Clauses To Look Out For In A Publishing Contract

Cantract-LawYou may be excited to be getting an offer of representation for your book, but don’t make a foolish mistake and sign whatever is placed in front of you. Read that contract! Make sure you understand what you are agreeing to accept.

Some clauses to look for and avoid:

  • Never agree to give a publisher more than a thirty-day option on your new project.  When you sign a book contract, it usually contains a clause allowing the publisher first look at your next outline or finished novel. The publisher should not ask for or be given an excessively long time to decide.
  • Never agree to an option clause that gives your publisher your next book at the same price he paid for the previous one. If the previous one is a run away best seller, that next book could be worth a lot more money.
  • Never agree to a clause that requires you to pay back any unearned portion of the original advance. You may get an advance in the amount of $10,000 dollars, but the book only makes $7,000. You should not be expected to pay the difference back. You as well as the publisher took a chance in this venture.
  • Never agree to an exclusivity clause ( a right to use your name for their publishing house only), unless you are being paid well for locking up your name.
  • Never relinquish a portion of the film rights to the publishing house. The publisher has nothing to do with the selling of the film rights or the making of the movie.
  • If your novel is first published by a hardcover house, never agree to share more than half of the income from book club or reprint sales with the publisher.
  • Your contract may contain a clause giving your U.S. publisher a share of the royalties from foreign language rights and British publishers. Try your best to hold onto 100 percent of the rights.
  • Never sign a contract that doesn’t return all rights of the novel back to you  after a specified time period-usually five years.
  • Never agree to a clause that gives the publisher the right to alter your prose without your approval.
  • If you publish under a pen name, don’t give the publisher ownership of that pseudonym. The only exception is if you are hired to write under an already existing house name.

I’m not there yet, but when I have arrived, I want to know what to look for. Thank you to Dean Koontz and other published authors for sharing their knowledge of the business with those of us navigating the path.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Clauses To Look Out For In A Publishing Contract