Publishing Contracts: Book Stuff

Hello again, you beautiful souls out there in cyberspace.

We’re back to talk about publishing contracts. If you want to find out what this series of posts is all about head over to the Introduction post. So far we’ve talked about Grant of Rights and also the Author’s Responsibilities and today we’re going to talk about book stuff like the time scale the book is published under, how many free copies you get, and things like that. 

As usual I need to repeat the 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, let’s dive in to Book Stuff! 

Publication

This clause is fairly straightforward. It sets out the parameters for how your publisher is going to publish your book. It should set out a time frame for when the publisher will publish your book, it’s usually twelve to eighteen months from delivery or, if you’ve already delivered, from signature of the contract. This can be easily changed in agreement with your publisher, but this also gives you protection in case your publisher doesn’t publish.

The Publishers shall unless otherwise mutually agreed or unless prevented by circumstances beyond their control, at their own expense produce and publish the Work within twelve (12) months of the Publishers acceptance of the Work, or within eighteen (18) months of the date of this Agreement, whichever shall be the later date.

You can see that this clause sets out the publication schedule but not much else. Sometimes you might get a beefier clause that sets out the formats the publisher will print, how many copies they will get printed, and potentially what price they intend to sell at. If the contract does specify all those things the contract will also say they can be changed by mutual agreement or by the publisher alone. We will see in the Production clause that the Publisher will want to have the final say on most of the production of the book and the format/price/print run is part and parcel of that. 

Production

Production, unsurprisingly, pertains to the production of the book. 

How does this differ from the Publication clause? Instead of talking about timeframes and formats this is more about what happens to your book on its way to publication and talks about things like the cover and the blurb. The contract covers this in a single clause (or a couple of paragraphs that all fall under the same clause like the below) which might look something like this: 

All matters relating to the publication of the Work, including the paper, printing and manufacture, design, binding and jacket or cover, the manner and extent of promotion and advertising, the number and distribution of free copies for the press or otherwise, the number of copies to be manufactured and the price and terms of sale of the first or any subsequent edition or impression of the Work shall be under the entire control of the Publishers but the Author shall be shown the artist’s roughs (or, if that is impracticable, proofs) of the jacket/cover design and shall be consulted thereon and on the jacket/cover copy in good time before they are passed for press; though the Publishers do reserve the right to take the final decision over these.

The Publishers undertake to set the name of the Author in its customary form with due prominence on the title page and on the binding, jacket and/or cover of every copy of the Work published by them and shall endeavour to ensure that a similar undertaking is made in respect of any editions of the Work licensed by them for publication.

If you are worried about not seeing your cover before your book comes out, or having no say in your cover, then this is the clause to check. Most contracts I have seen say that the publisher will consult with the author over the cover, but that the publisher will have the final say. The clause above says that the Publisher will show the Author the artist’s roughs or at least the proof copies of the books so that they can see the cover and the copy and the author can give their thoughts on it, but just like with the timescale they’ll try and make sure the final decision is theirs. 

If cover approval is something you feel passionately about make sure you check this clause (or its equivalent) and see what it says. 

Publishers are unlikely to give cover approval by default – although in my experience they will work with you and make sure you like the cover – and if you want to beef up the wording in your favour make sure you ask for it to be changed. You can either change the ‘shall be consulted thereon’ to something like ‘for their approval (such approval not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed)’. Or tweak the consultation wording to say something like ‘the Publishers shall fully and meaningfully consult with the Author [over cover design]’ which will beef up the wording to make sure the Publisher takes your thoughts into account. 

You’ll notice I added a little bit there to say you won’t be unreasonable in withholding approval or be too slow. This is standard wording that can be put into various parts of a contract and it’s a little bit of insurance to ensure that you won’t turn down the cover because of a silly reason (like the colour scheme is purple and that was the theme at your brother’s wedding so you don’t want to step on his toes) or take too long (although publishing can move slowly in parts, getting the production of the book to move smoothly is very important!). 

Revision

This clause doesn’t apply all the time, but you might still see it in your contract so I don’t want to leave it out! 

