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The 10 most important legal tips for your book publication

Image: When it comes to your book publication, there are some legal traps to avoid! Read the most important legal tips here!

You have finished writing your book or are just finishing off your book publication. Before you can really start, you should thoroughly research all legal questions about your book publication so that there are no nasty surprises later. In the following guide, we will go through all possible scenarios with you and clarify all legal questions about your book publication.

Many debut and first-time authors are faced with many question marks about book publication after completing their manuscript. Your own book is finished, but what's next? Like many other authors, you may not have dealt with legal matters such as copyright, taxation of book income, publishing contracts, notice periods or registering with VG Wort. However, if you want to publish your print or e-book, you should be thoroughly informed about these topics. In our guide you will learn everything about the legal principles of the book market and publishing and you will learn everything about your rights, such as how to create an imprint, whether and how you can publish under a pseudonym and which deadlines and tax pitfalls need to be considered.

  1. Legal requirements for a book publication
  2. Copyright and exploitation rights
  3. The book contract
  4. Title protection
  5. Can I publish under a pseudonym
  6. Imprint obligation
  7. The ISBN
  8. Do I have to pay tax on my income from book sales?
  9. Collecting Society Wort (VG Wort)
  10. Image rights

1 Legal requirements for a book publication

Image: Find out about all legal issues relating to your book publication at an early stage.

Before you dare to publish your book, take another close look at your book. Does your work meet the legal requirements for publication? What do you have to consider here? Your content should come from you - exclusively from you! After many cases of plagiarism, even in self-publishing, it is important to look at your own work even more critically. You are certainly allowed to quote other texts and be inspired by other writers and ideas! So did the great poets and thinkers. What you are not allowed to do is take over long or even multi-page text excerpts or entire passages from other texts. You should never quote without identifying the source of the quotes or quoted text passages.

In general, your work should of course not violate applicable law, the basic principles of democracy and the rule of law, respect human dignity and not violate the rights of minorities or contain extremist or youth-endangering content. Also pay attention to the personal rights of others! A work in which you can refer to unloved people by name or recognize them carries a high risk of drawing the attention of lawyers to your work and bringing unloved legal cases into the house. Even with the use of a pseudonym, it can be enough for a lawsuit if people in your book recognize each other, see themselves denigrated and are recognizable to those around you - even if they change their names. It is better to ask your lawyer too much than too little.

2 Copyright and Exploitation Rights

As the author, you retain the copyright to your title and transfer the right of exploitation to other partners.

Your book project is ready. Now you would like to bring it to the hopefully numerous readers. You have already written to publishers and obtained offers. But how about a publication with your author rights? As an author, you generally retain the copyright to your content. You cannot transfer the right as the author, but only the exploitation rights to your text. Check whether you have agreed the exclusive exploitation rights with a publisher in the contract. Pay attention to a possible possibility of freedom of contract.

Exclusive use by a publisher means that you are not allowed to publish with other publishers or service providers during the term of the contract. A non-exclusive contract means that, despite the contract, your text can be published at any time with another publisher or service provider. Then you retain full freedom in your work. So do not conclude your book contract prematurely, but take your time to check the legal bases.

3 The book contract

Legal conditions that bind the author to the publisher are set out in the so-called book contract or author contract. In this, the author concludes a contract with the publisher that defines the rights of both parties. You should check this carefully before signing and binding to a publisher. Also check your notice period at this point. Publishers who bind you to them for a long period of time should usually be examined very carefully before you sign a contract that will not release you prematurely in case of doubt.

4 Title protection

Image: Check in good time whether your desired title already exists.

Are you currently writing down or completing your manuscript - and looking for a suitable title? Or did you just have a bombastic idea for what you think is a stunning title? Before actually publishing it, you should immediately check whether you were the first to come up with this idea. If you publish with a title that already exists, there may be problems with the rights of the already protected title from a third-party publisher.

You should therefore check in good time whether your desired title already exists. The following pages help you with your title research: www.buchhandel.de, at the German National Library, Amazon or the title protection section of the Börsenblatt.

If the title already exists in the same or a similar form, you should obtain permission from the rights holder before you start or clarify whether it is possible to use the title in your variant. For this reason, you should also ensure that individual words used in your title can be protected as word marks. You can check whether this is the case under the trademark directory of the German Patent and Trademark Office.

After the approval of the rights holder or from the point in time at which you have found out that your desired title has not yet been assigned, you should apply for title protection immediately if you want to protect your title from publication. This means that you have the copyright of the title of your work protected. From the time your book is published, your title will be protected as long as the work title is available. Title protection usually expires after five years if a title is withdrawn from the market. However, this should be checked on a case-by-case basis. But for the time up to the publication you can register title protection under the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels or by publishing a title protection advertisement on Buchmarkt.de. In this way, you can start promoting your own work risk-free, even if the book has not yet been published.

