Know Your Rights

 Know Your Rights: Glossary of Terms 

Confused about publishing terminology? You've come to the right place. 


 This glossary is a work in progress and we will continue to add to it. If we're missing a term please email us at or tweet it using the #IPRrightsclinic tag and we'll add it for you! If you have questions about Frankfurt Rights see our FAQ for Authors.




An advance is the money paid to an author by a publisher for the rights to publish your work. Any royalties earned from the sale of the book will then be set against the advance until the advance is paid off. Once that point is reached an author starts earning royalties. The advance level will vary by genre, market, what rights you're selling, the term you're selling for and how many publishers are competing for the rights.

Anthology and Quotation Rights

This is the right for the publisher to grant permission for another publication to quote from or include your work in an anthology, you will usually be consulted.

Audio Rights (Abridged) 

The right to record a shorterned version (you may get approval of the abridgment) of your book for sale on tape, CD or digital download.

Audio Rights (Unabridged) 

The right to record the full, verbatim text of your book for sale on tape, CD or digital download.


The author is the creator of a piece of work. However there are new distinctions being made all the time and you'll often see terms such as 'traditional author' (one who has been published by a traditional publishing house), 'Indie author' (an author who takes control of their own publishing, organises their own editing and typesetting and publishes the book themselves online and in print) and 'self-published author' (which is often associated with using vanity presses but can be interchangable with Indie author too).

A book that is in print but on the publisher's current schedule for promotion.


This could refer to the back cover copy, or sales copy, used to entice a reader to buy the book. It may also refer to the quotes from other authors endorsing the book.

Book Club Rights 

Book Clubs such as The Book People and Scholastic Book Fairs recieve high discounts from publishers for committing to a certain number of copies - as a result the terms agreed in your contract will be different to the terms for other book sales.


Copyright is established as soon as you create your work. However, all it protects is the expression of your idea. You cannot copyright the idea itself. Copyright remains for 70 years after the death of the author and until that point permission should be requested to use or quote from works.

Digest Rights 

These aren't very common any more but cover publication of condensed or abridged versions of your book.


A company that provides services such as warehousing and fulfilment as well as, potentially, sales, for a publisher.


Editors work with authors to help ensure their work is the best it can be. A good editor can help you see where you aren't quite conveying your story as clearly as you might. There are different stages to editing: Structural editing looks at the big picture, the order of scenes and how the plot fits together; Line editiing pays more attention to sentence structure and making sure your writing is as polished as it can be; Copy editing is looking for errors - gramatical, spelling and often factual etc and finally proof reading checks the typeset manuscript against the copy edited manuscript to ensure that all corrections have been included and no further errors have crept in.
Within a publishing house there are also different types of editor. A Commissioning Editor is responsible for acquiring new titles for the list, they may or may not be involved in the editing of the work but they would usually be your main contact within the publishing house. It's unusual for one editor to work on all aspects of the editorial process so while your main editor may do your structural and line edit the copy edit will usually be handled by another editor and the proof read by someone else again - this helps to eliminate errors.
Even if you choose to self/indie publish - editing your manuscript should be a priority.


If you sign exclusive rights to a publisher then they are the only people who can exploit those rights in the territories you have agreed with them.

Film Rights 

Film companies will option the rights to a book so that they can make the film adaptation - some of these options never turn into film deals but you get to keep the money, and you might be able to sell the option again.

First Serial 
First Serialisation rights are more common to high profile biography and other non-fiction. They are usually sold to newspapers/magazines to generate press prior to publication.

Foreign Rights 

These are usually sold to international publishing houses to enable them to translate the work into their native language, or to publish their own edition if the language remains the same.


A book that is being promoted by the publisher because it has either recently published or is about to publish.


Publishing houses will have several different imprints which all have their own focus and specialism in the types of books they publish - for example, Vintage is an imprint of Random House.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

here are rights associated with anything you create (your intellectual property) which you can exploit to gain revenue.

ISBN - International Standard Book Number 

An International Standard Book Number is the 13 (or, for older titles, 10) digit number found on the copyright page of a book. It is unique to that title in that format in a particular country (so a hardback will have a different ISBN to the paperback and ebook, and the US hardback will have a different ISBN to the UK hardback, even though they are all the same title).


Licensing is granting permission to, for the purpose of this site, a publisher to publish your book in the formats and territories agreed during your negotiation.

