Hello good people!
A lot of the internal publishing process is shrouded in mystery and it’s easy to overlook when you work inside it. I recently tweeted that I’ve been working in publishing on contracts for a few years now. I’ve worked at a few publishers based in London, a couple of big independents and one of the Big Five. I asked if people would be interested if I were to give a broad strokes introduction into what you might come to expect from a publishing contract. There was interest, and so here we are!
Before we get too far, I will have to slap on a disclaimer. These posts reflect my own experience with contracts and are intended for guidance and informational purposes only. They should not be taken as iron-clad advice for all publishing contracts and if in doubt you should seek specific advice. There are organisations, like the Society of Authors in the UK, who will be able to help with this and if you have an agent they should also be able to help.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way what am I going to talk about? I’ve broken what’s in a contract into seven areas and I’ll write up posts for each of these sections:
Grant of Rights
This will include things like the term (how long the contract is for), what territories you’re selling, and formats the publisher is granted and things like that. We’ll also talk about the difference between a grant of rights and an assignment of rights.
This means things like when you deliver your book, whether you have to proofread stuff, and what other things you can publish.
This covers things on the Publisher’s side. You’ve sent the manuscript and now we can talk about things like how long the Publisher can take to produce the book, how many free copies they send you and other fun (and not so fun) stuff!
What everyone wants to know about! I’ll talk about advances, royalties, and how publishers typically pay their authors.
This one might be a bit more mysterious, but Subsidiary Rights means other ways the book can be exploited like film rights or selling the rights to a specialist publisher to do a special edition.
Legal Mumbo Jumbo
In this post we’ll have a whistle-stop tour of the meatier legal clauses like warranties or copyright infringement.
Finally, we’ll talk about getting out of the contract. This will cover what would make your book out of print and what other ways you could terminate the agreement.
In the final post, I give a quick run down of some key things to keep in mind when reading your contract and some fun* stats about the blog series!
There you have it. That should cover just about everything you might get in a contract, boiled down into seven broad categories. Some things might change as I write up the posts and add some addition stuff, but the outline of everything above should be the minimum of everything that I’ll talk about.
I’ll update this Introduction with links to the individual posts as I go along so that once we’ve gone through it all you can jump straight to the section you want.
Publishing can be a strange labyrinth, hidden beneath the groaning shelves of libraries and bookstores, but if you’re willing to let me I am happy to be your guide to this small part of it!
* the actual amount of fun in the stats is not guaranteed