Showing posts with label Book Contract: What's Negotiable and What's Not. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Contract: What's Negotiable and What's Not. Show all posts
Thursday, January 8, 2015

How to Negotiate a Publishing Contract: A Checklist of Terms

Book Contract Negotiation Checklist

Standardized book publishing contracts wield considerable power in contract negotiations.  However, publishing contracts are not etched in stone. Book publishers, understanding the ebb and flow of the literary world, often adapt their contracts when asked. The crux of success in this process lies in discerning exactly what changes to ask for. 

When it comes to deciphering the complexities of a publishing agreement, authors often navigate these waters with different compasses. Some entrust their journey to literary agents, who, for a 15% commission, become lifelong partners in the transition from aspiring writer to published author. Others opt for the counsel of publishing attorneys, offering their services for a flat rate or hourly fee to guide them through the dense forest of legal terminology and publishing industry lingo.

However, once the initial excitement of securing a publishing deal wanes, a stark realization may emerge with startling clarity: signing the contract might have meant relinquishing your rights for an extraordinarily long period. In most cases, the publisher's exclusive control over a work spans the author's lifetime and extends a further 70 years beyond.

Caution is key. Publishing contracts are often laden with hidden traps and legal intricacies, particularly regarding royalties. It's a deceptive maze where the written word and its true meaning can diverge significantly. While major publishers don't typically set out to exploit authors, they are inclined to optimize their benefits, sometimes at the author's expense. As for smaller publishers, they range from benevolent guides to cunning adversaries.     

If chomping at the bit to sign a contract but cannot afford to hire a lawyer, visit Victoria Strauss' Writer Beware blog - a beacon of light in the "shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls." Writer Beware doesn't offer legal advice, but it does a stellar job exposing and raising awareness of questionable business practices in the literary world.   

Book Publishing Checklist

  I.   The Basics

      1.  Sign personally or on behalf of a corporation or LLC?
           -Why signing on behalf of a corporation or LLC may not offer as 
           much protection as you think
      2. Description of work (synopsis)
          -Tentative title, # of words, # of photos, intended audience, fiction, non-                    fiction

II.   Grant of Rights and Territory

      1. Is it a license of certain rights or an assignment of all rights? 
      2. Term of years or life of copyright? 
      3. Geographic scope
           a)     World?
           b)     Limited?  (e.g., the U.S., its possessions & Canada)
      4. Exclusive rights granted
           a)     Primary rights
                  -Trade paperback
                  -Mass market
          b)     Secondary (subsidiary rights)
                  -Periodical rights
                  1) First serial (right to publish pre-publication excerpts)
                  2) Second serial (right to publish excerpts after publication date)
                  -Book club
                  -Dramatic rights
                  -Film/TV rights
                  -Video Recordings / Audio Recordings
                  -Ebook rights
                  -Other digital versions (apps, enhanced eBooks)
                  -Podcast / Radio rights
                  -Merchandising (commercial tie-in) rights
                  -Future technologies
                  -Foreign translation rights
                  -British Commonwealth rights
        c)    Rights Reserved by Author - Film, Television, Dramatic, Merch         
        d)    Ask for audiobooks or foreign translation rights to revert if they go
                unexploited after a period of time

III.   Manuscript Delivery

    1. Delivery requirements:

          a) When due? Is the date realistic?
          b) What format? Specify the size of the paper, spacing, margins, etc.
          c) What to deliver?
               -Index (who pays?)
               -Number of illustrations, charts, photos (who pays?)
          d) Permissions
                The copyright permissions you receive from third parties 
                 must encompass the same rights you have granted to your publisher.
      2. Manuscript Acceptance
          a) Criteria: Satisfactory in "form and content" or at "sole discretion" of the  
            publisher? (This clause is often a litigation flashpoint)
          b) Termination for unsatisfactory manuscript (define "unsatisfactory")
          c) Termination for changed market conditions (potential deal breaker)
          d) When must the publisher either accept or reject? 
          e) Good faith duty to edit
          f) Return of the author's advance
                 -First proceeds clause
                 -False first proceeds clause
  IV. Copyright Ownership / Ownership of Series Titles

      1.  Whose duty is it to register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office?
Joint author?
      3. Work for hire? 
      4.  Rights typically reserved to the author
            -Film, television, dramatic rights, multimedia, merchandise licensing
      5.  Who owns the trademark to your series title

