Sign on the dotted line…


One area that all writers may or may not be familiar with is dealing with contracts. If a writer can obtain a contract with a publisher, big or small, then that is a huge accomplishment. With this accomplishment comes great responsibility and learning about them.

On a recent trip I was given the privilege to listen to a lecture on contracts and how anyone whether they be artist, writer etc., should be familiar with the different terminologies.

There are different types of contracts but with all of them there must be the following:

1. Grant of Rights: Granting rights to print book. 

2. Subsidiary Rights: language, format, digital rights

3. Delivery and Acceptance: keep right to changes. Have it say fit for publication.  Have it say right to fix it.

4. Publication: Have a say in what happens

5. Copyright: make sure contract shows it will be provided

6. Advance: incentive to be published. You may or may not get this.

7. Royalties: get on retail price. 

8. Accounting and Payments: right to review records once a year

9. Out of Print/Right reversion clause: It will discuss what happens if the book goes out of print.

10. Competing Works: Some publisher do not want you to write items that could compete with what you have already in the market. Keep an eye out for this.

11. Foreign sales: Will discuss what happens if the book gets translated for overseas.

The contract between both parties must be between individuals who fall into the following:

1. Capacity: must be able to sign contracts

2. Offer and Acceptance: must have a clear and definite response 

to contact. Has to be clear acceptance. 

3. Consideration: both parties must give something. Exposure is consideration

4. Meeting of the minds: both parties must agree

5. Legal purposes: cannot violate law

When dealing with a contract:

1. Investigate the publisher – In the year of technology you should be able to find as much as you can about the publisher by doing a simple search online.

2. Get it in writing – Now a days writing is the key, email, text, anything that can be traced back and can not be labeled he said/she said.

3. Keep it simple – No need to make things difficult. Simple is better.

4. Spell out all the details – time and money and work – Everything that you want in the contract should be in the contract. Time, effort, money, everything should be documented.

5. Specify payment obligations – This one is a no brainer. How you want to be paid should be specified. Make sure everything is accurate

6. Agree on circumstances that terminate the contract – Both parties should agree on ways to end the contract. It doesn’t help if the publisher feels one way and the author another.

7. Agree on a way to resolve disputes – In the event a dispute comes, which we all hope never happens, both parties must have in writing what can happen to figure out a dispute.

8. Pick a state law to govern the contract – In the event that both parties are in different states the contract should legally show which state will be the one where the dispute will take place. Research which state can provide the best outcome as each state has their own rules regarding disputes.

9. Keep it confidential – It is no ones business what happens in your contract. Unless you hire a lawyer, you should keep your contract between yourself and the publisher.

10. Read the entire contract including reference documents – People often joke that no one ever reads the fine print or the entire print on a contract whether that’s when you buy a car or agree to the terms on your phone. Don’t let your contract with a publisher fall into that category. Read the entire contract from top to bottom. 

There is more to dealing with contracts but this is what I felt was the most interesting to know.

If this helped let me know in the comments below or tell me if you’ve experienced any ups or downs when dealing with contracts.

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