Publishing your literary work

Many individuals who produce their own work such as literature, poetry, prose, journals, magazine articles etc will wish to get their work out into the public sphere through arranging for their work to be published.

When trying to get your work published there are a variety of factors that you should take into consideration, the first being the way in which you will organise the publishing of your work.

Self publishing versus a publishing house

There are two avenues by which you can organise your work to be published which are self publishing or publishing through a dedicated publishing house. The first option is a complex process which will require you to fully understand all the intricacies of publishing and at times is a difficult route to exploit the commercial value in your work.

Getting your work published through a publishing house is the most common option to choose as it provides significant advantages due to the existing market knowledge of the publishers in how to fully exploit the commercial value of your work. However, there will be certain legal issues in relation to the contract and certain elements such as the payment of royalties which you will be required to be fully aware of.

The Role of Literary Agents

Most publishers will not accept submissions directly from the author of the work; they will only accept submissions which have been provided to them by literary agents. Using an agent is an advantage as many will specialise in the area of your work and will have already existing contacts with the publishing houses.

How do I find a literary agent?

There is a large amount of literary agents through the UK, many of which have dedicated websites. It is advisable to thoroughly research both the agency and the dedicated agent to which you will send your work rather than sending it to every agency you can. Different agencies will have different submission procedures in relation to different kinds of work.

How do I pay an agent?

If an agent agrees to take you on they will be required to be paid for their role. There are two avenues by which to pay an agent with one being a direct annual amount and the other a percentage of the money you make.

Contracts with a publisher – issues to consider

When entering into a contract with a publisher in relation to your work there are various issues which you should take into consideration. They are as follows:

  • Standard Contracts

  • Ownership of Rights

  • Editing issues

  • Obtaining Clearances

  • Royalties

  • Competition

  • Revisions and editions

  • Warranties

  • Termination

Standard Contracts

Publishing houses will have standard terms and conditions which they will require you to sign before they agree to take on the publishing of your work. As these terms and conditions are unilateral often they will contain terms which directly benefit the publishing house rather than the author.

You must undertake a full inspection of the terms and conditions before signing. As literary agents will deal with many clients you will be required to sign similar terms and conditions it is advisable to obtain the opinion of your agent before signing.

Ownership of Rights

When the work is first written by the author all the rights will immediately belong to the author. When a publishing agreement is entered all of these rights are fully negotiable.

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For more information on:

  • What will happen to the copyright in the work?
  • Editing Issues
  • Obtaining Clearances
  • Royalties
  • Competition
  • Revisions and Editions
  • Warranties
  • Termination