The Contract


What’s in it

  • The delivery date. Deliver an ‘acceptable’ manuscript to the publisher before this date. The word acceptable is the weak point here. Try to get the publisher to provide a clearer definition or at the very least, a dead line within which they have to accept or reject the manuscript. (You repay the advance if you deliver an ‘unacceptable’ manuscript.)
  • Agreement that corrections after acceptance cannot exceed 10%, or they charge you for composition.
  • Who gets which rights. You usually retain dramatic adaptation rights (i.e. film).
  • The height of the advance payment and when they pay it. Payment is usually broken in three parts. The advancement is paid after signing the contract, the second part is paid at delivering an ‘acceptable’ manuscript and the last part is paid at publication.
  • Agreement on royalties and how often they will be paid. This is usually twice a year, royalties are counted twice a year (June & December) and paid three to four months later when a statement is issued.
  • How many author copied you receive. This is usually 10.
  • Protection of work and copyright, infringement and so forth.
  • Other rights such as audio and media. This part is tricky without an agent.

How do you review a contract

Pick up a copy of the Author’s Guild suggested book contract and compare it to the one you received. Now you’ll have an idea of what a normal contract looks like, but that doesn’t mean yours will be like that, especially if you’re a new author. Big publishing houses have a standard contract they offer to newbies and you’ll need the persuasion skills of a mentalist to get them to deviate from it. You’ll get a better negotiating position once you’ve established yourself as a top tier writer.

Mayer, B. (2011) The Fiction Writer’s Toolkit: A Guide to Writing Novels and Getting Published.