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Do You Understand Your Publishing Contract?

In the last two blog posts you found a lot of tips for authors what to look for in a publishing contract. Now, imagine, you found a literary agent, and he’s landed you an offer from a publishing house. You have made it! Wrong! Publishing contracts should not be signed right away, even if you have an agent. Let your own lawyer (specialized on contract law) explain you the agreements and let your agent negotiate on your behalf.
Do you really need to know all the “small print”? Yes, every bit of the contract!
And yes, even if the book project never gets off the ground. Without appropriate contract provisions, it may end you up in a legal limbo. Read more about all the important contract clauses you might encounter and get the Book Contract Checklist:

 

Savvy Writers & e-Books online

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Court-House

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Traditional Publishing Contracts – Part Three of a Series
Signing a “Standard” Publishing Contract can have serious consequences for authors. A publisher’s standard agreement could contain a one-sided non-competition clause that prevents the author from using material from his manuscript in day-to-day business, such as blogs posts, magazine articles, even tweets. Or a clause in the contract might state that the author is prohibited to produce another work that competes with the title under contract without prior permission of the publisher. Well, what authors do with their time is their business, isn’t it? Shouldn’t they be able to write other books, for themselves or for other publishers? Are they slaves of the publisher?

Read the examples of book contract clauses here and in number two of this series (compare
them with your own contract) and find out “what it means” to you as the author:
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Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Marketing

 

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Less than Minimum Wage for Authors?

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Justicia

Justicia

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Traditional Publishing Contracts – Part One of a Series

You might remember an article How Harlequin Publishing Deceives Their Authors from last summer in this blog, about the planned class action suit against the publisher. Today I stumbled about a sequel of J.A. Konrath’s blog: Harlekin Fail, Part 2, where he explains the contract practices of the trade publishers in general, and how they deceive their authors. From today on we will look more closely into these practices.
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When offered the opportunity to publish traditionally, about two-thirds of self-published authors are interested. The supposed prestige of a traditional publisher, the wide distribution a publisher can generate and help with marketing, are the reasons, cited in surveys.
However the perception of traditional publishing is often not up to date in public, as the way of book marketing (and the whole traditional publishing business) has totally changed. Only celebrity authors get full promotion, other writers have to fend for themselves, and they often do not even know that their books have only a maximum of three months to survive on bookstores shelves until they will be returned to the publisher or discarded. Read also What Publishers Won’t Tell You.
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In the last hundred years, the only way to get published, or better said, get distribution for a book, was to sign a contract with a publisher. Writers had almost no choice, then to accept the publishing contract terms – until the advent of author-publishing, which was the norm since about a hundred years ago.
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Imagine, an agent / publisher offers you a publishing contract.
Best advice for any author is to know what they get into, to understand the publishing contract and to consult a contract lawyer before signing the papers.  As Copylaw.com wrote: “While it is difficult to see how your publishing agreement will play out in the long term, the decisions you make today could have profound, long term consequences.”

This will be a series of articles, trying to bring some light into the murky waters of these universally unfair and mostly, non-negotiable publishing contracts. Disclaimer: Nothing in these articles can or should be taken as legal advice.
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What are the subjects / paragraphs of a publishing contract? Let’s look in detail at

  • Duration of the contract
  • Rights granted by the author to the publisher
  • Territory for these rights
  • Manuscript Delivery
  • Advances and Royalties
  • Statements and Payments
  • Publication
  • Competing Works
  • Unsatisfactory Material
  • Out-of-Print Termination
  • Reversion of rights

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Even if you are still eager to sign a contract, you should at least know what you (and maybe even your heirs) get into, and what the contract clauses really mean. This series about details in publishing contracts will also help you to ask the right questions when you meet with a lawyer, specialized in publishing contracts / contract law.
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The entire publishing industry is using boilerplate contracts and universally, one-sided clauses to exploit authors – same as it has happened (and often still does) in the music industry – until the dawn of Indie Music … and now the music industry is in deep trouble, as many artists became their own producer and distributor. Which will ultimately happen with parts of the publishing industry. Look at all the mergers of publishing houses, that happened recently!
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Their system is designed to take advantage of Authors’ naivete and their lack of bargaining power, and it uses the promise of book publication as a carrot to get them to accept biased terms. However, there are a few authors who managed to have at least one or the other of the contract clauses changed.
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Who fights for better publishing contracts? No one does …

Authors have no one to fight for their rights.
Authors won’t help each other, they don’t band together. The successful ones do not want to compromize their bestsellerdom. Newbie authors and aspiring writers are eager to become published, even at less favorable terms.

Agents really work for the publishers.
And even if they would have the courage to fight the status quo, chances are their authors wouldn’t back them – out of fear to form a united front against publishers.

Publishers certainly won’t change. 
Because they have no incentive to. They can pick and choose among millions of manuscripts. And they can, or had, certainly theoretically only ;- ) arranged for universal contract terms and royalties among their peers …
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Let’s look into the details of publishing contracts in the next two of the series, in order to find out and to realize what these contract clauses mean for authors. Stay tuned, and spread the word, re-blog these articles, so that as much writers as possible learn about the tactics of the publishing industry.
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Sources / Read also:

Author Beware of Scams

Unconscionability

Negotiating Your Book Contract

Ten Key Negotiating Points

Comments on Unfair Contracts (by a lawyer)

Quick Guide to Book Contract Trouble Spots

Negotiating Book Contract Terms and Royalties

What Not to Miss When Negotiating Your Book Publishing Contract

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If you would like to get help in all things publishing, have your book intensively promoted and learn how to navigate social media sites: We offer all this and more for only $ 159 for 3 months. Learn more about this individual book marketing help: http://www.111Publishing.com/ Once you are on this website, click on Seminar to register.

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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Marketing

 

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