Hi everyone. In part 1 we talked about the different departments within a publishing house. This week we are going to review the Contracts and Legal Department of a publishing house.
A book contract is the legal binding agreement between an author and the publisher.
This is a most critical part for an author. Book publishing is considered to be of intellectual property and as such, this area is key in benefiting the author’s best interest. Editors and agents, as well as rights (foreign and sibsidiary) and design staff work closely with this department to negotiate and draft the best possible terms for you, the author.
The legal department is also tasked with reviewing the contracts, as well as keeping the house free from lawsuits from author errors, such as libel, fraud, and other things like if a book is about the FBI, CIA, or any other governmental organization.
Of note for self-publishers: when writing The Consequential Element, I had to do extensive inquiries into these organizations since some of the elements within the book are CIA and U.S. Embassy related. I sought legal advice from a lawyer who deals with this sort of stuff to be sure that I wouldn’t be creating any future legal issues for myself. The advice I received was priceless considering what could potentially have happened out of ignorance. I highly suggest all self-publishers to meet with an attorney at least once to determine if legal representation would be beneficial. I believe you’ll find out it is.
The contracts department will generate a draft contract once there are agreed-to terms of the book deal. The publisher will then submit this draft contract to the author’s agent for review.
Keep in mind that the publisher may use a standard boilerplate contract based on the publisher’s general policies for the type of book being submitted. A publisher may have many types of boilerplate contracts to use for various types of books and the contracts department will select the best contract for your book.
The agent will review the draft contract and then negotiate the changes on behalf of the author. During this time, the agent will address such things as the upfront advance, royalties, and subsidiary rights to name a few.
Once everything is ironed out and agreed upon by all parties, the publisher executes the final version of the contract, the agent approves it, the author signs it, and it is returned to the publishing house for final signatures. At this point the contract is considered executed.
For further information, please see:
Caroline Bookbinder – Lawyers Reading Books?
Negotiating Book Contract Terms and Royalties
Managing Intellectual Property in the Book Publishing Industry
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