5 Can I publish under a pseudonym?

Image: With a pseudonym profile, you have to pay attention to the imprint and the trappings such as advertising on an associated homepage or Facebook page.

Are you writing about a sensitive topic and don't want to publish your book under your name? Perhaps, as a recognized specialist book author, you would like to publish a “shallow” detective novel and fear for your good name? Or you are writing about an erotic topic and you don't want your family to know about it. In extreme cases, do you even want to protect yourself from persecution? In all these cases, it is advisable to publish it under a pseudonym. You can publish under a pseudonym with most publishers and service providers. Of course, the pseudonym should not have any known author names or a non-existent doctorate. If you want to build your own name brand, first research whether the name already exists and think about which name would suit your genre. A non-fiction author has a more pragmatic name than a crime novel writer, while a fantasy author certainly has a more exotic name than an author of children's books.

It is important to remember that the pseudonym name must be noted in the metadata that goes to your book on the book market, as well as on the inside of the book and on the cover itself. These are the data that are found for your book in the book market, and you want to avoid having your real name associated with it. You should therefore ensure that your pseudonym is used consistently when publishing.

A pseudonym profile is problematic when it comes to the imprint and the trappings such as advertising through an associated homepage or Facebook page. Because here real names are required by law. You are fine with the imprint in your book if a publisher or publishing service provider is named in the imprint. Then you can also state your pseudonym name there. Unfortunately, it is not that easy with a website for your book. According to Paragraph 5 of the Telemedia Act, there is an imprint obligation for “business-like telemedia, usually offered for a fee”, i.e. pages that are used for sales, advertising, etc. There you have to provide information about yourself, such as an existing mailing address. If you want to avoid this, you should find out more from service providers who can provide you with addresses.

6 Duty to publish a legal notice

Image: Every book needs an imprint that contains the mandatory information about your book.

Speaking of the subject of the imprint: You would like to publish your long-cherished book project, but you are not sure whether your book needs an imprint? The answer is: 'Your book cannot avoid the imprint. In Germany there is an imprint obligation, i. H. every book must have an imprint. This is usually laid out on the first pages of the book, on a left-hand side.

The imprint of your book must contain the mandatory information about your book. This includes, for example, the author's name, the date of publication, the publisher's name, etc. The complete data can be found in the state press law of your state. Here you can call up an example imprint and then design your own imprint with your individual data. By the way: You can find out more about the requirements for an imprint on your own author's website here.

7 The ISBN

The so-called ISBN is the international standard book number, which makes your book clearly identifiable. Not every book has an ISBN, as there is no obligation to have an ISBN - whether print or digital. In general, however, an ISBN is used to make your book easier to find and order in bookshops. Publishers generally assign ISBNs to their authors, but you can also purchase your own ISBN from the agency for book market standards at MVB Marketing- und Verlagsservice des Buchhandels GmbH. A separate ISBN belongs in each individual book format. Your hardcover has an ISBN, the paperback another and the e-book a third ISBN, which identifies and identifies your book in precisely the said book format.

8 Do I have to pay tax on my income from book sales?

Image: When it comes to the taxation of your book commissions, you should definitely sit down with your tax advisor.

In general, you have to report and pay tax on all income to your tax office. Most authors do not have a permanent, permanent employment contract with the publisher, but are usually self-employed. According to income tax law, income from writing activities is included in income from self-employed work. The income from self-employed writing activities is not subject to trade tax. The exact demarcation between independent work and commercial activity of an author is, however, a matter of dispute. You should discuss this with your tax advisor and get advice on what applies to your case. If you are self-employed and permanently finance your living as a writer, you can take out insurance with the Künstlerozialkasse (KSK), which is responsible for paying pension, care and health insurance contributions. You can also find out more about this on the website of the Artists' Social Fund.

9 collecting society Wort (VG Wort)

The collecting society Wort (VG Wort) assumes the rights of use and remuneration claims of its members and administers the royalties from the secondary exploitation of language works. Every author has the right to receive financial compensation for their intellectual property through VG Wort. This is fed by payments from libraries etc. and passed on to the authors by VG Wort. You can benefit from these payments if you report your work directly to VG Wort by concluding a management agreement with VG Wort. You can find the application here. The amount of the remuneration depends on the volume of the book. For authors of non-fiction and specialist books, the payout is around € 400.00 - one time per title.

10 image rights

Most legal cases in the book trade are certainly due to the unauthorized use of image material in the inside of a book or on the cover of a published work. Secure yourself early! Do not use any pictures, neither for the inside of the book nor for your cover, for which you have no rights. It is best to use your own images or use one of the well-known image databases such as iStockphoto or fotolia, which provide you with an enormous selection of images - this is often only associated with low costs. If you want to use other images, you should in any case obtain the image rights from the copyright holders before publication and state the authors of the images in your imprint or elsewhere in your work.

If everything is "right" with your work and you are on the safe side, you can start publishing. We wish you much success!