Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

August 2020 Monthly Meeting: Jacqui Lipton

At our August meeting, held on Zoom, local author and illustrator Salima Alikhan led a discussion with literary agent and attorney Jacqui Lipton, author of Law & Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers

Jacqui founded Raven Quill Literary Agency in January 2020 and represents a full flock of authors, many of whom attended the meeting.

Here are some highlights:

Q: Should writers worry about their work or ideas being stolen by others?

A: It is a common fear, yet, generally no one can steal what you wrote because you own it the minute you write it. Someone can, however, create their own version. Ideas cannot be owned or copyrighted. You own the specific piece you write. Ownership and registration are two separate matters. Be sure to register your works to protect them. Remember that many stories in our culture are reworking of previous stories; many ideas are, in fact, very similar. Note that regarding work for hire projects, your employer is considered the author.


Q: What are some differences between contracts with agents versus contracts with publishers?

A: Agent contracts basically say: I appoint you as my agent until we decide not to work together anymore. Agents should not take any share in the rights of your work. Agent contracts are simple; usually, two pages comprise the scope of representation, including any termination provisions. Publisher contracts are more complicated, typically 10-30 pages, and must be clear about exactly which rights you give to the publisher. Contracts include contingencies for many sets of particular circumstances. All parties agree to the code of ethics. Be sure to have a specialized attorney look at every contract with you.


Q: What is the process of changing agents?

A: Most agent agreements include a 30-day termination policy, which may sometimes be waived for a faster termination. Sometimes agreements are locked in for a year, to allow for enough time to get work sold, however any contract can be amended anytime. As an ethical rule: don’t look for a new agent until you leave the first agent; new agents do not want to be thought of as taking someone else’s client. Even though emotions can sometimes run high, the process of changing agents is not legally nor ethically difficult. Agents can also interact with each other during a transition.


Q: How can a personal brand be protected online?

A: We do not own a lot in our brands; we cannot trademark our names, for example, unless you are JK Rowling. You can ask the designer of your website to assign the copyright to you. You can trademark a logo.

These things protect you by virtue of that you made them:

  1. – Domain name registration
  2. – Facebook author page
  3. – Twitter handle about your book


Q: Can images be used in social media without permission?

A: In our “cut and paste” culture, we should make sure any images utilized are, in fact, in the public domain. Fair use is a case-by-case concept. You must obtain permission to ensure fair use.


Q: Who is responsible for obtaining permissions?

A: It is the author’s responsibility to obtain permission as well as to pay for use, with only rare exception.


Q: What are some resources to check for free to use/public domain works?

A: Visit the following:


Center for the Study of the Public Domain by James Boyle of Duke University

The Durationator, A Collection of Public Domain by Elizabeth Townsend of Tulane University

Harry Fox Agency (for song copyrights)