Author Rights and Responsibilities

bill-of-rightsI believe that as an author, you can expect certain rights when it comes to dealing with agents and publishers. I also believe that rights come with responsibilities. Here are a few that come to mind:

1. You have the right to decide whether or not to seek agency representation, and which type of publishing to pursue.

→You have the responsibility to educate yourself about your options.

2. You have the right to fair and ethical representation from your agent.

→You have the responsibility to make sure you understand the terms of your Agency Agreement.

3. You have the right to good communication from your agent.

→ You have the responsibility to be a good communicator also, not expecting your agent to read your mind or know how you feel unless you tell them.

4. You have the right to know which publishers your work is sent to, and what their responses are.

→ You have the responsibility to trust your agent’s choices in this regard, and to ask questions when you don’t understand or disagree.

5. You have the right to make decisions about your work, with or without the input of your agent.

→ You have the responsibility to discuss those choices with your agent, keeping him/her informed so they can properly represent you.

6. You have the right to be paid in a timely manner.

→ You have the responsibility to understand when your payments are due according to your contract.

7. You have the right to have your questions answered respectfully by your agent and publisher.

→ You have the responsibility to be respectful of your agent’s and publisher’s time, scheduling phone calls when necessary and otherwise allowing them time to respond.

8. You have the right to end your relationship with your agent.

→ You have the responsibility to understand your Agency Agreement and the terms for termination.

9. You have the right to a fair publishing contract that doesn’t unreasonably tie up your rights or keep you from profiting from your ideas or speaking engagements.

→ You have the responsibility to understand all terms of anything you sign.

10. You have the right to see a marketing plan from the publisher, and to follow up making sure the publisher is delivering on their plan.

→ You have the responsibility to augment the publisher’s marketing plan with one of your own.

11. You have a right to a reversion of rights when the book has been declared out of print according to the terms of the contract.

→ You have the responsibility to request reversion of rights from your publisher at the appropriate time (in consultation with your agent).

12. You have the right to communication from your publisher regarding schedules, editorial, cover design, and marketing.

→ You have the responsibility to ask questions when you don’t know what’s going on.

Do you agree with these? What other rights & responsibilities can you think of?



You have the right to good communication from your agent. Authors’ rights: Click to Tweet.

You have the right to see a marketing plan from the publisher. More author rights: Click to Tweet.

You have the right to have your questions answered respectfully. Author rights: Click to Tweet.


  1. Lisa Hall says:

    Outstanding! I’m sharing this with my followers. There’s a lot of talent out there, but a lot of entitlement too. The responsibility doesn’t flow in one direction only!

    What I wouldn’t give for a school on the writing industry. Not simply how to write, but “here’s the business – let’s get real.” One time, one place, total immersion. Dream on!

    Thanks for this Rachelle!

  2. josey bozzo says:

    Thanks Rachelle. I’m hoping I will need this information real soon!

  3. I agree completely! People so easily get caught up in their own rights that they forget they have their own obligations too.

  4. Peter DeHaan says:

    This is a great list; contrasting rights with responsibilities is brilliant!

  5. I love your creative delivery of valuable information.

    Teach on!

  6. I’ve never seen something like this listed before-incredibly helpful. Would love to see expanded posts on #7, 9, 11, 12. Thanks Rachelle!

  7. Donna Pyle says:

    Retweeted with joy. (Love the handy Tweetables, by the way!) Your points clearly show the shared responsibility of all to ensure success as a team.

  8. Nice list. I’ll be saving this one. Not just what to look for from others, but a reminder of my own behavior.

  9. Colin says:

    A great list Rachelle. We hear a lot about rights in all sectors of our society, but not nearly so much about the responsibilities that accompany those rights. You’re absolutely correct that this is no less true in publishing.

    I have the right to write whatever novel I want. But I have the responsibility to make it so good, my (at-this-point-hypothetical) agent will have an easy time pitching it to publishers. 🙂

  10. I have the right to own a car; the responsibility of driving safely. These all make sense and are a good reminder for writers not to get outside their skins and for agents as well. When both sides are upheld it creates less chaos for sure.

  11. Laura K. Cowan says:

    Rachelle, how often can an author see the marketing plan for their book before signing with a publisher? This seems unlikely, but my primary concern signing with a publisher is that they will promise vague marketing support and then take profits without investing in the success of my book, which is a situation I could avoid these days if I built my own platform first and self- published.

  12. Great list of rights and responsibilities. I would add, you have the right to question your agent and/or publisher, but you have the responsibility to use wisdom, discernment and humility to make a final decision.

  13. Jan Thompson says:

    Thank you for the bill of author’s rights. I like it that you added “and responsibilities.”

    My favorite one from your list:

    “6. You have the right to be paid in a timely manner.”

    It’s hard to get a book written, so it would be nice for the royalties to come in when they need to come in. I’m sure the agent also appreciates that.

  14. Agreed completely, Rachelle. Thanks for outlining them out so succinctly.

  15. Heather says:

    I love this summary because it not only gives me what I should expect, but also a list of things to educate myself on before I even tackle publishing.

  16. Jeanne T says:

    I like how you laid out all these rights and responsibilities. I’m not currently represented by an agent, nor have I been published yet, so reading this list of Rights and Responsibilities is helpful for me as I move forward on this writing journey.

    One question that came to mind as I read this post is how does an author follow up with a publisher if s/he feels the publisher is not carrying out the marketing plan they said they would?

  17. Dan Erickson says:

    Your list of rights looks fair to me. I’m fairly new at investigating agents and publishers as I’ve chosen to self-publish for now, but I think you touch on the things that would be most important to me.

  18. I agree with these rights.

  19. Please excuse the redundant comments…I thought the first one disappeared into digital limbo.

  20. Agreed on all points.

    Here’s one more –

    You have the right to expect that your agent will give your work the same attention and care that he/she would give Stephen King or Jackie Collins.

    You have the responsibility to be loyal to an agent who has successfully represented you, even if you are wooed by a ‘name’ agency.

    I guess I’m tired of hearing about people being used as stepping stones to success. Ethics has to trump money somewhere.

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