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“Dibs on Your Next Book”: Advice to Authors Publishing Their Second Works

May 13, 2022

Mitch Tuchmann - Copyright Lawyer Durham - Intellectual Property Attorney
Insight by Attorney Mitch Tuchman

Naturally, a publisher who has gambled on an author’s early work wants to reap the rewards of their shared success. Accordingly, publishers call, “Dibs on your next book.” Words to that effect appear frequently in publishing agreements and go on to reassure the author: “If we are not interested, you can take it elsewhere.”  Even at that, the publisher might attempt to hedge its bets by insisting on a right to match or improve on a competitor’s offer and claim for itself an unreasonably lengthy of period to reassess its original refusal.  I have never seen a publisher acknowledge that the competitor’s offer might come with a confidentiality provision that prohibits disclosure of its offer.

Authors should insist that their publishers make their best offers upon initial review of the second manuscript and not reserve a right to piggyback on a competitor’s judgment of the value of the new work.  Instead of a right of first refusal, bargain for a publisher’s right of first negotiation and resist any effort on the publisher’s part to impose on your next book the same economic terms that exist in your current contract.  If you’re worth a second shot, you may be worth a raise.

This is the 7th article in a series intended to introduce readers to publishing agreements. Other articles in this series include:

New to Publishing Agreements? What You Need to Know
How Long Should a Book Publishing Agreement Endure
Understanding Book Publishing Agreements: Territory
Book Publishing Agreements: Copyright Ownership & Licenses
World Rights in Book Publishing Agreements
Reps and Warranties in Publishing Agreements