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I have read on a few different author blogs, as well as some answers here I think, references to the author needing to "buy back" rights to their books.

Having not yet explored all these options, what puts you in a situation where you have to buy back your book from someone?

  • Answer is good and probably why many people simply choose not to even try to publish these days – mathreadler May 13 '18 at 11:34
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The reference is to buying out of a publisher's exclusivity clause, in order to regain the rights required to republish your own work elsewhere. Writers often refer to "getting your rights back" for the time frame for this clause to expire (it's commonly a year from date of publication).

There is sometimes (often?) a "penalty clause" that effectively allows the author to buy out of the publisher's exclusivity (which would otherwise prohibit the author from selling the work to any other publishers, or republishing it themselves). That would be "buying back" the author's rights. It's mainly of concern when a publisher goes out of business, and the author may have to buy back their rights in order for their work to ever see the light of day, or when the publisher fails to promote the book – leaving the author with no income from sales and (short of buying back their rights) no way to rectify the situation.

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    It's also a concern when the publisher fails to promote a book, and then holds your livelihood ransom. Every contact should always have legitimate ways out for the author it it's not worth signing. – Kirk May 9 '18 at 11:25
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    A good lawyer could probably break an "in perpetuity" book contract as "unconscionable" (something no one in their right mind would sign without duress), but like a lot of things in this life, first you have to be able to afford a good lawyer to pursue this avenue. – Zeiss Ikon May 9 '18 at 15:49
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    Please stop saying things you don't understand. Kindle has a history of making bad contracts designed to pay authors less for their work while maintaining exclusive rights that can leave authors in a lurch. This may not be true of every contract with Kindle, but you still must read all contracts from anyone in full: mhpbooks.com/… – Kirk May 9 '18 at 17:19
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    ... If someone offered to buy all rights to one of my book in perpetuity for $100, I'd say no way. If they offered $1,000,000, I'd be signing quick before they sobered up. Frankly, people often sell contracts giving away all their rights for a modest amount of money, and if the publisher loses money on the deal, they don't suppose they are obligated to pay him back. But if the book turns out to be a best seller and makes millions, then they think the publisher owes them more money. The whole point of a contract is you make your best deal based on the information available at the time. – Jay May 9 '18 at 17:30
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    @ZeissIkon Sure, it's COMMON for an author to sell "first North American serial rights" rather than all rights forever, etc. I'm just saying that there's nothing inherently outrageous about the idea of a publisher asking you to sell all rights. It happens all the time. On an American copyright registration form, there's a checkbox for it, so it can't be all that uncommon. – Jay May 9 '18 at 18:55

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