Several years ago I contracted with a publisher to write a biography. The contract was pretty draconian, claiming all print and electronic rights, but I anticipated good sales and, after some haggling, I signed the agreement.
It appears the publisher is no longer actively selling the book. A major indication of that, in my view, is that the book isn’t available through the publisher’s website now, although others in the same series are. I would like to reclaim electronic rights at least, and wonder what the best approach might be. Does the publisher’s obvious lack of interest in the book give me leverage? If I do a re-write before self-publishing, would that shield me from legal challenges?
Most traditional publishers typically do little to no promotion for books by unknown authors anyway so trying to get your rights back on those grounds probably won’t work.
Traditional publishers take rights away from authors…but then expect the authors to do most or all of the promotion for the book. That’s why so many authors are now turning to self-publishing – even authors who have had previous contracts with traditional publishers (myself included).
You can send them a friendly note asking for your rights back but don’t get your hopes up. I’m sure they were careful to ensure nothing in their contract obligates them to promote the book – or to even sell it at all.
You should absolutely not rewrite and republish the book under a different name. You could definitely expect a lawsuit from that.
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