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Negotiating Titles and Cover Designs in Book Publishing Deals

Introducing a New Series on Negotiating Book Publishing Deals

Once an author lands a book deal, negotiations begin. Typically, these negotiations start with a preliminary discussion between the author and the publisher about the terms of the book publishing contract. The publisher then memorializes the details of that discussion in a memo. This memo generally includes details about the grants, royalties, and any options for future books. Then, the publisher drafts the contract based on their standard book publishing contract.

There are many terms and clauses in the standard book deal that need to be renegotiated and redrafted to be more favorable for the author. These negotiations are done by the publisher and the author’s literary agent or lawyer. Most often, the author’s literary agent or lawyer will review the contract and make changes called redline edits. The publisher will then review these changes and decide whether it accepts them or not. Typically, this process will go back and forth for a couple rounds until both sides are happy with the deal.

This series informs authors, literary agents, lawyers, publishers, and other interested readers about the basics of book deals. It provides tactics and tips to be used when negotiating a book deal. It consists of fourteen parts that cover negotiating the following topics:

  1. Titles and Cover Designs
  2. Trademarks and Copyrights
  3. Description of the Work
  4. Exclusivity
  5. Grant of Rights
  6. Subsidiary Rights
  7. Other Important Rights
  8. Royalties and Advances
  9. Other Financial Terms
  10. Delivery of the Manuscript
  11. Permissions and Editing
  12. When and How an Author’s Book is Published
  13. Revised Editions, Cessation of Publication, and Termination
  14. Representations and Warranties, Indemnification, and Insurance

Check back each week for the newest post or subscribe to the newsletter on bobbydesmond.com to get it sent directly to your email inbox.


Negotiating Titles and Cover Designs in Book Publishing Deals 

While an author writes a book, he or she may ponder possible titles and cover design ideas. However, when an author approaches a publisher, it may have different suggestions entirely. This post discusses how the book publishing contract regulates that decision-making process. It provides authors, agents, lawyers, and publishers with tips and tactics for negotiating who chooses the title and cover design.

Negotiating a Title and Cover Design

Publishers will typically push for broad title rights. Title rights give the publisher the right to exploit the title of the book along with the logotype, trademark, trade dress, format, and other features of the book as published and promoted by the publisher. However, this is separate from the right to choose the title of the book.

Book publishing contracts may state that the title used in the contract is subject to change. Often, publishers prefer or require a different title for one of many valid reasons. Remember, both the author and the publisher have the same goal in mind: to sell as many copies of the book as possible. Publishers have a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to picking out the perfect title for an author’s book. If a publisher suggests a name change, the publisher likely has a good reason for doing so – one that will increase the number of book sales and, in turn, make the author more money.

Less frequently, authors become attached to a cover design idea before finding a publisher.

To protect the author’s rights, a trained literary agent will ensure that the book publishing contract includes a clause that states:

Publisher agrees that Author shall have the right to review and approve or disapprove of the Title and the Cover Design of the Work.

Often, publishers will want more control over the title and cover design. In such cases, the publisher may counter with language that provides the publisher control over what the title is and what the cover design looks like while also allowing the author to play a role in the decision-making process. Here is an example:

Publisher agrees that Author shall be reasonably consulted on the Title and the Cover Design of the Work.

Much like the title of a book, publishers have a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to designing the perfect cover. Remember, both the author and the publisher have the same goal in mind: to sell as many copies of the book as possible.  If a publisher prefers a certain cover, the publisher likely has a good reason for that preference – one that will increase the number of book sales and, in turn, make the author richer.

As such, authors, literary agents, and lawyers should pay particularly close attention to the title and cover design clauses of book publishing contracts, especially if the author already has a title and/or cover design in mind.


About: DJ turned JD highlights the latest legal updates in the entertainment and media industries, intellectual property, the internet and social media. The blawg is compiled and curated by Bobby Desmond. After working as a radio personality, Bobby attended the University of Florida Levin College of Law in order to pursue an in-house legal career at an entertainment or media corporation. He has interned at PBS with America’s Public Television Stations in Arlington, VA and at AMC Networks in New York, NY. He graduated in May 2018 and sat for the New York Bar Exam in July 2018.