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Authors don't profit from their books unless they own the copyright.

Many authors sign away the rights with their publishing contract.

One might argue that is no different than an artist selling a painting: you've signed away your rights.

If this weren't the case, one might ask what would happen to the art market.

by Upstate NY on Sat Jun 13th, 2009 at 11:47:49 PM EST
Authors sign a contract which specifies royalty rights in return for copyright. The usual deal is that an advance is paid, and then royalties are paid until the book is remaindered. Then the copyright usually reverts to the author - who can't do much with it, because the book's time will have been and gone.

Some publishers hold on to copyright no matter what. Those are bad publishers, and worth avoiding.

You can also get work for hire deals, but they usually work out at about 25% to 50% of the total return on an advance+royalty deal. Authors won't usually sign them unless they're very stupid or very desperate for cash.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jun 14th, 2009 at 10:34:05 AM EST
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Maybe that's a UK thing, but in the states, many presses--the big commercial kind--own the copyright. Some of them don't even pay royalties. They pay one-time up front fees.

I know of National Book Award winning writers who have written books that have not been published at all by publishers, and the writers can't get the books back to sell them elsewhere. Once a book is purchased in the states, the copyright is typically held by the publisher unless the writer has retained it.

by Upstate NY on Tue Jun 16th, 2009 at 03:47:32 PM EST
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