Your Publishing Rights
Before you sign any publishing contract, you should read it carefully so that you're fully aware of what rights you may be giving up to the publisher. It's also wise to seek the advice of an attorney if you are confused about the language or are unsure of what you're signing.
The iUniverse contract is designed to give you full control of your publishing rights. When you sign a contract with iUniverse, you will continue to hold copyright in your work but are giving iUniverse a non-exclusive license* to publish your work in English and to sell it worldwide. You can terminate the iUniverse contract at any time to allow another entity (like a traditional publisher) to take over publishing and distribution. The license appears in Paragraph 7 of the iUniverse Author Agreement:
7.2 Distribution license granted. Throughout the Term of this Agreement, You grant to Us the exclusive, transferable, worldwide license to manufacture, store, use, display, execute, reproduce (in whole or in part), transmit, modify (including to create derivative works), import, make, have made, offer to sell, print, publish, market, distribute, and sell (individually or as part of compilations of collective works), and license for use via any subscription model, through all distribution channels (now or hereafter known, including online and electronic distribution channels), and otherwise exploit in any language, in print form, digital format, audiobook format, or via any other medium, now known or hereafter devised, the Work.
Contrast the iUniverse contract to the standard language used in many publishing contracts:
Grant of Rights
a) Author grants Publisher the exclusive right to print, publish, distribute and sell copies of the Work, and license others to do so, for the duration of the copyright in the Work, in English, throughout the world.
If you sign a contract that has the clause above, it means that you may be granting the publisher exclusive worldwide, English-language rights for a minimum of 40 years. Unless there are other clauses that specify ways that you can terminate the agreement, you and your heirs are stuck with a deal that might look good short term but might not benefit you in years to come.
By contrast, the iUniverse contract automatically renews, but you can cancel the agreement at any time (including during the term) with 30 days written notice. This clause is included in Paragraphs 9 of the iUniverse Author Agreement:
9.1 Your right to Terminate without cause. You may terminate this Agreement without cause by providing at least thirty (30) days’ advance written notice to Us of Your intent to terminate and specifying the date of termination. YOU SHALL REMAIN LIABLE FOR PAYMENT OF THE BALANCE OF ANY PAYMENTS DUE PURSUANT TO ANY OUTSTANDING SERVICE ORDER(S).
9.1.1 Your right to Terminate for cause. Excluding Force Majeure circumstances, You may terminate the Agreement for cause in the event of a material breach by Us which remains uncured for thirty (30) days after Our receipt of written notice from You. You shall remain liable for payment of the balance of any payments due pursuant to any outstanding unpaid Service Orders.
When you publish with iUniverse, your publishing rights are protected. If you are considering other alternatives to iUniverse, be sure that you seek the advice of a publishing attorney. And, don't give up your rights unless the publisher is willing to offer you a reasonable advance, provide you with an industry-standard contract, and assume all the expenses of publishing and distributing your book. Don't settle for less.
* With a non-exclusive license, you could theoretically grant several publishers the same right to publish and distribute your book. However, doing so would lead to retailer and market confusion—people wouldn't know which publisher to contact to purchase the book or what the differences were between versions. In practicality, it's best to work with only one publisher at a time for each format of a book, and most traditional publishers will require that you sign an exclusive license for a particular format (e.g., hardcover or paperback).