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Scholarly Publishing

Provides information about journals, books, and open access for authors looking to publish scholarly works.

Publishing Contracts: Understanding Your Rights as an Author

When you publish a scholarly work (whether it is a book, an article, or something else), your publisher will ask you to sign a publication agreement (sometimes called an "author agreement" or "copyright transfer agreement”).  It will typically cover who owns the copyright to the written work, any other exclusive or non-exclusive rights of the author and publisher, terms for royalties (if applicable), and preferred methods of citation for the work.

These agreements typically involve at least some transfer of copyright to your publisher. Thus, they affect your ability to use your own work. Read your contracts carefully. Ask questions. The library's Copyright Office can help explain the terms.

Before signing a publication agreement, think about the kinds of uses you may want to make in the future -- for example:

  • Post some version (preprint, postprint, or final published version) of your work on an institutional repository (e.g., Deep Blue), a subject archive (e.g., the arXiv), your personal website, or a social network (e.g.,
  • Use your work in teaching, conference presentations, etc.
  • Use your work in future publications, including a dissertation or book

See Negotiating a Publishing contract, below, for a detailed discussion of negotiating a publishing contract and retaining rights.

Be familiar with SPG 601.28 ("Who Holds Copyright at or in Affiliation with the University of Michigan") which addresses scholarly works. 

Negotiating a Publishing Contract

Tip: Read your agreements carefully and file them someplace safe - the single, easiest thing you can do is retain copies of your contracts in case you need to check the terms in the future. 


Publishing agreements can be intimidating for authors and sometimes hard to understand. These agreements lay out the author's and publisher's mutual responsibilities. They determine whether you will retain the copyright to your work and what kinds of uses you may make of the work once it is published. This might include things like sharing the work as course materials or posting it on a website.

Here are some essential resources for scholars that describe publishing agreements.

What's in my contract?

Most publishing agreements address similar topics -- whether publishing articles or books. Here are some of the common headings you'll see in publishing contracts and some things to think about as an author. This guide provides just some of the possible contract clauses and is not exhaustive.


Who are the parties to the agreement and what materials should be delivered to the publisher when? What does the publisher promise to do with the materials (i.e., manuscript)? Who is responsible for the creation of and cost for additional features like an index?

Roles and Responsibilities

Sometimes you'll see headings like "Scope of Work" or "Deliverables" What happens if a manuscript is submitted after the agreed deadline, is unsatisfactory, requires extra editorial work, or if the publisher requires legal review of the manuscript. Agreements often detail when and under what conditions the publisher needs to consult with you before taking an action such as making a derivative work, offering a new edition, or revising the work. They also typically indicate how many copies of the published book are due to the author. Do you understand the deadlines and the conditions? Can you meet them? Is anything incorrect? Raise any questions with the publisher. 

Grant of rights

This is where contracts typically address the rights granted by the author to the publisher. Authors typically transfer, license, or assign the copyright and all rights this entails to the publisher (e.g., distribution, translation, creation of derivative works, permitted formats or where the work may be sold -- these are often referred to as "Subsidiary Rights"). This helps them respond to copyright infringement. There are some models where authors retain their copyright and grant to the publisher some or all other rights (e.g., of distribution, translation, etc.). In either model, think about what kinds of uses you might want to make of your work outside of what the publisher is offering. For instance, might you want to use the book in a class you teach? Or make it available to an audience or in a way that is different or beyond what the publisher will offer? If so, it is worth discussing these things with your publisher.

  • By default at the University of Michigan, the Regents of the University of Michigan hold the copyright to any original works created in the course of employment to the University that are "fixed in any tangible medium of expression" (from Section 102 of the Copyright Act). However, under the U-M Standard Practice Guide section 601.28, the Regents transfers copyright back to faculty for any "scholarly works" they create (see the Standard Practice Guide for definitions of "faculty" and "scholarly works"). If you have questions about whether you own the copyright to a work you have created, please contact us at the U-M Library's Copyright Office.
  • A note on retaining some of your rights - the Authors Addendum - The library has created a template for a simple amendment that you can attach to your publishing agreements to describe rights that academic authors frequently prefer to retain. The Author's Addenda may be used with article publishing agreements and book publishing agreements. It includes some of the different uses and rights you might want to reserve (for instance, uses for educational and preservation purposes; posting to your own or an academic institution or funder website after 12 months; and obtaining a final production copy of the book in digital form). If you have any questions about the addenda, please contact us in the library's Copyright Office.
  • A note on negotiation - Many publishers are amenable to changes to certain aspects of publication agreements, but there may also be parts that publishers cannot or will not change. If your publisher is unable to change the agreement in the ways you want, you will need to decide if you still want to work with a given publisher. There is no single 'right' answer -- on balance, you may want to proceed to work with a publisher even if the terms are not entirely perfect. Or you may choose to look elsewhere. It is your decision. Many authors are more comfortable thinking about negotiation as a form of conversation -- tell the publisher what you want. They will often do what they can to address your concerns or explain why something may not be possible for them.

Distribution and Royalties

Agreements typically detail where and how the book will be distributed and what payments are due to the author or authors (and when). It is worth paying attention to the amount of royalties for the different outputs and speaking with others who have published to get an idea of amounts that are typical. Keep in mind that royalties are usually calculated based on the amount the publisher actually receives, taking into account discounts and commissions. Note: keep your contact information with the publisher up to date so they can find you if there are royalties due.

