• Joseph Perry, Esq.

What is a Publishing Attorney?

I get this question a lot. It usually comes in the context of whether someone should get an agent or an attorney. While an agent (which full disclosure, I am also a literary agent at my company, Perry Literary, Inc.) may represents authors, illustrators, or even estates, an attorney can help additional parties, like editors, publishers, distributors, and even agents themselves.


So what do I do? I counsel authors, publishers, editors, and agents navigate the legal issues they come across in their books and contracts. The vast majority of issues concern intellectual property law and first amendment law, but also more frequently privacy laws.


Most of my work surrounds publishing-related contracts. Authors usually come to me when they want a second pair of eyes on their contract to see if what they're signing is legit or whether I can make the contract better for them. Publishers, agents, and editors may want me to draft a new or improved agreement for them to fit their particular needs. These contracts run across the spectrum of the publishing industry, including but not limited to:

  • Traditional and hybrid publishing

  • Self-publishing.

  • Translations

  • Audiobooks

  • Ebooks

  • Distribution

  • Collaboration (e.g., author/author and author/illustrator)

  • Ghostwriting

  • Work-for-hire

  • Book-to-film options

  • Merchandising

  • Freelance contracts.

I also get requests to vet manuscripts for legal issues. Many of the questions I receive surround the following:

  • Is what I took from a copyrighted work fair use?

  • Can I use these particular song lyrics?

  • Can I use these particular brand names?

  • Have I defamed someone?

  • Have I violated an individual's right of privacy/publicity

I love my job, and I feel very blessed to work with literary-minded individuals. I hope this helps in educating you on what a publishing attorney does.


As always, if you have a specific legal issue, please contact an attorney near you.

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