Literary Agent 

A Literary Agent acts on behalf of an author to help secure publishing deals and sell interantional rights in an authors work. You should expect an agent to take around 15% of earnings on contracts they negotiate for you - be wary of any upfront fees and seek advice about whether these are reasonable or not. An agent can also help manage the relationship between the author and publishing house and intervene should disagreements arise.

Merchandise Rights 
Merchandise rights enable companies to create non-book products that are a spin-off from your work.


Non-exclusive rights are more common with companies who help indie and self publishers than they are in traditional publishers. It means that while one edition of you work is produced by a company, you could also produce another edition, in the same format yourself.


Permissions are usually granted, by you or your publisher. to people who want to quote from your work. They would usually pay a fee for this depending on what they wanted to use it for. You will also need to clear permission for any copyrighted material you quote in your own work - such as in an epigraph.

Print on Demand 

Print on Demand (or POD) is a relatively new printing technology that doesn't require the same laborious set up as traditional book printing. This enables books to be printed in much smaller quantities (sometimes even, literally, one by one as they are ordered) meaning that warehousing costs are reduced and an author/publisher doesn't need to rely heavily on large initial orders to keep printing costs down.


The publisher (whether a publishing house or an author who is self publishing) is the financial backer for the publishing project.

Publishing Rights
The 'right' someone has to publish your work (fiction, poetry, non-fiction etc) in print and digital format. Sometimes the print and digital editions are sold separately but, in the case of traditional publishing, this is becoming less common. Publishers [LINK] traditionally buy the rights from an author to publish their work. Agreement would be made on what formats and which territories and languages the publisher was buying the rights for.

Radio and TV Straight Reading 

A straight reading for Radio and TV is different from a dramatisation and can be sold separately.


Royalties are a pre-agreed percentage of revenue that the publisher will pay to you per copy of work sold. Typically these would initially be set against your advance and only when that had earned out would you start receiving addtional payments.

Second Serial
Second Serialisation rights are similar to First Serial except that they happen later.


Historically thought of as Vanity Publishing, with the advancement of Print-on-Demand technology and digital and online sales, Self-Publishing has become one of the major growth sectors in the publishing industry over recent years and is now shaking off the stigma of vanity publishing to become a viable alternative for authors who want more control - some traditionally published authors are now choosing this route. The financial investment is provided by the author rather than the publishers and Self-Publishing usually falls into three categories: 1) package services, where the author selects a paid-for package, usually varying in level of production, design, marketing and sales services included, with the price varying accordingly. 2) Immediate online publication - services such as allow books to go from your desk top to publication in minutes and 3) the new breed of indie publishing which sees authors choose services such as editorial, cover design, marketing etc from different sources, or do some of it themselves, and then put together their own package combining online publication with print on demand technology.

Subsidiary Rights 

Subsidiary Rights (or sub rights) are additional opportunities for licensing your work, above and beyond the traditional book and ebook formats. See: Foreign/translation, First Serial, Second Serial, Film, TV & Dramatisation, Digest, Radio and TV straight reading, Book Club, Audio, Large Print, Anthology and Quotation, and Merchandise.

Subsidy Publisher 

This is another term for Vanity publishing. Your book may be 'accepted' but you will be expected to cover the costs of publishing it. You are subsidising it yourself.


The outline of your plot, used to help inform an agent or publisher of the major plot points in your story. Unlike a blurb you don't need to worry about spoilers as the purpose is to give an overview of your plot.


When you sell rights you agree which territories, or countries, the publisher can exploit those rights in. This means you could sell English rights to a company in the US for publication in North America, while also selling English rights to a company in the UK for publication in the UK and commonwealth.

Traditional Publisher 

Traditional publishing is where a publishing house accepts your work on the basis of its merit and commercial value and then pays you an advance for the rights to publish your work.

Translation Rights 

You can sell the rights for a publisher to translate your work into another language and sell the foreign language edition of the book in the territories where that language is spoken.

TV and Dramatisation Rights 

These rights cover companies who want to dramatise your work for television or radio play.

Vanity Publisher 

A publishing house which appears to opperate in the same way as a traditional publisher and will 'consider' your work for publication, but, once accepted, you will be expected to cover the costs of publishing yourself. Beware of being ripped off.



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