As a soon-to-be-published author, one very important item you’ll receive from your publisher is THE PUBLISHING CONTRACT!
Scary? Yes and No.
If you’ve got lots of dough then by all means have your lawyer review it. Or, failing that, a friend or relative who has business and/or legal experience.
Here are some of the things you should expect to see in the contract:
1. Royalties. Very important. This should be about 10%. If you’re very very lucky and very very sought after, you even might be offered an advance.
2. Author Payments. You should NOT be expected to pay anything. If you do, then this is no longer a standard publishing but rather you’ve entered the world of vanity publishing. In this world, anyone can get anything published, as long as they pay for it. Having said that, this line is becoming blurred, so that some companies will only publish quality works, but financially it becomes more like a joint venture. Think very carefully before you do this.
3. Right of First Refusal. This is a standard. It says that the publishing company has the right to publish your next book. This is in case you write the next Harry Potter, so of course the publisher will want to publish your next work. But, more seriously, it also means that you may be stuck with a particular publisher, even if you don’t really like them. This clause is negotiable so I would try to get rid of it.
4. Back Copies. A publisher may try to force the author to buy books which haven’t sold a few years after the book is published. This is not a standard and I would fight to remove it. It can become a real financial burden to the author.
5. Other Rights. The publisher will ask for all other rights in your book. These rights include electronic rights, audio books, translations, film rights etc. You have to decide if you want to retain all or some of these rights.
6. Copyright. The author must retain copyright. Do not pass this to the publishing company. All you are doing as an author is granting them a licence to publish your book.
7. Cover. The publishing company will want to control how the book looks, including the front and back covers. They’ll also want to control how the book is marketed. Most companies will allow you some input here. Since the publisher is putting their funds forward, it’s reasonable for them to take charge of the look and marketing of your work.
8. Indemnity. If anything goes wrong, the publisher may want to sue the pants off you for all or any of their losses. Try to kick this one out (if you can!)
These are only some of the issues to consider. There are bound to be more in the publishing contract, so you do need to go through the document very carefully.
Lastly, if your book is being read by a publisher, it’s correct form and assumed by them that you do not pass your manuscript to another publisher. If you are going to do that, then you should tell the first publisher that this is what you intend to do.
Once the publisher wants to publish your work, then you’ll need to review the contract. If you do reach an impasse on the terms and conditions, then you can reject that publisher and move on.
I hope that helps!
P.S This is not legal advice. You should always get your own. So please don’t sue me! 🙂