The context of book publishing agreements is that you wrote or will write a book, and want someone else to distribute, sell and generally exploit it in various formats.
Whether your book is a romance novel, murder mystery, action adventure, science fiction, or another genre, here are some considerations for book publishing agreements:
1. Advances: This is a payment up front from the publisher to the author against funds that the publisher will generate for the author from sales. Advances are not recoupable, but are redeemable. Before receiving royalties earned by you, these funds will be used to reimburse the publisher for the advance. However, if you receive an advance and the book doesn’t sell enough to reimburse the publisher for the advance, you should not be required to reimburse the publisher for the advance. This is their risk.
2. Royalties: Generally the author’s royalties will be based on different categories of sales, including hardcover, paperback, electronic, audio edition, and the rate generally varies by territory (for example, Canada vs. U.S. vs. rest of the world). If the publisher isn’t moving on the percentage of sales they’re offering to pay as a royalty, consider trying to get sales and other milestones to trigger royalty rate increases.
3. Reserves: The publisher will want to hold royalties back from you (“reserves”) to protect them against returned books. Reserves can be reasonable, but should not be completely open ended. There are ways to limit the reserves, to protect yourself from potentially not receiving your royalties for a long time.
4. Dramatization Rights: If you want to control who gets the right to adapt your book into the next massive TV series or feature film, hold back the dramatization rights from the publisher.
5. Shelving the Book: What remedies are in place, including related to getting your rights back (a “reversion”) should the publisher not publish the book, or have it go out of print? If the rights are returned to you, do you get access to the edits made by the publisher?
6. Delivered Manuscript: If the book has been accepted before the agreement is signed, the agreement should clarify that the book has been delivered successfully to avoid the potential position by the publisher that it hasn’t been accepted.
7. Publicity: If you don’t want your real name, an unapproved photo or an unapproved biography used by the publisher, limit the publisher’s publicity rights.
8. Audio Version: If you want to be the one recorded reading the book should an audio version be created, request that right. It might be more realistic to be a part of the decision making process regarding someone else reading your words.
9. First Right of Refusal: Be careful about how broad the rights are of the publisher to publish your future books.
Good luck with your writing, and if you get offered a publishing agreement, make sure the publisher is not only a good partner, but the right partner. Do you due diligence, including as it may end up being a very long term relationship! One way to do this is to talk to other authors on the publisher’s roster.
Next, read and understand the agreement. Consider what you want changed and what you want added. We help clients do just that.
Byron Pascoe is a lawyer with Edwards PC, Creative Law. This boutique law firm provides legal services to Digital Media, Game, TV, Film, Animation, Music, Publishing and Software industry clients. For more info and blogs, please visit www.edwardslaw.ca
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* This post is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Please contact Edwards PC, Creative Law or another lawyer, if you wish to apply these concepts to your specific circumstances.