top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoseph Perry, Esq.

A Step-by-Step Legal Guide to Writing a Book

You've decided you want to write a book. Congratulations! Before you get started, here is a list of things you'll need to know.

You May Need to Sign Several Contracts

Whether you self-publish or traditionally publish, below are a list of agreements that may be applicable to your book.

  1. Collaboration Agreement - if you are collaborating with another individual to write or illustrate a book, you'll need to negotiate several terms, including payment, credit, approvals, and termination.

  2. Work-for-hire agreement - if you hire anyone to help you create your book (e.g., a cover designer), you'll want to make sure you own the intellectual property for anything you hire them to do.

  3. Editor Agreement - if you hire an editor, they'll likely send you an agreement. Ensure you own the intellectual property to your book.

  4. Ghostwriter Agreement - if you hire a ghostwriter, ensure you own the copyright to your book once the project is finished.

  5. Publicist Agreement - if you hire a publicist, the agency will likely send you an agreement outlining the scope of services and cost.

  6. Terms of use - if you self-publish, please read the publishing platform's terms of use so you understand what you are agreeing to.

  7. Literary Agent Agreement - if you are traditionally publishing, you'll need an agent.

  8. Publishing Agreement - I put this last because it's the most obvious. If you traditionally publish, your agent will negotiate the coveted book contract with the publisher. You can also hire an attorney to review the agreement as well (whether or not you have an agent).

You May Need to Get Permission to Use Copyrighted Material

You need to get permission to use any copyrighted material in your book that you do not own. However, there are exceptions, like fair use. If an attorney does not think what you're doing is fair use, you'll have to contact the copyright owner and enter into a permissions agreement.

Copyright Registration

If you self-publish, you'll need to register your copyright. You can do this by going to the Library of Congress's website: If you traditionally publish, the publisher will register your copyright.

Trademark Your Brand

If you want to trademark your brand or book series, you'll need to contact a trademark attorney to register your trademarks. Please note that it is not guaranteed that your trademark will be registered, and the process can take months. It can also be expensive.

Libel/Right of Privacy Concerns

Whether you've written fiction or a nonfiction, you'll need to make sure you haven't libeled someone or violated their privacy. You may need to get individuals to sign release agreements (that is, if you think you'll sign them). A publishing attorney can help with reviewing your manuscript and/or drafting release agreements (if applicable).

A publishing attorney can help you with each of the items above. If you need assistance don't hesitate to reach out to me at 914-775-8774 or email me at


bottom of page