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Authors & Book Rights: 5 Key Truths

I became aware of  @Tom_Chalmers on Twitter via his publishing company @Legend_Press, who are currently running the Self Published Book Of The Month initiative with The Guardian Newspaper. I thought this sounded such a great idea, I Skyped with Tom recently; he told me all about his other company, IPRLicense and how understanding licenses can benefit Indie Authors in going after lucrative deals, so I asked him to write this guest post for us as part of B2W’s Indie Authors Week. Enjoy!


There’s a famous exchange in a court room which continues to be one of the most quotable scenes in film history (well in my head, anyway). But when it comes to rights and licensing the question is – do you, the author, really want the truth and if so, can you handle it?

For many years rights and licensing was a mystical area in which the vast majority of authors didn’t really need to know the truth about and/or didn’t particularly care. This was an area handled directly by publishers/agents under a cloud of smoke and mirrors with sales across international territories heralded as the promised land which, just might, be achievable.

But times have changed. Growing numbers of indie and self-published authors are shunning or being shunned by the more traditional routes, combine this with the rise of the authorpreneur and its clear that a better understanding of this fundamental revenue stream is now vital.

So here are 5 truths for authors looking to maximise their rights and licensing:

Truth #1

Too many authors don’t understand rights and licensing

Results from an IPR License survey suggests that around half of the authors surveyed were unsure if they owned the world rights to their book. In our experience the harsh truth is that not enough authors possess a sufficient understanding of the rights they hold to their work. And, importantly, by not having this knowledge in place, the vast majority continue to miss out on a huge potential revenue stream.

Act now: Do your research! There is a raft of available resources such as the Society of Authors and we have a ‘Know Your Rights’ section on the IPR License website . If you have any rights or licensing related question you can also tweet us @IPRLicense or simply drop us an email and we’d be happy to help. MORE: It’s the same for other writers too! 2 Laws Screenwriters Need To Know by Beecham Peacocks Solicitors

Truth #2

Authors don’t need traditional publishing deals to take advantage of rights deals in different territories.

Savvy self-published and indie authors can market themselves in as many different territories as they want. Showcasing work in the right way can enable titles to be picked up by a variety of rights professionals all over the world. And don’t just think print – film, TV, audio, large print, apps could also be viable options.

Act now: Make contact and get your work out there. Compile a list of publisher/rights agents in various territories in which you think your works might sell or are relevant to and contact them accordingly. And/or join an online platform such as IPR License to help maximise its exposure. MORE: 5 Things Agents Do by Julian Friedmann

IPRLicenseTruth #3

Revenue from licensing can dwarf those from original sales

Many small publishers have built their business around their success in licensing rights, both buying and selling. Sales of international and subsidiary rights continue to make up a large proportion of a book’s income for publishing houses large and small. There are many examples of authors selling less successfully in their own country but making large amounts from success in different markets, such as the US, France, Australia, India etc, etc. These could be referred to as ‘the David Hasselhoffs’ of the book world (big in Germany, in case you didn’t know).

Act now: Think about the places that feature in your book, the origins of your character basically anything that might connect your work to other countries. Make a list of a) the rights you own and b) why your work might appeal to different territories, languages, formats etc as appropriate. Then act. MORE: 4 Reasons Your Concept Counts Above All Else

Truth #4

If you can license your copyrights, others can do so illegally too

A better understanding of rights is not only about making money – it’s also vital for authors to adequately protect the rights to their work as copyright infringement and piracy becomes an increasing problem within the industry. There’s a huge difference between your book being available to millions of readers around the world with no support or income generated when compared to having control of how to license, produce, sell and promote it.

Act now: Copyright is automatically granted to your work once it’s written – it’s wise to show you’re aware of copyright by including © Your Name (Year of Completion) at the beginning of your manuscript but otherwise you don’t need to do anything. Having said that, in the digital age copyright infringement is an ever growing problem. If you register your copyright with IPR License, we will store the full manuscript for you and provide a unique reference code and a record of the day you uploaded it. MORE: UK Copyright Myths, plus Copyright FactSheet

Truth #5

Advances in technology and communication channels have made the international rights market easier to access than ever

Despite rights and licensing being viewed as a complex area but there are now more than enough resources readily available to authors to help in this educational process. The advent of online global platforms, such as IPR License, right down to social media, the internet and email has made it easier than ever to engage with potential licensers all over the world.

Act now: Bolster your online presence and get exploring new markets. Breaking into the new territories is not as daunting or as impossible as it might seem. MORE: Check out the novel writing B2W Bundle and B2W Novels & Self Publishing Pinterest Board.

In summary it’s vital that authors not only know their rights but also how maximise their potential on an international scale – after all making money from being an author can be tough enough without neglecting arguably the largest available stream of them all.


BIO: 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. See or email for more information.

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