This is a big issue with writers but one, I have to say, they spend far too much time worrying about. Please don’t get me wrong. If you sign anything, it is your job to actively go over the entire document and make sure you agree with it. But we also need to know that the majority of the time, contracts are not designed to hurt people. Contracts are designed to protect all parties.
First of all, do we want to get the most out of a contract? Yes! Do we want to make sure the deal leans in our favor? Sure. And yes, this works for both sides of the agreement. Editors want to make sure they get the best deal when it comes to their money. Agents want to insure they are not hurt by some writer wanting to get all of the legal advice and not get paid for it. And certainly, writers want to make sure they are not selling their souls away and getting nothing.
But with that said, if you have done your research ahead of time and you have found a publisher or an editor that has a good reputation, then you are pretty good shape. You also need to remember that in most cases, as a new author, you will be receiving what the business calls a boiler plate contract. In other words, there just won’t be much to discuss.
As a writer, I would make sure you take a look at some of the smaller details. Check on how long the contract is for. Check on fees and the like. Check on deadlines for completion of material. Check on options. More importantly, take the time to review the material your national writing organizations have put together when reviewing contracts. RWA’s material is fantastic.
The key is. Be cautious but don’t think the entire world is out to get you. They probably aren’t.
Scott C. Eagan