You write, maybe, as freelancer. You may have published a few articles here and there and then you have an idea to write a book. It may be a How-to-book or a great novel, whatever, but you know is a good book. Maybe you have been writing it for years, overcoming writer’s block and winning all kind of obstacles. Then you got it. The book is ready. Now you have to publish it.
The easiest part of writing a book may be writing it. Then you will have to go out and sell your book, which is another hard step, but after you have done all that it comes what may be the hardiest of all tasks in publishing: signing a book contract. If you have been subjected to the experience of signing a book contract you know what I am talking about. Countless paragraphs of legalese that you do not understand. Why do the lawyer people can’t write in plain English? Well this is just a wish. The truth is that you want to have a well-laid legal contract that protects you and that states all the rights that you have.
These are only suggestions or guidelines that I am going to write here so please make sure that you pay a lot of attention to what you sign. I know that you have worked hard to write your book and you should be fairly compensated for that. So, again, pay attention to what you sign.
If your work is accepted and you are being offered a contract the first thing you must do is to seek a Literary Property Lawyer. These are specialized lawyers that work on (you guessed!) with the specifics of a contract in book publishing. Many lawyers could do a simple book publishing contract but a Literary Property Lawyer is an expert in elucidating those clauses, and rewriting them to favor the author. You do not want to be ripped-off, so see this legal advice before you sign a book contract.
Do not be afraid to ask the publisher to rewrite the contract after a Literary Property Lawyer have read it and rework it. Most publishers send out standard contracts knowing that the contract will be re-written. So this is common in the publishing world. However, the first book contract is probably going to be a contract that favors too much the publisher. They will be looking for writers who are eager to sign because it is their first book sale. Do not be naïve. My advice here is to NEVER accept the first contract they send. I am sure you can get more once your lawyer has read it and rewrite it.
Although you hire a lawyer (and specifically a Literary Property Lawyer) get involved with the contract. Read it. Chew it. Try to understand what those clauses mean. Try to learn what those legal terms means. Here are some of then you should pay attention:
Tentatively titled: be aware of this one. This is way for the publisher to tell you that the title may be changed if needed. What you need to do here is to have a clause that stipulates that all changes to the book title must be “by mutual agreement.” This way you are safeguarded against changes to your title that may do a disservice to your work. “Mutual agreement” should also be stipulated for other editorial changes to the manuscript.
Illustrations cover graphics, indexes, prefaces, or other parts of the book should also be approved by you before publishing. So be sure your book contract stipulates that.
One thing you have to pay attention very close is to the issue of rights, that is what you are licensing to the publisher to do with your bookwork. How long do they retain the rights to publish?
Make sure that your lawyer looks for merchandising rights, movie rights, foreign-language rights, international rights, other format rights (audio books, e-books). Can you imagine if the book makes it into the movie industry for that big screen picture and you do not have the rights? You better check that (If your lawyer is good you probably won’t have any problem).
As mentioned before, be aware of your book contract and what you sign. Seek legal advice and specifically from a Literary Property Lawyer. Here, I have just mentioned a few things to be aware of, so you are informed. You have worked hard for your book. You have to be fairly protected when signing your book contract.