Rights & Licensing

In the first part of this article we looked at the wider book rights and licensing arena. In this post, I’d like to offer a snapshot of the most commonly traded rights.

Anthology and Quotation Rights

These are the rights for the publisher to grant permission for another publication to quote from or include your work in an anthology. The author would usually be consulted before this took place.

Audio Rights (Abridged) 

The right to record a shortened version (you may get approval of the abridgement) 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.

Book Club Rights

Book Clubs such as The Book People and Scholastic Book Fairs receive 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. In the UK, 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 the publication of condensed or abridged versions of your book.


If you sign exclusive rights to a publisher then they are the only ones 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 in agreed territories if the language remains the same.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

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

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 with traditional publishers. It means that while one edition of your work is produced by a company; you could also produce another edition, in the same format, language or territory 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.

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 additional payments.

Second Serial

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

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. And there are others too, in new areas such as apps.


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.

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.

I hope this brief summary offers a basic understanding of the kind of rights which authors should be aware of, and the potential opportunities. The question is how can I, the author, be doing more to ensure I am best maximising these rights?

The first, and foremost, is to utilise all available resources.

Technology is certainly helping to simplify and strengthen the rights process to help make domestic and international markets even more accessible. The advent of online global platforms, right down to social media, the internet and email means potential licensers and licensees can engage 24/7 whatever their territory. And it’s this continued progress which means that the potential of the rights licensing market remains huge, growing year-on-year. We believe that this is an area which will only continue to grow and one which authors must embrace on a global scale in order to help maximise potential revenue from all their hard work. 

If you’d like to know more about how technology can help your work reach a wider international audience then please contact us at info@iprlicense.com and one of our team would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Tom Chalmers is Managing Director at IPR License. IPR License was launched in 2012 and is the global, digital marketplace for authors, agents and publishers to list and license book rights.