Publishing in 2019: Charting new waters

compass over waterDuring her 2019 Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference presentation, “Publishing in 2019: Charting New Waters”, intellectual property attorney, Brenda Ulrich identified some of the legal aspects facing authors who are publishing in 2019 and beyond.  

Whether working with a traditional publisher, self-publishing, or exploring open access options, contracts and copyright laws are still important. And as Ulrich notes, in many cases, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. Below are some of the aspects for consideration as you continue your publishing journey.

What is a contract?

Whether you are signing a traditional publishing agreement, or accepting the terms and conditions set forth by Amazon for self-publishing options on Kindle, you won’t be able to avoid contractual agreements in publishing your book.  

Ulrich notes that even with traditional contracts, the terms are changing, but a contract is still a matter of offer, acceptance, and consideration. Modern contracts, however, are being spelled out more clearly on topics of statement of work, copyright retention, and deliverable expectations.  

Some things to identify when signing a publishing contract include:

  • Whether the contract is a work-for-hire agreement,
  • Revision or renewal rights on future editions,
  • Your right to publish “competing” work and how that is defined, and
  • Payment structure and terms 

Self-publishing doesn’t avoid contracts

According to Ulrich, “No author is an island – contracts still affect your work”. Some places you will find contractual agreements in a self-publishing environment are with editors, acquiring permission for text and photo use, and in hosting or distribution fees, to name a few.  

Mentioned above, when self-publishing, many authors opt for larger service providers like Kindle Direct Publishing. These services have their own contracts to outline royalties, rights clearances, offsets, and general terms and conditions.  

OER is not without costs and contractual obligation either

As Ulrich points out, “Free to the world does not mean a free for all”. OER options are still bound by licensing terms for the OER technology and terms and conditions for adding your work to the OER platform. You are also still responsible for attaining the necessary permissions for publishing text and images used in your manuscript.  

Despite all the changes in the publishing industry – mergers, digital first initiatives, self-publishing and open access options – some things remain the same – two of which being copyright law and contract law. Knowing your rights and publishing within the guidelines you agree to are still necessary elements for success in the industry.  

The entire session recording is available in TAA’s Presentations on Demand library.


Eric Schmieder

Eric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.