiming that, once your book manuscript has been edited for publication, you can’t claim that version as yours anymore. Not even if you’ve gotten your rights back. Some of these seem to say you can’t republish.

Thanks for about the thousandth time to Victoria Strauss and Writer Beware for keeping abreast of these publishing-contract traps.

Share if you’ve had a publisher (or an editor) claim that once your manuscript has been edited, it’s no longer your book!

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8 thoughts on “Who Owns Your Book Manuscript “Edits”?

  1. I jumped across and had a look – it’s interesting. In over 30 years of writing and being commercially published, I haven’t ever had this issue with the publishers I deal with (including Penguin Random House). The usual distinction when contracting authors, and reverting the license to them, is between the author’s words and the the publisher’s typesetting and design. The publisher retains the latter even if the license to the author’s content is returned. Whenever I’ve asked for a license back, the publisher has made clear that they retain the design and typesetting – but it can be purchased if the book is to be reissued elsewhere in that form.

    I’ve never had any publisher try to retain ownership of the edits made variously by their proof-readers, or by me, during the production process, nor have any of the contracts I’ve signed referred to it. In a practical sense, because it’s a two-way and incremental process between publisher and author, I think it would be difficult for a publisher to enforce obvious legal ownership of every change made. If a book was so poor that it required extensive revisions to the point of clearly creating new intellectual property, it’s likely the publisher would reject it in the first instance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is iniquitous. Perhaps I should add an undertaking to my own editing agreements to the effect that the manuscript altered by me remains the intellectual property and copyright of the actual author, even where some elements of copywriting are introduced. That should put minds at rest, but at the same time be a warning against any who do not provide such assurance.

    Liked by 1 person

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