Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Publishing Contracts Part 1

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be discussing career topics for the next several months. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.

The day you’ve been waiting for has arrived. After months or years of writing, self-editing, and submitting, you finally receive an offer from a publisher. Are you ready to sign those Publishing Contracts?

In today’s ever-expanding world of publishing, anyone can call himself a publisher. Did you research the company? Does the company have a reputation for treating authors well, having good editors, and paying on time? Are the contracts straightforward and fair?

Remember that when dealing with a publisher, money flows to the author. If the publisher charges for cover art, editing, promotion, etc., you’re looking at a vanity publisher. While self-publishing requires an investment, the author doesn’t share profits with any other parties.

If you haven’t done your homework yet, do it BEFORE you sign the contract. Getting out of a bad contract isn’t always possible, so learn what to look for or get a legal expert to review the terms prior to signing. Protect your interests and your rights!

Every contract needs to include your legal name, your pseudonym, title(s) of the book(s) being published under that contract, the publisher’s name, and the date of the offer. The amount of any advance should also be stated, including how and when it will be paid.

What is the term of the contract? NEVER sign a contract without a defined number of years for publishing rights. Two to fifteen years are reasonable terms. Full term of the copyright is not. It currently means your lifetime plus seventy years in the US. If you discover you aren’t happy with the publishing house, in many cases you’re stuck after signing a contract with an undefined term.

In addition to term, the contract should state which publishing rights are included. Print, digital, audio, foreign rights—if the publisher doesn’t offer some of these, why would you sign them away? Don’t give up rights they don’t offer!

Check for a section on royalties. What percentage is paid to the author for digital sales? This varies from publisher to publisher and averages 30-40% of gross sales from some retail distributors and net sales from others. How much is earned for print sales? Average print royalties are 6-8%. How often will the author be paid? Monthly or quarterly are most common, but also be aware that some publishers only pay when the author has reached a minimum payout amount for that statement period. If you were paid an advance, you won’t receive royalties until you’ve earned out that prepayment.

Be sure to check the type of accounting used to determine payment of royalties. Basket accounting combines advances from more than one book/contract, and all advances must be earned out before royalties will be paid on any of the included books. This method is not in the author’s best interest. Negotiate it out of the contract or don’t sign!

Will your pen name be exclusive to the publisher? Some publishers offer special perks to authors who agree to exclusivity for a pseudonym. Be sure those advantages are listed in detail in the contract. With this stipulation, be prepared to create another persona if you self-publish or enter into a contract with a different publisher.

Are you writing a series that requires giving the publisher first right of refusal or exclusive rights to your characters or a unique species/world? If the publisher doesn’t offer a contract for a book in the series within the contract-specified time frame, do you maintain the right to submit/sell to another publisher or self-publish the work? Some contracts contain a first right of refusal on any book or a specific number of books. All these issues must be addressed in the contract and should be negotiated.

Continued next week…

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

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