How can I sell the rights to my out-of-print books?

Posted on April 11, 2008


My publisher is no longer going to publish children’s books and has offered me back the rights to nine of my children’s novels. How can I sell the rights to my out-of-print books to another publisher?

It’s customary for rights to revert to back to the author when a book goes out of print, or as in your case the publisher quits publishing children’s books, or if the publisher goes out of business. Most publishing contracts include a clause to that effect. Make sure you ask for and receive a signed release of rights from your publisher for all nine books.

You have two options. You can query publishers to see if they are interested in publishing your books. Or you can publish them yourself. Either way has advantages and disadvantages. If you decide to query publishers, consider small publishers. They tend to keep their books in print longer, because of POD (print-on-demand) technology. And they are more likely to consider reprints. The disadvantage is that the books can still go out of print.

The publisher for my first book, Carly’s Ghost went out of business in 2002. According to my contract, the rights reverted back to me. I asked for and received a signed release of rights from the publisher. In 2003, a small publisher Zumaya Publications, picked up Carly’s Ghost, plus my new title Harpo Marx is Seeing Things and combined them into a 2-book anthology, The Road to Weird. In the process of finding a new home for my out-of-print book, I was also able to bring out a new title.

In your case, perhaps an independent POD publisher would be open to combining some of your titles into series anthologies, combining 2 or more titles into one book.

Jacket Flap has a database of children’s publishers. Also check out the Colossal Directory of Children’s Publishers.

You might also consider POD publishing services, such as Lulu, iUniverse, and AuthorHouse to self publish your books. It’s much easier, and less expensive to self-publish than ever before. The advantage is that your books will remain in print for as long as you want. It’s important to remember that they all charge a setup fee. At Lulu there’s no setup fee, but they charge a fee for an ISBN and for each item sold.

Write4Kids publishes an interview with Joi Nobisso you might also find interesting. She obtained the rights to her out-of-print picture books and self published them.

The best resource I’ve found on POD publishing services – and it’s a good one – is The Original “For a Fee” Print-On-Demand Publisher by Dehanna Bailee. She has compiled comparative details on more than ninety POD publishing or self-publishing companies, which are listed in an easy-to-read, printable chart.

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