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Before digital publishing, authors had only one track to sharing their work: submitting their article to a scholarly journal, where it was reviewed by an editorial or peer-reviewed board, revised several times, and eventually published in a print volume and mailed to subscribers. 

Technology has disrupted the traditional publishing model, and digital publishing options have not only changed the way information is exchanged, but also sparked discussions about whether the rules that govern traditional publishing can—or should—be transferred to a digital environment. 

Authors today have more choices to make about where, when, and how their work is disseminated:

  • Should you submit your work to a prestigious journal that your colleagues (and tenure board) will be impressed by?
  • Should you publish it via an open access platform for greater impact and visibility?
  • What about all of your other scholarly outputs—blogs, conferences, panels, twitter, news stories? How are those measured?

This guide is intended to provide researchers with the information they need to evaluate publishing options, address copyright concerns, and successfully promote themselves and their work.

Author Rights

What should I know?

As the author, you are also the copyright holder. When your article is reviewed and accepted for publication, you will be asked to sign a standard agreement that transfers most, or all of your rights to the publisher. Decisions about the use of the work (distribution, access, pricing, updates, and use restrictions) belong to the copyright holder (now the publisher), and your attempts to share your own work with colleagues and students, in print or electronic formats, may not be permitted.

However, transferring copyright doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can transfer some rights while retaining others. Most faculty want to maintain the right to use and develop their own work without restriction: to use it for teaching, to continue research on the subject, receive attribution, and archive their work.

Standard publishing contracts may ask you to transfer all of your rights, but all they need to publish is a non-exclusive right to publish and sell the work, receive attribution and citation as the first place of publication, the ability to migrate the work to future formats, and the right to include it in its collections. You can modify or addend your contract with a publisher to retain the rest of your rights. 

You can also choose to publish your article in an open access journal. Many are peer-reviewed and have excellent impact factors. They publish scholarly literature and provide it free of charge to users, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Users can read, download, copy, distribute, print, or link to your articles, as long as they are properly attributed. Your consent, as the author and copyright holder, is needed, and you retain the right to block distribution of mangled or misattributed copies. This is how you maintain control over your work. Or, self-archive your work in a disciplinary or the CSU-Pueblo digital repository. These repositories are harvested by search engines and freely accessible to users.

Modify Your Publishing Contract

Authors can negotiate with publishers to retain certain rights. You may want to retain: 

  • the right to reuse the work in teaching, e.g., distributing copies to students or colleagues
  • the right to reuse the work in future research or publications, e.g., a textbook or other compilation
  • the right to deposit the work in the CSU-Pueblo Digital Repository or another open access repository where it will be permanently and freely accessible

You can use an author addendum by following these steps: 

  1. Download a sample addendum (below) or use the Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine to create one. Fill in the name of your article, the journal name, the author(s)' names, and the publisher's name where indicated. 
  2. Sign and date the addendum. 
  3. Sign and date the publisher's agreement. Immediately below your signature on the publisher's form, write: Subject to attached addendum. 
  4. Make copies of all three documents (the publisher's form, your addendum, and your cover letter) for your records. 
  5. Send the three original documents to the publisher. 

Determining Your Rights for Previously Published Works

If you transferred full copyright to the publisher at the time of publication, your right to re-use content for teaching, archiving, or new publications may be restricted. To determine your rights, do the following: 

  • If you have it, check your original publishing agreement.
  • Look at the publisher's website to find their policies, or contact them directly.
  • Search Sherpa/RoMEO to find the standard agreement for your publisher, or use one of their permission request templates to formally request permission from the publisher.

For published books and monographs, Understanding Rights Reversion: When, Why & How to Regain Copyright and Make Your Book More Available provides guidance on how to increase your book's availability by bringing out-of-print books back into print, or converting them to eBook formats and publishing them online.


Negotiation 101

Before signing a contract with a publisher, read it carefully to understand what rights you are transferring. Remember—you are in control. Your manuscript is your intellectual property, and the publisher is asking you to give up ownership in order to sell it to others. While you are going to have to give them certain rights, you don't have to give them everything. 

Negotiating with a publisher can be an easy process, as long as you remember to do the following: 

  • Prepare for negotiations. Consider what you plan to do with your work after publication, and how the terms of the contract will enable—or prohibit—you from doing so. Make a list of what you need out of this agreement and any dealbreakers so you stay focused. 
  •  Communicate, communicate, communicate. Face-to-face is best, followed by telephone communications. You want to be able to read the nuances in tone and body language. If you have to negotiate over email, clearly lay out your expectations, motivations, and needs. Don't assume the publisher knows why you want to retain certain rights. 
  • Be ready to compromise. Start by asking for more than what you need, knowing the publisher will counter-offer. Trade away requests that matter less to you as part of reaching an agreement.
  • Be ready to walk away. If the publisher refuses to budge on something you've identified as a dealbreaker, know that you may have to find another publisher, or postpone publishing.
  • If the publisher says no, ask why. Remember the publisher is trying to make money, or at least cover overhead costs. Your requests may impact their revenue streams in ways you haven't considered. There may be a reasonable accommodation you can work out.
  • Take notes. Details can get lost in long conversations, so take notes on verbal agreements and make sure they're written into the revised contract or addendum.
  • Get it in writing. First, because copyright must be transferred in writing to be legal, and second, to make sure you and the publisher agree on the negotiated terms. Second, it is difficult to enforce verbal agreements after the fact. 

Based on Negotiating Guide from ASU Libraries.