Thursday, July 23, 2009


Contracts are really the ugly side of the publishing world. These things, however, are a necessary evil and something that should be taken seriously.

Now, before going any further, I do want to stress that if you are in negotiation with a real publisher or with a real agent, then you aren't going to see too much getting in the way and you can breathe easy. Still, reading and understanding is important.

Regardless of who you get a contract from, take the time to read it through slowly. I know there is a level of urgency in wanting to get that publishing career moving, but making a stupid mistake early on may lock you into something that you simply don't want to be a part of. Take the time to understand what is going on. If you don't understand it, go to someone who does and have them explain it. If you want to pay a lawyer, feel free to do so, but make sure that it is someone that deals with literary contracts. I have seen a lot of people taking their contracts to people who specialize in taxes or divorces and they try to manipulate that thinking into the contract. It simply doesn't work.

If you are still struggling, take the time to ask questions. If the person wishing to sign you is truly interested in you, your writing and your career, he or she will work with you.

As for making changes, as an author, you may have little chance to make significant changes. Along the same lines, as a new author, you'll likely have a little or no chance of arguing for more money since you have nothing to prove. You may be able to change around deadline dates, or wording in the option clause. Try though. The worse they say is no. If the contract is with an agent, certainly talk it through. There will be potentially more flexibility there.

Finally, and this goes without saying, make sure they are reputable. For agents they should either be members of AAR or at least following the guidelines. Check with those major writing organizations you are a part of. These groups also keep track of agents and publishers that have a track record of working with the authors and not out simply for the big bucks.

The key here is simply think and understand.

Best of luck!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this Scott. It's always good to be reminded of how important understanding contracts is to our career as authors.