Rights and Royalties: What You Need to Know

I received a question from a gentleman right before Thanksgiving, and I know some of you are wondering the same thing:


I want to write a book, and I’m an employee. How do I write a book, and retain all of the rights and royalties? What else do I need to know?

Great question, and a wise one if you’re an employee! I’ve seen this go badly for one person I advised, who sadly did not heed my advice.

One of my colleagues wrote a book while employed. The company “gave him (verbal) permission” to do write and publish a book to use for marketing purposes. But upon terminating his employment, made a claim to his then-bestselling book. They, even today, continue to take all royalties and use it as a marketing tool for their company—even though he did all of the work (and paid for everything except the WIFI). At the beginning of his project, I warned him they had every right to do this and he insisted they were too nice to do so. I wish I had been wrong!

If you have an employment agreement (or even if you don’t), you must work on the book on a computer owned solely by you, outside of work hours. If you think there is any conflict whatsoever, you need to consult an attorney and potentially your HR department.

Your best bet is to draw clear lines between you and your employer, and to make sure you’re doing so in accordance with the laws of your state and the rules of your employment.

Let me repeat: consulting an attorney is a wise move. It might cost you a few hundred dollars, but I promise my colleague would have gladly paid that if he had known his now former company would still be reaping a nice four-figure monthly royalty payment several years later.


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