Publishing Contract Basics

Learn the four basic things to ask when exploring a publishing contract.

I could dedicate an entire day discussing the details of a publishing contract and publishing agreement. There is so much to learn, but today I want to arm you with the core takeaways. This way, even as you are exploring your options, you will have enough knowledge to know if the publisher you are talking to will be a good fit for you.

This post will cover topic number nine in my series “The top TEN questions you should ask a publisher before signing“. If you’ve landed directly here, welcome, and I encourage you to get the whole series so you can be armed with the most important information you need in order to choose your publishing partner and showcase your work to the market.

Back to my “Publishing Contract 101” points:

  • You should be able to ask for and see a publisher’s standard contract. Some have them available on their site, fully downloadable. If not, just call and ask them to email you a copy.
  • Ask upfront what the royalty split is—is it from gross or net receipts? Gross meaning the full sale amount, whereas net receipts means sales less print costs. Be aware that almost all publishers will take a cut in the sales. Those who say they give authors 100% of the royalty means they are making money and likely it’s within the print costs per each book sale. I plan to go over that in more detail in a future post.
  • I had mentioned in this post, the contract should state that you own 100% of the rights to your book, which means you should be able to make decisions as it relates to foreign rights, movie rights, and entertain other publishing offers if they come your way.
  • Your contract with this publisher should be NON-Binding (more on this in the next blog). This is VERY important! You should be able to opt out of publishing with them anytime as long as you have fulfilled your agreement for services paid, and the publisher has fulfilled their end of the agreement.

Overall, having an agent or independent publisher (prolific in publishing contracts) represent you is always a plus. Some hybrid publishers may agree to negotiate the rights to your title in other languages on your behalf, but you should always have a choice if you want them to represent you or not.

Negotiating and signing a publishing contract requires careful consideration. Having these four basic elements going into the learning process can give you an advantage in knowing in advance what is going to work best for you.

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