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 in question, 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.
Because these agreements typically involve at least some transfer of copyright to your publisher, they can limit or undermine your ability to use your work. Before signing a publication agreement, consider the uses you may want to make in the future, including:
Self-archiving is the act of storing a version of your paper on a personal website, an institutional repository, or a subject archive in order to make it freely available to the public. Before you sign a publication agreement, you hold the copyright and can self-archive as you choose. Many default publication agreements will allow you to self-archive some version (preprint, postprint, or final published version) of the article. However, the exact details of what can be posted, where, and when, vary from one agreement to another.
If you want to self-archive an article for which you've already signed a publication agreement, consult your publication agreement to learn what you can do.
If you're in the process of choosing a journal, you can use SHERPA/RoMEO to identify what version of your paper the journal will allow to be self-archived by default.
Self-archiving of books is uncommon at this time.
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.