Have you been made an offer you can't refuse?
If there’s one thing Ariel taught us: be sure you fully understand just what you are signing up for.
1. Forming a Contract
2. Important Clauses
Author's Grant: The author usually grants an exclusive licence to publish the book (the 'Work') in volume form (print and/or electronic) in the languages and territories for a specific or full term of copyright.
Author's Warranty: The author warrants that the work is original and solely theirs to grant; that it does not contain libelous, unlawful, or defamatory matter; and that they will indemnify the publisher for any loss or damages.
Typescript: Where the length of the manuscript (typically in words not pages), the delivery date, and the form (usually an electronic double spaced Word document) are decided. It also covers what the author's responsibilities are regarding illustrations, indexes, and obtaining and paying for third-party copyright material. The publisher reserves the right not to publish if the manuscript is unsatisfactory, overdue, or does not conform to the standards set out here.
Corrections: Considering the time and cost contraints of printing, this clause reigns the author in from making extensive corrections and charges the author if they go above a specified percentage of the typesetting costs. This section also details how long the author is given to return proofs (usually 2-3 weeks).
Publication: This gives the publisher sole control over publication including all its elements: production, publicity, design, price, and sale. While author's therefore have no publication control, in practice authors have some consultation on cover design. The author is usually specified a number of free copies (usually 6) and a discount if they would like to purchase more.
Payments to Author: Lays out the royalties owed to author per form (hardback, paperback, digital), per territory (home market, export markets), and per period (scale royalties can be arranged around either time passed or quantities sold).
Subsidiary Rights: Establishes what rights are being granted to the publisher that they may license to other firms, as well as the percentage owed to the author upon net receipt of those sales. These rights include territory rights to sell to other markets, as well as other rights such as translation, audiobook, dramatization (film, stage, TV, radio), and digital rights.
Reversion: Sets out upon what conditions the rights may revert to the author. For example, if the publisher fails to keep the book in print. The invention of the e-book slightly complicates the 'kept-in-print' determination so some agents ensure there is a level of sale at which, if the books sold less, the rights can be reverted.
Option: The author may grant the publisher rights to first refusal on their next work.
Advance: Sets out what, or if, an advance is paid at which point it is set against the author's future royalties. Usually staged in separate payments on signature of contract, on delivery of satisfactory work, and on publication.
Most publishers will refuse to remove these clauses: grants of rights and territories, author's warranties and indemnities, exclusivity, and their right to publication/formatting/marketing decisions.