Before you engage and pay a lawyer to review and edit a publishing contract, do your own high-level review to see if the basics are there. If not, it’s a red flag. If so, then it may be time to lawyer-up for a detailed review and negotiation. There is no such thing as a standard contract that should be signed without proper review. Standard contracts are a good place to start and it is important to recognize them as such.
Below are a few of the first things I suggest reviewing when you are presented with a contract.
- Rights granted. Look for the type (assignment v. license, exclusive or non-exclusive), language (English only, specific languages), market (US, specific markets, or worldwide), form (book, ebook, revisions, derivatives), and duration (the term of the agreement and how to terminate).
- Copyright ownership and filing. Look for author retention of copyright ownership and a license granted to publish. It should be clear in the contract who will file the copyright AND that the copyright will be filed within 3 months of the first publication of the work in the United States and within proper statutory periods in other countries.
- The Work. Look for a full description of the Work, including, for example, a synopsis of the Work, tentative title, number of words, number of illustrations, intended audience, and fiction v. non-fiction.
- Money matters. Look for payment timing and method, royalty basis and percentages, and accounting and audit obligations and rights.
Clarity and consistency are key to any contract. If the above factors are missing or ambiguous in the contract presented to you, you may want to explore other publishing options. That said, the above factors are not an inclusive list of review points for a publishing contract, but they are a good place to start before you spend money on a proper legal review. Clear and understandable terms and obligations are the goals of negotiating and creating a solid publishing contract. Remember, the author always has the ultimate power to say “no, thank you” to a proposed contract and move on.
This post is not intended to be or convey legal advice, create an attorney-client relationship, or be a solicitation. It is intended to convey general information only, which may or may not be correct, complete, or current at the time of reading. The content is not a substitute for specific legal advice or opinion from a qualified attorney and you should not act upon any such information without seeking qualified counsel on your specific matter.
Julie Bernard is an intellectual property and business attorney with offices in Colorado and California. She is a registered patent attorney who brings over twenty years of intellectual property experience to the firm.
Julie provides balanced general, transactional, and intellectual property legal advice based on her significant experience and a proven track record in patent and trademark prosecution, and structuring and negotiation of licenses and collaborative agreements. Her website is www.BernardIPLaw.com.
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