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Brian Mbanacho, Jackson Biko, George Saunders, Samanta Schweblin; name them all. Well, you might wonder, why the above names appear spontaneously in the introduction of this piece. These are great writers of today. The vibrancy in literary works done by them reverberates to inexplicable ends.

Intellectual property or wealth as we call it has amassed broad recognition. Just like real property, owners of intellectual property can transfer, assign or lease their rights in intellectual property. In exchange, intellectual property owners derive monetary benefits, conventionally termed royalties.

Authors and publishers have a symbiotic relationship. Publishers rely on authors to provide them with quality content that they can sell to their audience, while authors rely on publishers to help them get their work published and distributed to a wider audience.

Publishers typically offer authors a variety of services, including editing, proofreading, marketing, distribution, and printing. In exchange, the publisher typically takes a percentage of the profits generated by the book sales.

Today, we digress from the aspect of royalties. We shift our main focus to the subject of subsidiary rights. In synopsis, we shall outline the key factors that all authors must take into account, even as they endeavor to generate economic value from their intellectual wealth.

What are subsidiary Rights?

Subsidiary rights, also known as “sub-rights,” are additional revenue sources for a literary work beyond the primary rights of publishing and selling the book in its original form.

These rights can include audiobook production and sales, foreign language translations, merchandise, film adaptations, and other derivative products such as journals, calendars, and mini-kits. They are important for the success of the work and can generate significant income for both the author and publisher.

Essentially, in any agreement between authors and publishers, the main focus for the author has always been the publishing and distribution of the primary publishing rights. Subsidiary rights are either forgotten or not known by the author.

Most of you may ask: do sub-rights matter?

Yes, they do.

The inclusion of sub-rights in a publishing agreement is important because they offer extra revenue streams for both the author and publisher. Granting sub-rights to the publisher can potentially result in a bigger advance for the author. In addition, sub-rights can boost the visibility and exposure of the work, leading to higher sales of the original publication. Therefore, sub-rights are a critical factor to consider when negotiating a publishing contract and can have a substantial impact on the financial success of the work.

Publishers have devised ways to derive additional economic value from the exploitation of these subsidiary rights.

Way to go about the split of revenue accrued from the exploitation of sub-rights.

The proceeds from sub-rights in publishing ought to be divided between the author and the publisher in line with the conditions specified in the publishing agreement. The exact division is hinged on several factors. For example, the type of rights being licensed, the contract’s terms, and the bargaining between the author and publisher.

It is worth noting that the division of sub-rights proceeds is open to negotiation and will vary depending on the agreement. Moreover, it is typical for the terms of the agreement to stipulate that the author and publisher split the sub-rights revenue differently than the primary royalties obtained from the book’s sales. Both the author and publisher should carefully assess their respective interests and negotiate mutually acceptable terms.

In conclusion, by granting sub-rights to a publisher, an author may be able to negotiate a larger advance, while additional revenue is generated by exploiting these rights. It is time to think wisely.


The information provided in this article is intended for general legal advice and does not constitute legal advice for any specific transaction or case. Since each transaction presents a unique legal context, it is advisable to retain a legal adviser for specific transactions.

To contact CR Advocates LLP, send us an email at or call +254 100979081 or Book a strategy call HERE or direct message us HERE on WhatsApp at your convenience. Our legal team will be happy to help you.

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