Your work has been accepted for publication! Congratulations!
Before you sign that contract, it might be a good idea to review which rights you retain and which you transfer to the publisher. Though I’m sure your publisher is the friendliest with the best of intentions for your work, they are still a corporate, commercial entity. Not only is it important for you to know what your rights are when publishing your work, it’s important to know which rights your publisher wants (or actually needs).
Once a work is fixed in a tangible (or digital format) like your soon-to-be-published article, it has a copyright. If you are the creator or author of the work, you have the copyright. If this was born from a collaboration, you all have joint ownership of the copyright. Copyright includes what is known as the “bundle of rights.” This bundle of rights includes your right to distribute, reproduce, create derivatives, and perform or display the work. As the copyright holder only you can use the work in those ways, unless someone else’s use is considered fair use (which is another topic for another day).
When works are accepted for publication, it requires a partial or full transfer of rights. Some or all of the rights included in the bundle are given to the publisher; this includes the right to publish which is the distribution of the work. If contracts are not read carefully, you could unwittingly transfer all your rights to the publisher. This could mean that you need to request permission from the publisher to use your own work in future publications (e.g. if you wanted to turn the article into a book chapter or full-fledged book). For more information about contract negotiation visit SPARC’s Author Rights page which includes a pdf Author Addendum that details the process.
SPARC’s Author Addendum includes language that supports including your work in an Institutional Repository (or on an Institutional website). William & Mary has such a resource: ScholarWorks. In many cases, including your work in ScholarWorks not only requires negotiation but also a specific version of the work. The final publisher copy of the work is rarely an acceptable version unless you have paid for an open access option (see HERE for more information about paying for Article Processing Charges (APCs) and HERE for funding options related to OA). Though the final copy of the work may not be included, there are other copies that could work. Preprints and accepted versions could be included in ScholarWorks if the publisher has notices that say so.
The preprint of the work is your original submission of the work prior to any revisions or peer-review. The accepted version of the work is the copy used immediately prior to publication. It doesn’t yet have all the fancy copyediting, typesetting, or polished finish. Both these copies tend to be the Word doc or Text doc, but they could also be PDFs. Typically, the preprint or the accepted version of your publication could be included in an institutional repository like W&M ScholarWorks.
If you have questions about adding your work to ScholarWorks or clarification on which version to use contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.