Melody Herr, PhD, is Head of the Office of Scholarly Communications at the University of Arkansas. A veteran acquiring editor, she has more than 16 years of experience working for scholarly publishers – including Johns Hopkins University Press and the University of Michigan Press. An author herself, she has published nonfiction and historical fiction for young readers as well as scholarly work. Her most recent book is Writing and Publishing Your Book: A Guide for Experts in Every Field (Greenwood, 2017).
When signing a publishing contract, an author makes decisions which directly affect the book's availability. In order to decide judiciously which rights to retain and which to transfer to a publisher, she needs an understanding of U.S. copyright law and the author-publisher partnership. In this article, Melody Herr, PhD, a scholarly communications professional who has over 16 years of experience in academic publishing and who has authored six books herself, explains the rights provisions of a book contract. First, she discusses copyright ownership and describes the ways in which copyright's components apply to scholarly books. After enumerating the benefits and drawbacks of allocating specific rights to a publisher, she highlights contract wording to watch for and suggests the rights an author may wish to retain by negotiating an addendum. She then explains how an author may reclaim rights granted to a publisher through reversion or termination of transfer. In the conclusion, she recommends that outreach programs target scholars at critical moments when they face decisions regarding publication of their work.