I have heard authors talk about contracts as being a way to "screw" the author. This is not the case from the reputable publishers out there. The contract is simply an agreement between all of the parties, and the word agreement says that everyone is on board. The contract is there to find a way to get the best for everyone in that given situation. It is not just about the money (although, yes, this is a factor). Let's talk about a few.
THE ADVANCE - So let's start with the money. We have to remember the advance is the money up front the author will get. It is a prediction on what that author will be able to sell. This is where it is tough for authors to understand. Being a writer is not a money making profession (with the exception of a few people out there). This is a second job. Although you might want to personally make a ton of money for that 75,000 word single title, we have to consider the sales. Those sales are dependent on a lot of factors:
- Are the book buyers wanting to put your book on the book shelf?
- How much promotion are you and the publisher doing?
- How easy is the book to find online?
Your books need to be put on a calendar for release. Your books need to get to Marketing, to the Art Department, to the Copy Editor, and certainly through your own editor several times to get things done.
OPTIONS AND OTHER STUFF - There are things in those other clauses that we can negotiate and can often get. The sticky one is the options clause. In all honesty, this one is designed to not hurt the publisher and to get the best for you.
First of all, publishers want to keep you. They signed you in the first place which means they must have liked something. They don't want to put in all of that hard work on you and your writing and then find you have gone to another publisher with all of that work. If you want to write another genre, that is fine. We just make sure that the option is in your favor to do that.
But secondly, this option gives the author an immediate inside to further contracts. For new authors, this is really important. You don't want to just be a "one hit wonder." Think of it this way. Let's say you are hired by an employer for a 1 year non-continuing contract. What does that mean? At the end of the year, you are unemployed. End of story. There is not promise or guarantee of you staying, regardless of how well you work. Having an Options clause gives you something more than the thought of unemployment when that contract is over.
Now, when I said it is a waltz, it really is. The more everyone can "play nice" and being working for the same goal, the dance is gorgeous. But think of those businesses and corporations around you that really struggle with contract negotiations. If is often because one or both sides is not wanting to make it a waltz, but a solo performance. Feelings get hurt. Contracts don't get processed, and often, there are big losers.
We don't want that to happen with you!