1

I had a two-year contract with a publisher that has since expired (expired Jan 2015).

The contract granted the following rights (excerpted):

[[ WHEREAS the Author is the sole composer and copyright holder of the literary Work presently known as [deleted].

Author hereby grants Publisher the rights to print and distribute the book to the marketplace limited to two (2) YEARS. Author agrees that all subsidiary rights shall be divided 50% to the Author and 50% to the Publisher.

DISSOLUTION: At the dissolution of this agreement, Author agrees that all bound copies shall be delivered to the Author at 60% discount and Author may dispose of these copies and retain all proceeds. Should the author elect not to purchase the remaindered books within 30 days, Publisher would dispose of such copies without reporting further to the author. ]]

DETAILS FOLLOW SUPPORTING MY QUESTIONS BELOW:

a) My book continues to be sold by Amazon.com for $18.00 (now 6 years later) and I've not been able to get anyone to tell me who is printing the book - nor am I seeing any of the royalties that would come from sales. Nor did I get the option to buy the remaining books at the 60% discount as stated in the contract.

b) Last week, my new publisher published the sequel to the book - and with new attention from this publication, I'm getting requests for the books as a set/series.

QUESTIONS:

Based on the contractual elements above, I want to better understand my rights as I move to have the first book republished.

1) Shouldn't I be a part of the decision if the first publisher decides to continue to print the book? 2) Shouldn't I be receiving royalties if the publisher is still publishing the book for Amazon.com? 3) If I have it republished next month, is there any legal exposure on my end?

Any help would be appreciated.

Patricia

  • Do you have good reason to think that what Amazon is selling are newly printed copies from the publisher with whom you have the contract? Or could they be previously printed copies that a third party bought and is now reselling? Or some other "pirate" printing copies without your permission? – Nate Eldredge Jan 16 '19 at 19:43
  • You may need to exert your rights to the existing book now or Amazon may believe the new edition is an unauthorized/pirate version. – mkennedy Jan 16 '19 at 20:14
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Suppose Publisher printed 10,000 copies under the terms of the contract, and within those two years they sold 7,000 copies (and paid royalties). If you did not receive leftover copies at the end of the 2 years, then either (1) they broke the contract or (2) at the last minute they sold the remainder to some third party. If the latter is the case, they would be obligated to pay royalties on that last sale, and the numbers should add up (assuming you know how many were printed initially). If they failed to pay royalties, or they continued to sell the book, you would need to send your lawyer after them. Another possibility is the lost-email excuse – "We emailed you asking if you wanted the books, and you didn't reply, so we sold them" (disposing of does not necessary mean "destroy"). The burden would be on them to prove that they offered you the remainders and you elected not to purchase (if that is the wording – the contract could have required a specific refusal, not just a failure to respond).

Under the contract, Publisher can't just decide to keep printing the book, nor can they continue to distribute it (but a third party could distribute existing copies forever). You would have "legal exposure" i.e. some risk of being sued if you republish, but it might be minimal – definitely get your attorney to advise you on that. Vendors might refuse to sell the republished work if they think it is an unauthorized edition.

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