Sunday, 8 May 2011

The importance of hanging onto your copyright

Recently, I received a contract from one of my existing book publishers. They wanted me to update my book with them and I thought,’ great, that’ll get it out to a whole new audience.’ 

Yes, the book is still in print, but when I wrote it back in 2004, social networking meant your flesh and blood friends, and not those you met over the internet on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

When I got the contract, buried amongst all those clauses you need a lawyer to decipher, was one that gave the publisher full copyright of my work.

As am author, you should NEVER give away full copyright unless you are being paid a very good, upfront fee that makes your hard work worthwhile. This may happen if you are commissioned to write a book by a publisher who has a book in mind that they want you to write. 

Why shouldn't you make money from your own work?

My other advice about contracts would be –

1-If you live in the UK, join the Society of Authors. If you live elsewhere in the world, try and find out if there is a similar organisation for writers/authors.  Once you join the SOA, they will go through all your contracts with you by email or post.  If you have an agent (a good one), you won’t need to do this as they will vet contracts on your behalf.

2-If you don’t understand a phrase, a clause or even a word in a contract, ALWAYS ask.  Don’t be ashamed that you don’t know. You’re not a lawyer (hey, if only, they earn lots), you’re a writer.

3-Make sure you keep your Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society cash. Publishers are trying to make a grab for half that cash.  It’s yours.  Don’t let them.

If you haven’t joined the ALCS, here’s a link to their website -
What you have to do is register with them and then register all your books.  One a year, usually in February, if anyone has photocopied from your book in a publics library or somewhere else, you will get money.

4-Register your books with the Public Lending Right (sorry, it’s UK only).  You can check out the PLR here -
With this scheme, you register the books you wrote and you get paid every time someone takes it out of the library. Unless you are very popular, don’t expect too much cash. 
They have some interesting information on the site, including details of the most borrowed books in Britain. 
Note, sadly the current UK government in their wisdom have decided that the PLR body will be abolished and ‘the statutory responsibility for administering the PLR Scheme will be transferred to another existing publicly-funded body.’ – Source, the PLR website. 

You can read more about the PLR here -


  1. Re ALCS - how do they know if your work has been copied in a library? My library lets me copy anything without asking them - I just have to feed the copier with shiny buttons.

  2. A good point Baggy. Most of the money for photocopying comes from educational establishments, businesses and the government who register with the Copyright Licensing Agency and pay to copy copyrighted work. For instance, I wrote Bullying - A Parent's Guide. Schools use that and that might be copied by teachers to help them talk to kids about being bullied.

    Hope this helps.


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