Book Contract Components

If you’ve successfully navigated the toughest part of becoming an author – you’ve written a book, found an agent, and have a publisher interested in your work – congratulations! You’ve made it most of the way there and it is almost time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labour. It is not quite the moment to lay down your guard yet, though.

In order to ensure you are protected and can properly profit from your work in the future, you need to make sure you negotiate a rock-solid publishing contract that contains all the right components. Indeed, this is a job that you and your agent will tackle together, but you should never leave the process entirely up to them. Remember, once you sign the contract you are legally obligated to the terms and therefore should not enter into it lightly.

Copyright is king
Generally agreed to be the most important aspect of any book contract, your copyright is something you want to ensure you understand thoroughly and get to keep all the rights you want. This important component is what dictates the right to reproduce and publish your work.

In a traditional book contract, the author retains the copyright, and the book publisher purchases the right to distribute the book in its many forms. The contract outlines the obligations and the rights of each party in the agreement, so be sure you know and are comfortable with what you’re being offered.

Cover the practicalities
A standard book contract should also cover many of the practical aspects of a book’s overall development plan and timeframe. Depending on the state the book is in when the contract is being drawn up, this could include things like genre, word count, and timing of when the manuscript should be delivered.

Other notable details that should be covered are when the book will be published, how many books be printed, and how the book will be publicized. The contract will also outline the author’s right to approve manuscript changes and the title, jacket, and layout. So, it is important to ensure you’re fully informed regarding the details!

Get your finances in order
The financial considerations will also be outlined in detail in a solid book contract. A schedule of advance monies paid against royalties should be clearly stated, in addition to the exact royalty percentages that will be paid on each type of sale and when royalties will be paid. Make sure you understand any financial jargon being used and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Know the details of advances and royalties
This last part can get a bit complicated, as the advances and royalties will necessarily vary depending on the needs and priorities of the author. Advances, for example, might be paid partially on signing and partially on manuscript acceptance. It is important to understand these terms and know that they are all up for negotiation.

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