I am publishing my book soon and I was wondering if I should try and publish it with a publisher before self-publishing. My main sticking point was whether I could keep the copyright with a publisher. So, I was wondering if I could keep the copyright.

Note/Edit: I am in the US and would be publishing in the US or Europe.

  • 2
    Please be more specific. In some countries copyright can only be transferred through death.
    – user5645
    Dec 21, 2014 at 11:55

2 Answers 2


Usually, yes, though it depends on the publisher and the exact details of your contract. It will state exactly what you are giving them, usually something like "Exclusive Rights" where they are the only publisher for a certain time or "Electronic Rights" where they have the right to publish it in any electronic form. These deals usually have time limits and after those limits have been reached the publishing right will return to you.

For example though, if you sell your Electronic Rights you cannot publish a ebook of your work without the publisher's consent. As pointed out by some authors, it's borderline for them to even include an excerpt of one of their novels in their blog posts if they have Electronic Rights under contract.

It is possible you could sell your ownership, but it's very rare and would require them to have a great deal of interest in the property.


As the creator of the work, you are the owner of the copyright. The publisher will not seek to take ownership of that copyright. Instead, they will basically enter into an agreement with you for certain rights that will give them exclusivity in publishing and/or distributing your work if they become your publisher.

If you are fortunate enough to be offered a publishing contract, read through it very careful to not only determine what rights you are granting, but also the length of those rights and the conditions under which they can be reverted back to you. All of these factors will have a much greater influence over what you can do with your work in the future.


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