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I hope you can help me. Back in 2018 I had my short story published by a publishing house. He insisted that there was no need for a contract even if I asked for one. He tried to print my book but after some failed attempts(bad printing and cut) and two years of patience I asked him to stop the process. The publisher agreed but informed me that we had it typically published as a first edition because he had already sell few of the failed books(2 or 3 copies). My questions are these. Can I include this book in my new one as a chapter and publish it by a different publisher? Does the "no contract" prevent me from doing something like this?

Thanks for your time

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    Do you have a published short story, or a published book? The title says "short story" but the text is all about earlier attempts to have a book published. – JRE Nov 3 '20 at 15:54
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    I would have thought the "no contract" is what would allow you doing something like that! – colmde Nov 3 '20 at 16:54
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    Aside from the legal issues, there are differences between short stories and novel chapters that mean the former will not necessary make a good example of the latter – DM_with_secrets Nov 3 '20 at 23:20
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    As the writer, you own all content you created. It was copyrighted the moment you wrote it. That's not to say you shouldn't check with a lawyer, or that they couldn't be a jerk and try something. You may need to have a lawyer draft a letter to the publisher if they make an issue of it. If they refused to write a contract, you are free of any obligation to them because you gave them nothing (but money, presumably). – DWKraus Nov 4 '20 at 2:39
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    @DWKraus: It's more complicated than that. If you are someone else's employee and create the work in the course of your duties, in the US and the UK, the copyright vests in your employer and not in you. I don't know how that works in other countries but I imagine there are other complications and exceptions for OP to be aware of. – Kevin Nov 5 '20 at 18:06
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If you don't have a contract, the "publisher" might not even own any of the rights to the book. Is there a copyright page in the book? If so, who is the copyright registered to?

In the case that you don't own the rights, you might be able to just ask for them to be returned to you by the publisher. It's not unusual for previously published material to be included, with permission, in longer works, although it's typically reworked, rather than included verbatim.

In the future, don't work with someone who isn't willing to put the terms in writing. It's a sign of unprofessionalism. A good contract protects both sides.

NOTE: I am not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice. Your best bet is probably to run this by someone who specializes in copyright law. However, if you are submitting to a traditional publisher, they should have lawyers on staff. Just make sure you let them know your situation.

  • The copyright is registered to both me and the publisher. I know that a contract works as a protection for the both of us and that is why I asked for one. I guess I shouldn't agree back then. When we stopped the process he told me that I could publish my book from a different publisher but only as second edition(because of the reasons I explained in my post) and i wouldn't mind trying as long as there was a succeeded first edition in the first place. Thank you for your advise and sorry for my English, I'm from Greece – Alex Nov 4 '20 at 7:17
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You need to see an IP attorney.

Who was the publishing house? Their refusal for any sort of written agreement says they are not a pub house.

Your further somewhat confused statements indicate this was some sort of POD 'publisher'.

Your lack of clear rights could be a problem but my NON professional opinion is that you could include the short story in another book.

That said, in the USA anybody can sue anyone else for anything, thus just because you have the right to do it does not mean you wont have legal problems.

You really need to see an IP attoryney.

  • I'm trying to get in touch with the publisher but he keeps vanishing.. I asked a lawyer to advise me but he really didn't help me. You see, I wasn't able to find one who specializes in publishing stuff. The publisher has a POD house and is well known in my town. Thanks for your time – Alex Nov 4 '20 at 7:29

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