V. Author’s Representations & Warranties
      1. The author is the sole creator
      2. Not previously published; not in public domain
      3. Does not infringe any copyrights
      4. Does not invade the dual rights of privacy or publicity
      5. Not libelous or obscene
      6. No errors or omissions in any recipe, formula, or instructions
      7. Limited only to material delivered by the Author

VI. Indemnity & Insurance Provisions
      1. Typically, the author agrees to reimburse the publisher for losses & expenses
      2. Way to limit author exposure, e.g., author approval of settlements
      3. Can the publisher withhold legal expenses? Is money held in an interest-  
      bearing account
      4. Name the author as additional insured on the publisher's media perils policy 
      5.  Other drafting tips

VII. Publication
      1. Duty to publish within ___ months of delivery & acceptance
Failure to publish triggers the author's right to terminate the agreement
      2. Specify which formats the book will in initially be published in
      3. Author's approval over the use of name and likeness
      4. Bound galleys / Library Reviews 
      5. Review copies
      6. Style or manner of publication
          a) Title consultation or approval?
          b) Book jacket approval (needed if the book is a brand extension of a                             service or business)  
        c) No changes to the manuscript galley proofs approved by the author
VIII. Advances & Royalties
      1. Advance against accumulated royalties
      2. When payable? (in halves, thirds, etc.)
      3. Royalties and subsidiary rights:
          a) Primary rights
                 -Hardcover royalties
                 -Trade paperback royalties
                 -Mass market royalties
                 -eBook royalties
                 -Royalty escalation(s)
                 -Bestseller bonus
                 -Royalty reductions
                  1) deep discount and special sales
                  2) mail-order sales
                  3) premium sales
                  4) small printing
                  5) slow-moving inventory
                  6) bundling with other works
          b) Secondary (subsidiary) rights royalty split                                           -                                -Serialization (first serial, second serial)
                 -Anthologies, selection rights
                 -Large print editions
                 -Trade paperback
                 -Mass market
                 -Foreign translation
                 -British Commonwealth
                 -Future technology rights
.                 -Audio rights
                 -Motion picture/TV/live stage
     4. Reasonable reserve for returns
          a) What percentage is withheld?
          b) When liquidated?
      5. What is royalty based on? (Retail price? If based on "net," define the term                   net carefully)
          a) At an average discount of 50%, 20% of net is the same as 10% of the list
          b) At an average discount of 40%, 16-2/3% of net is the same as 10% of the list
          c) At an average discount of 20%, 12-1/2% of net is the same as 10% of the list
       6. Recoupment of advance 

IX. Accounting Statements
      1. Annual, semiannual, or quarterly statements
      2. Payment dates
      3. Cross collateralize (good for publishers, bad for authors)
      4. Audit rights
      5. Limit on time to object to statements 
      6. Limit on time to bring legal action
      7. Examination on a contingency basis
      8. Pass through clause for subsidiary rights income
      9. Important! Termination for failure to account

X. Revised Editions
      1. Frequency
      2. By whom?
Does the contractual in royalties correspond to the extent of changes                        made in comparison to the original author's contribution?
      4. Why is selling a revised edition bad for the author's bottom line?
      5. Reviser/Author credit

XI. Option
      1. Definition of next work
      2. When does the option period start?
      3. Definiteness of terms (i.e., is the publisher's option actually enforceable?)
      4. What type of option? (e.g., first look, matching, topping)

XII. Competing Works      
      1. How is competing work defined?      
      2. How long does non-compete run?
      3. Any reasonable accommodations?
      4. Special issues for fiction writers

XIII. Out-of-Print = Reversion of Rights
      1. How defined? (number of copies sold over __ accounting periods)
      2. Notice requirements
      3. Author's right to purchase digital files, inventory

XIV. Termination
      1. What triggers the reversion of rights?
          a) Failure to publish within (usually between 12 - 18) months of manuscript acceptance
          b) Failure to account to the author after due notice
          c) Failure to keep the book in print (see Section XIII)
      2. Survival of Author's representations and warranties
      3. Do licenses granted before termination survive
XII. Miscellaneous
      1. Choice of governing law
      2. Mediation or arbitration?
      3. Bankruptcy
      4. Literary agency clause
      5. Personal guarantee if the author is a business entity, not a human being.

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