Having recently reviewed and submitted thoughts for a revised contract with my publishing company here are 5 tips for authors out there:
1. Be clear about your expectations
Before the contract arrives write down what your requirements are, what is desired and what things will be a deal breaker. You don’t always have the luxury of giving input into a contract but sometimes you do. And here’s the clincher. You ALWAYS have the last say in whether you sign it. If there’s something in there you really don’t like, let the publisher know or don’t sign it! For first time authors it’s always more difficult to say no. The more well-known you are the more room you have for negotiations. And if you have an agent – make sure you create this list with them. They will be able to advise you on what’s likely and unlikely etc.
2. Ask questions
Don’t sign something you don’t understand. Sometimes the legal jargon is overwhelming. As you review it write a list of words, phrases or concepts you don’t understand and then either ask the publisher for clarity or google and find out for yourself. Better yet – if you have an agent – ask your agent!
3. Talk about it before hand
I’m publishing with a smaller company but I have been very impressed with their willingness to talk about some details before the contract was even drafted. Talk to them as soon as they mention the possibility of sending a contract over. Often your agent will be in on these conversations. You need to build trust with your agent – see the next point.
4. Build an open conversation with your agent
A lot of people self publish or go with small companies and don’t have agents. That’s fine – you can skip over this part. If you do have an agent make sure your relationship with them is open and honest. They want you to succeed, because they succeed if you succeed. Call them, email them, meet with them. The key is that they know what you want out of this deal.
5. Don’t sign what you don’t like
I mentioned this in one of the earlier points but do not sign it if you don’t like it. This is your work, you’ve poured hours and hours into this baby. They haven’t yet. They may not. If you’re uncomfortable with the terms don’t sign it. If you have a good agent, your agent will sense it, and help you think through what’s making you nervous. If they don’t raise it – then approach your agent about it.
I hope these brief tips have helped you and I’m looking forward to reading many new authors out there.