Don’t Sign that Book Contract Until —

A friend is having problems with a landlord and I advised her to pull our her contract and go over it again in light of the problems. Likewise, in the author-publisher relationship, everything is governed by the book contract for your novel or picture book.

Don’t Sign That Contract Until —

  • You’ve Read and Understood Everything.

    You should read every word of the contract and understand everything. Often, just two or three words can make a big difference. For example, the basket accounting clause. Your contract will say something about the publisher collecting the income from the sales of this book and sending it to you on a schedule. Be careful if it says something like this: “the income from the sales of this book or any other”. Those words, “Or any other” ties all your book contracts together. So, if you’ve got short sales on one book, they can pull income from the other book to make up the difference and you’ll never see any additional royalty checks. Read every word.

  • You’ve Compared it to Standard Contracts.
    • Join the Author’s Guild. If you have a contract offer in hand, you’re eligible. They offer two services: the first is a publication which shows a standard contract, including negotiation points and fallback positions if the first suggestion for changes is not accepted. Second, you can send your contract offer to them and their lawyers will review it and suggest changes. It takes time, but most publishers are willing to give you that time if you ask.

    • kirsch

      Read Kirsch’s Guide to Book Contracts. It also gives standard clauses and suggestions for negotiations. It’s a bit different from the Author’s Guild contract, but not much. The combination of the two is very helpful.
  • You’ve Compared Your Advance to Other Advances
    Dori Butler has posted here about a great website where you can find comparisons of advances on picture book contracts.
    Anyone know of a similar resource for novels?
    Anyone want to start one?
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