A book publishing contract outlines the obligations and rights of the author and publisher. It is a legally binding document that describes the terms of the agreement in detail. Some of the terms will be specific to the agreement described in the contract. Other terms will be drawn from the publisher's standard, boilerplate contract. Another set of terms will be governed by publishing industry conventions.
Without the guidance of book publishing contract lawyer, authors can find it difficult to judge which terms to accept and which to negotiate, particularly when it comes to the distribution rights granted to the publisher.
What is a Book Publishing Contract?
Book publishing contracts assign the copyrights to the work, usually to the author. The contract sets the schedule by which the author will deliver the work to the publisher, the amount of the author's advance, the percentage of the author's royalty payments for each format in which the book will be distributed, and the schedule for payment of royalties.
The contract defines what rights the author has when requesting changes to the work and the formats the publisher may use when distributing the book -- hardcover, paperback, ebook, audio book, and so on. Further, publishers who are part of a large entertainment industry conglomerate may seek other, subsidiary rights such as movie and television rights, foreign rights, and book club rights.
Who Needs a Book Publishing Contract?
- Anthology Editors and Compilers
Why is It Important to Have a Book Publishing Contract Lawyer Negotiate a Book Publishing Contract?
It is difficult for authors to get an agent to represent them until they have been offered a book publishing contract by a publisher, many authors send their manuscripts out to publishers themselves. When an editor shows interest in the book and sends out the publisher's standard contract, it's tempting to consider forgoing an agent or a book publishing contract law firm and the agent's percentage or the attorney's fees.
Authors who have agents or who acquire one after receiving their first contract usually allows the agent to negotiate the contract. However, especially if the agent is a former editor, as is often the case, he or she will negotiate the best deal for you within the existing clauses of the contract, but he or she will be accustomed to the standard publishing boilerplate and is not likely to challenge the clauses themselves or ask for any of them to be removed or revised.
While agents may understand the contract better than the author, they are not trained in law, and they may not understand the full legal implications of some of the paragraphs and clauses, in particular, the purely legal clauses regarding such things as protections from lawsuits arising from the contents of the book.
An attorney from a book publishing contract law firm will understand all the implications and will not hesitate to negotiate for changes to or removal of standard boilerplate clauses as well as the things an agent would negotiate such as changes to the author's advance, the author's royalty, and the author's right to request changes and corrections to the book.
Four Contract Provisions to Negotiate
Unless you have agreed to create the work for hire, the author owns all the copyrights to the work. The publisher receives a license to be certain of those rights. It is standard for the publisher to receive the print rights to the work, but the other rights, the subsidiary rights, are negotiable. It is wise to have your book publishing contract lawyer retain as many of these rights as possible.
Royalty percentages and advances are always negotiable. Further, royalty payments can be calculated based on the retail price, the invoice price, or the publisher's net receipts from the sale of the book. An attorney from a book publishing contract law firm will understand the implications of each formula and negotiate for the one that will earn the highest possible royalties.
An option's clause gives the publisher the right to buy or make an offer on your next book. If the publisher does not remove the clause, limit the period of the option and seek the right to sell to another publisher if that publisher makes a higher bid.
4. Out of Print Clauses
Negotiate to have "out of print" be defined by when the publisher ceases to list the book in their catalog so that the book is no longer available in the brick and mortar stores of the major bookstore chains.
Please contact us for information or representation for book publishing contracts.