Thursday, January 3, 2013

Read The Fine Print! by DL Larson

With the new year just past, I have my resolutions still fresh in my mind.  Getting my work published is always high on my Goal List.  But I want to share a word of caution with you.  The publishing world is a dangerous place and every writer must find their way through the quagmire so not to be sucked into an unsavory deal. 

Recently a writer friend had received a request to publish her work.  She looked over the contract on-line and it looked like a normal contract.  Then later when she was about to sign said contract, she realized this one in her hand was not the same one the agency had published on-line.  It contained several unfavorable paragraphs about ownership of the revised manuscript once it went to press.

This writer asked that those paragraphs be omitted and the publishing company refused, saying this was their standard contract.  Anyone who signed that contract would have a difficult time getting their rights back for the full manuscript in its revised form. 

As much as we all want to have a contract with a publishing company, I'm proud my writer friend refused to deal with such a shabby establishment.  I caution writers to be vigilent when reading contracts.  Below is a list of a few items to be sure to look for when agreeing to a book contract.

1. Never give away your copyright.  It is your work.  The publishing company is a distribution center, a publicity center, etc.  You maintain all copyrights to the book, advertising, movies, international deals, etc.

2.  Be sure you understand the royalty you will receive.  Make sure you know what is free and what is being charged to your account.  Many companies charge the author for the distribution of books in stores, shipping, etc.  Some charge phone calls, although this is not as common as it used to be.

3.  E-books have a their own snares to beware of - make sure your contract explains what will be marketed and where, or how, etc. 

4. Research the company you are interested in working with.  How long has it been in business?  Who are the other authors involved with this company?  How long have the employees been with the company?  The publishing world is constantly changing and I get the impression there is a lot of job hopping going on within this business.  I've had friends whose manuscript was accepted from one agent only to find out months later that employee no longer worked for the agency and the deal fell apart.

5.  This may be the most important guideline:  If you do not understand a contract - find someone who does and have them explain it to you.  Belonging to a writers group may help in this regard, someone in your midst may have experience in dealing with contracts. Or knows someone you can trust. Even paying a lawyer for his/her knowledge will help, but realize the lawyer you might use for family business does not mean he/she understands the legalities of the writing business. 

If you have another guideline in regard to contracts, please share with us.  It's essential we help one another so these untrustworthy businesses run out of gullible clients and have to close their doors, or change their ways and become a reputable source for authors.

Til next time ~

DL Larson


Morgan Mandel said...

Great advice, DL. It's too easy to get excited and sign something and regret it later!

Morgan Mandel

Sean McLachlan said...

Learning contract law is essential for anyone in the writing game. Decent publishers will often be flexible with some aspects of their contracts so never be afraid to ask for a change. If a publisher is totally inflexible, that's a red flag.

Margot Justes said...

Great advice.

Deb Larson said...

We have to slow down just a bit to be sure what we are agreeing to!
Thanks all for stopping by.
DL Larson