4 Things To Consider Before You Sign That Book Publishing Contract

May 04, 2020

A good publishing contract is going to be a legal contract. And it’s going to read like a legal contract. If you don’t have experience with legal-ese, get some help. My number one word of advice to an author about to sign their first publishing contract is to have an outside publishing contract expert review it. And even if you have signed a contract, it never hurts to get another pair of eyes on it.

If this outside reviewer is any good they’ll look at many things including:

  1. Consider copyright ownership. Don’t give away your baby because you “didn’t understand” the language.

  2. Know the length of the partnership.  Find out if, and when and how, you can have the rights revert to you should the publisher fail or discontinue your book.

  3. Confirm your rights of survivorship. Should you die, heaven forbid, who do the book rights revert to? Where do the royalties go? You don’t want your book or your money to die with you.

  4. If you’re working through an agent, how are they paid? Do your payments go to them and they pay you? If so, make sure you have a solid contract with the agent in addition to the contract with the publisher. How often does the agent pay?

Regarding number four I will tell you a sad story. A recognized author used an “agent” and over time they went their separate ways. Each moved to different addresses, each secured new jobs and new titles, contact was lost, addresses were lost, reports were no longer sent. The author passed away and the widow now has an extremely difficult job of trying to find the agent, collecting past due royalty reports, collecting past due monies, and possibly having to hire legal counsel, all at her expense. This is NOT what you want to put your loved ones through.

 The moral of that story is to stay involved and stay organized. Your book is going to grow up and move on, and you’re going to write more books, but do not lose sight of any of your investments and a book is an investment.

Keep in mind that the publisher’s contract is written to protect the publisher. They are not looking out for your interests—that’s up to you.

Never be afraid to ask for clarification. Never be afraid to ask for more than what they’re offering.

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