Q. I have licensed both print and e-book rights to my publisher. Are they obligated to publish the book in both editions?
A. Only if your contract says so. Prudent authors will provide that simply publishing the book in an e-book edition (which will be far less costly for publishers) is not sufficient, and that the contract will terminate and all rights revert if no print-on-paper edition is published by a specified date. Alternatively, you could provide that no e-book edition may be published until after the print-on-paper edition is published. In either situation, if it is important to you that the print edition be in hardcover, you need to say that in your contract and also provide that publication in a print-on-demand edition does not satisfy that requirement. You may also want to specify a minimum initial print run (in the thousands) to assure that there is no attempt by a less than scrupulous publisher to technically fulfill the requirement by a nominal printing.
(Originally published in the Fall 2010/Winter 2011 issue of the Authors Guild Bulletin. © Mark L. Levine)
Answers to questions on this site are general in nature only. You should consult a lawyer for information about a particular situation. For more information about book publishing contracts and issues, see Levine’s book.