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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Perry, Esq.

What Agreements Do You Need to Start a Publishing Company?

As an attorney who has helped publishers start their own ventures, I thought I'd write an article about a few agreements you'll need.

Operating Agreement

You'll need this to start your business, whether it is an LLC or a corporation. It's different in each state, so contact a business attorney near you.

Traditional/Hybrid Agreement

This is the agreement you think about when you hear "book contract." This spells out how you'll publish the book, your payment/fee structure (depending on if it's a traditional or hybrid agreement), royalty payments, accounting practices, and essentially details the parties' expectations.

Distribution Agreement

If your publisher will be selling hardcovers and/or paperbacks, you'll need a book distributor. This contract will detail the distributor's services, how and when payment will occur, and what happens to any returns and remainders, for example.

Contributor Agreements

For any compilations or anthologies you create, you'll want to have a contract that licenses a contributor's material to be used in your books.

Release Forms

You'll want to create templates for release forms to give to your authors, who will then in turn give to various individuals to release you from liability. This is common for certain types of books, like memoirs, for example, that may lead to litigation.

You'll also need release forms to use an individual's name, image, and likeness. For example, you may want people interviewed in a book to consent to having their name, image, and likeness used in your book and in any book promotion. Another example is if you are using your employees' names, images, and likenesses on your website, you'll need their consent too.


If you have any employees, you'll want to make sure you have an agreement that says that the publisher owns any intellectual property that they create during the course of their jobs.

You'll also want this agreement for any book projects you conceive of and then contact a writer to author that book. In this instance, you'll own the IP, and the author will be paid a flat fee or even an advance and royalties. It all depends on how you want to set it up.

**This article concerns US law and is for information purposes only. It is not to be construed as legal advice. If you have a legal question, contact an attorney near you.**


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