A Brief Introduction About the Book Publishing Contract
A book publishing contract is a legally binding agreement between an author and their book publisher that states assignment of rights, obligations, and money earned. It also dictates terms such as authors’ deadlines and word count.
Who Takes the Book Publishing Contract?
This contract is a legal contract made between a publisher and a writer or author, for publishing original content by the writers or authors.
Purpose of the Book Publishing Contract
A typical book publishing contract purpose is towards publishing original content by the writers or authors. This might involve a single written work or a series of works.
Contents of the Book Publishing Contract
The contract encompasses every aspect of the author’s agreement with the publisher. These aspects contain the physical, practical aspects of the book’s development, for instance:
- What the work shall be
- The timing of the author’s delivery of the manuscript
- Even the author’s right to manuscript changes
- Delivery Issues
- Acceptance of manuscript
- Author Approvals
- Advertising and promotion commitment
The contract contains the assignment of the author’s copyright rights and the publisher’s rights towards publishing and distributing the work over the breadth of content formats (which includes ebook, audio, performance, etc.) and over what geographical territories.
The financial features of the book deal are a significant aspect of the contract. These financial aspects comprise:
- Schedules of advance monies paid against royalties
- Exact royalty percentages that would be paid on each type of sale—hardcover, paperback, ebook, and others
Some of these aspects are detailed to the individual deal but numerous are dictated through the book publishing industry conventions and the publisher’s “boilerplate” contract. The contract is usually negotiated by the author’s literary agent on the author’s behalf, with input from the author.
How to Draft the Book Publishing Contract?
The terms included in the contract are;
Grant of Rights: Every contract has a grant of rights clause. Rights in a publishing contract could be divided into two types: primary rights and subsidiary rights. The primary rights involve the right to publish the book normally in print and electronic format.
These rights are usually granted by the author towards the publisher. Also, subsidiary rights comprise the right to make adaptations of the book, the right to translate the book towards foreign languages, the right to grant others permission towards publishing excerpts from the book, the right to publish audiobooks, the right to produce films depending on the book, etc.
As a general rule, the author must only grant these rights to the publisher if the publisher is best engaged to exploit them. If the publisher is granted these rights the agreement must cater to rewarding the author for the misuse of the rights.
Clearances/permissions: It must be clear from the agreement whose duty it is to obtain permission from third parties for use of their works in the book. Usually getting clearance is the job of the author. Though this makes sense because the author is the best person to know which third party material was used, the author is not always equipped to get permission. The middle ground is to ask the author to recognize all third party text materials utilized in the book and the publisher can handle the obtaining of permission. The cost of getting the clearances could be offset against the royalties payable to the author.
Delivery: There must be a clause dealing with when the author is expected towards delivering the manuscript. This clause must also be clear on what type of content is estimated from the manuscript and what takes place if the publisher is not satisfied with the content. The publisher must be obliged to notify the author of its objections and to provide the author at least one opportunity to revise and submit the aforesaid manuscript.
Competing Works Clause: The publisher must also contain a provision in the agreement restraining the author from authoring competing works. The author’s capability to write competing works or materials might negatively affect a publisher’s ability to exploit the book.
There must be a provision in the agreement to the effect that the author would provide, as necessary, any revisions and updates towards the book. Alternatively, the publisher might wish to reserve its right to elect an alternative author to perform a revision of the book and continue using the authors’ name for such a revised book.
Warranties and indemnities clause: The author must also furnish the publisher with an indemnity against any claims made through third parties against the book, such as copyright infringement, defamation, invasion of privacy, etc.
Author Copies: Authors are entitled to only a limited amount of free copies of their book, usually 20 to 25, and any additional copies would cost an additional price.
Bankruptcy: It encapsulates the details what happens in the event the publisher goes out of business or declares bankruptcy.
During the negotiation, the agent states the details of the many various, important clauses usually found within a book publishing contract. They not only contain the amounts of money in the book advances and royalties, and about subsidiary rights defined in a typical contract, but also contain exactly how the advances shall be paid.
Benefits & Drawbacks of the Book Publishing Contract
A book publishing contract is a formal description of what two parties would provide, and what they shall receive in return. It is meant to protect both parties in the event of a misunderstanding or one party’s failure to perform.
Some publishing contracts serve to indemnify the publisher while offering little protection towards the author.
What Happens in Case of Violation?
Each party to a book publishing contract has the right to terminate the agreement if the other party fails to carry out certain obligations or if certain conditions arise which may result in the violation of the contract terms
A book publishing contract states what rights you are granting to your publisher and on what terms. If you sign away all of the rights in your book towards the publisher for the life of copyright(1), this shall preclude you from certain future uses of your work.