The revision clause would come into force if the book you’ve written needs to be updated for any reason. Maybe it’s a non-fiction book that could do with an update to include the latest research, or maybe your smash fiction hit (congrats!) can be updated and expanded to include all the details that your editors asked you to cut the first time around, but that the fans are clamouring for. Whatever the reason this clause covers what happens there, whether you might get paid for the extra work (you should) and what happens if you are unable to update it. 

Should the Author and the Publishers agree that a revision of the Work is necessary, the Author shall edit and revise the Work during the currency of this Agreement and shall supply any new matter that may be needed to keep the Work up to date by such date as may be agreed. In the event of the Author neglecting or being unable for any reason to revise or edit the Work or supply new matter where needed within a reasonable period the Publishers may procure some other person to revise the Work, or supply new matter, and may deduct the expense thereof from royalties or other sums payable to the Author.

You can see that the book should only be revised if both you and the Publisher have agreed to do so. The Publisher shouldn’t be able to unilaterally decide that the book needs updating and then force you to do the work to update it. It also says in the example clause that if you as the Author are unable to do the work to revise it then the Publisher can employ someone else to update it and they can take the cost of that from your royalties. It’s not unusual to have wording that says they can get someone else in to update it, but you should try and make sure that you’re all on board with a revised edition if it happens.

If you are happy to revise your book then you should definitely get them to pay you for your extra work. Even adding something like this is enough to make sure those conversations about additional payment are had: “Both parties shall mutually agree suitable payment for the revision of the Work by the Author.” If you’re doing extra work you should get more money for it. I’m sure your agent will be happy to get that (or similar) wording in and have that discussion about extra payment for you.

But remember, for this clause, if it’s not applicable for you (it is unlikely to be applicable for fiction) don’t be afraid to ask them to strike it. 

Free Copies

Now we start to get to the fun stuff! This clause will tell you how many free copies of your book your publisher is obliged to send you. I say ‘obliged to send you’ specifically here because I can’t imagine a publisher would say no to sending an extra copy once in a while, but if you want to get a load extra here’s where to look for the details.

The Author shall be entitled to receive on publication by the Publishers ten (10) copies of the hardback and trade paperback edition and twenty (20) presentation copies of the mass market paperback edition, should one be published, and five (5) presentation copies of any physical audio recording. The Author shall be entitled to purchase further copies of the Publishers’ editions at a fifty per cent (50%) discount for personal use but not for resale. The Author shall receive two copies of any sub-licensed edition on receipt by the Publishers from the sub-licensed publishers.

The clause will outline how many copies of each edition you should get. It might have a specific number of a specific format (like it does in the one above) or it might have a flat number for all formats. If you want more copies then you can ask them to up the numbers and most publishers will say yes without too much thought about it, but if you want to get loads more copies (say for family and friends) you’ll have to buy them. Some publishers also offer codes for ebooks or maybe audio download as well, if that’s something you’d like to have then it’s always worth asking them for it. 

You can see that this clause specifies a 50% discount if you buy books that way which is intended to cover the cost of printing etc. The discount might instead be ‘at a trade discount’ and you can ask your publishers what that might be for them. If you buy copies on the basis of this clause then you won’t be able to sell them yourself, for example if you have your own store set up on your author website and want to sell signed copies directly on there, but talk to your publisher and they’ll be able to sell them to you anyway it will just be on a different basis and might be at a separate discount.

Finally, we come to the part about copies of sub-licensed editions. We haven’t covered subsidiary rights in detail yet (we will after we talk about money!) so to give a quick overview this will be copies from any deals with other publishers/companies that your publisher does on your behalf when they sell things like translation rights, or audio rights (if they don’t do that themselves), or large print rights or anything like that really. So if your publisher does an Italian language deal for your book then they need to send you at least two copies of the Italian edition as per the contract. It’s not uncommon for your publisher to send more than that as, in my experience, when the foreign publisher sends copies over your publisher will keep one copy for their records and then send the rest on to you. 

 

And that’s it for this post!

Next time we’ll talk about the important stuff: money! I’ll outline how advances typically work, what royalties might be set out in a contract and something called a ‘reserve against returns’. 

Until then, live well, my friends! 


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