A friend of mine has a couple of books out with a small publishing house that has hit hard times and may have to look at either a sale or bankruptcy soon (since this is not public information, I’m not naming names). A couple of interesting things came out of her discussion with the house:
•Some publishers——though apparently not this one——now have it in contracts that if you get your rights back, you only get your original manuscript, not the edited one. This is apparently intended to stop someone from getting the editing done for free, then self-publishing it as an e-book.
As my friend points out, this raises all sorts of questions. What if the publisher corrects a spelling or grammar error, then the next publishing house (or the author) makes the same correction? Does that tread on the first publisher’s rights? Sounds crazy, but weirder arguments have come up in court.
Another alarming possibility is that when publishers file Chapter 7 bankruptcy——the one where the court sells off your assets to pay your creditors——trustees overseeing such cases sometimes treat the rights to the book as one more asset and gives them to the bank, the landlord or whoever else the publisher owes money to. In which case the right to the book now lies in the hands of someone who has no idea what to do with it or any interest in publishing it.
In case this ever comes up in your careers, you’ve been warned.

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