What Is a Publishing Agreement

Glossary > Publishing Agreement

💬 Definition of Publishing Agreement:

Also referred to as an author or license agreement, a publishing agreement is a contract that becomes active once a work is published. When signing such an agreement, authors must understand their present and future distribution needs and possible publishing agreements. 

Publishing agreements have different variants and may vary from publisher to publisher. Also, they differ according to various outputs, such as books, book chapters, journal articles, conference papers, or other types of research. 

Related questions about a publishing agreement:

What does a publishing agreement cover?

Publishing agreements generally cover the date the work will be published, the number of copies made available, and the work format (print, ebook, or both). Royalties management is also a point that gets clarified in the agreement. It stipulates the author's rights, how royalties are shared between the author and publisher, and the payment calendar.

When setting the terms of the contract, the publisher can ask the authors to guarantee that:

  • They have created the work and thus hold the copyright.
  • They received permission from the copyright owner for the third-party copyright materials included in the work.
  • Their work does not include any unlawful statements or contain instructions or descriptions that may cause harm or injury. 

Can you negotiate a publishing agreement?

The publishing agreements should be discussed and negotiated between the author and the publishing house, even though authors may only sometimes prove successful in reaching all their goals. The parties should discuss the terms of the agreement, especially if the work to be published was subsidized by any grant or public funding to meet the criteria required by the grant agreement.

What are some types of publishing agreements?

  • The author assigns the copyright to the publisher. This is common in journal articles. This means that the author grants the publisher all the rights to the work under the agreement. This is considered permanent unless otherwise mentioned in the contract. 
  • The author grants the publisher an exclusive license. In this case, certain rights are given to one publisher, amongst them usually the right to publish, communicate and distribute the work, as well as the possibility to sublicense, for instance, translations.
  • The author grants a non-exclusive license. This typically means the author may give non-exclusive rights to other publishers. This type of agreement clarifies which publisher has the right to first publication. 
  • The author wants to publish under the Creative Commons license. This means the work is made freely available for further distribution. In this situation, the publisher may ask for the right to publish first. 
  • There is no publishing agreement between the parties. Again, especially valid for articles. If an article has been submitted without an agreement between parties, the publisher may only publish it for the purpose and issue for which it was submitted.  

What should I look for in a publishing agreement?

Here’s a checklist of the main categories to clarify when discussing or signing a publishing agreement:

  • Rights granted: this includes copyright ownership, territorial copyright (especially regarding translations), subsidiary rights for second print, and republication (especially valid for articles);
  • Advance and royalties: amounts and payment calendar;
  • Delivery deadlines & issues; 
  • Manuscript acceptance & editing process;
  • Publication details;
  • Communication & marketing;
  • Additional costs (illustration, photographs, special permissions);
  • Accounting, payment, auditing.

Write more.
Worry less.

Publish and distribute your books to hundreds of stores worldwide in ebook, print or audio formats.

Publish Your Book


Are you looking for something on PublishDrive?