Original work, Warranty and Indemnity

Publishing agreements require the author to affirm that they are the original author and that any third-party materials (like images, photos, graphs, charts, long quotations) are clearly cited. Authors are typically expected to obtain permissions, affirm that the work has not been published before, that the work is not libelous, obscene, does not violate any laws, and that it is accurate. Agreements also generally require authors to indemnify or hold the publisher harmless for any claims made with regard to the publication (e.g. if the work infringes on another copyright or is defamatory, the author may be responsible for addressing the legal claims and paying any costs or damages). These are standard inclusions.

Out of print

This provision describes what happens to the rights if the publication is declared out of print. Read this provision carefully to be sure it is acceptable to you.

Ancillary rights

Agreements may ask for additional rights, such as the right to use your name, picture, and biographical material in the promotion of the book, and what you as the author can do to promote the book. 

Notice and communication

Agreements specify how agreements should be executed (signed) and how communication should proceed (i.e., "notices"). This is important for ensuring the right people get the right information and addresses accountability for that information.

Term and Termination

These provisions describe stipulate the circumstances under which either party may terminate an agreement. These are sometimes distributed throughout the agreement and may include circumstances like failing to meet submission deadlines, unsatisfactory submissions, or things like the book going out of print.

Depositing Your Work Open Access

Once your article is published, you may want to deposit the article or a peer-reviewed version of the manuscript in an open access institutional repository. (Note that It is uncommon to deposit book manuscripts in repositories at this time.) A growing number of research funders require public access to some version of the work. 

The U-M Library institutional repository, DeepBlue, for long-term preservation and broader access

Deep Blue is the University of Michigan's permanent, safe, and accessible service for representing our rich intellectual community. Its primary goal is to provide access to the work that makes Michigan a leader in research, teaching, and creativity. Check the Deep Blue site for instructions on how to deposit your articles and other research output to the repository. 

Designated repositories (such as PubMed Central) as required by your funding agencies (such as NIH)

Check the guide page on the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy (NIHPAP) for details on how to deposit your article or manuscript.

If you have transferred the copyright to the publisher and did not ask the publisher to sign the Author's Addendum, you may not be allowed to deposit the published article to either type of repository. Check the publisher's website for the Author's Rights page to determine their policies. Many publishers make special arrangements to allow and streamline the deposit of articles into PubMed Central. See this page for methods (Methods A-D) for depositing articles into PubMed Central. Also, this page lists publishers who will deposit articles into PubMed Central upon request. Pay attention to which version of the article/manuscript will be deposited (e.g., submitted manuscript, accepted version, final published version) and whether this involves a fee.

Our guide on Open Research and Scholarship includes links to additional resources and services to support sharing results of research. 

Sharing Your Data

Deposit your data into data repositories/archives

After your article or book is published, you can turn your underlying data into citeable outputs or publications, enabling your data to be re-used by other researchers in new ways. 

There are hundreds of repositories for particular types of research data. These repositories typically make your data available to the public (or to a more restricted audience) and assign a digital object identifier (DOI) to persistently index your data. Search DatabibOpenDOAR, or re3data to find a good home for your data. 

Keep in mind that the University of Michigan has its own data repository, Deep Blue Data, that can provide long-term preservation and access for a variety of different data. The Library's Research Data Services can assist with questions about deposit in Deep Blue Data, and help more generally with questions about data acquisition, management, and sharing (see our guide Research Data: Finding, Managing, Sharing).

When submitting your data to a data repository, you should include a "readme" file or other documentation that describes your data (i.e., How were data collected and processed? What do the column headers indicate? What are your units of measurement, etc.?) to ensure that your data will be meaningful to others. Visit our Research Data Services page on documenting data for additional information.

Our guide on Open Research and Scholarship includes links to additional resources and services to support sharing results of research. 

Publish your data as a "data paper"

Data papers provide detailed descriptions of publicly available datasets with high re-use potential. Browse Preparde's list of "data journals" for a growing number of peer-reviewed journals that publish data papers. 

Tracking the Impact of Your Research

After you publish your article, you may want to know how it has impacted the community. Using these tools like the ones below, you can keep track of how many citations your article has received, who has cited your article, and your overall research impact. 


Visit our guides on Research Impact Metrics: Citation Analysis and Research Impact Assessment (for Health Sciences in particular) for in-depth information about impact metrics and methods used to track them.


Traditional metrics focus on citation counts. As social media plays a more important role in scholarly communication, alternative metrics ("altmetrics") are receiving more attention as measures of research impact. Click here to see examples from PlumAnalytics and ImpactStory. Visit our guide page on Altmetrics for more resources and details.

Track data citation

If you have deposited your data in a data repository or published a data paper (see the Sharing Your Data portion of this guide below), others can cite your data much like a regular journal article. Here are some examples of available data:

You can track citations to your data using Data Citation Index (available through UM subscription).

Retaining Your Rights With an Author's Addendum

If your publication agreement does not allow you to use your work in the ways you would like, you may want to talk with your publisher about changing the terms of your agreement before you sign it. The University of Michigan Author's Addenda can help you in that negotiation process. There are two versions: one for journal articles and similar works, the other for books.

Many publishers are amenable to changes to certain aspects of publication agreements, but they also have provisions that are "deal-breakers" for them, meaning they are unable to compromise. If your publisher is unable to change the agreement in the ways you want, it is up to you to decide whether you still wish to publish with them, even if you can't keep all of the rights you want.

If you have questions about what your publishing agreement means or using the Author’s Addenda, please email the Library Copyright Office.