Hey there. It’s Michelle Roth, stepping in for the lovely Doris O’Connor today on this Tuesday Thoughts. I really drop some knowledge on you guys since I’ve got some rather large shoes to fill this week! I thought I’d start my ‘What’s Next’ series.
You’ve written your novel. You’ve edited it copiously. Your betas have no more feedback to give, you’ve polished it within an inch of its life. You subbed it to a publisher and they’ve said yes! Congrats! But the work isn’t nearly done.
Now, let’s talk a bit about what comes next… THE CONTRACT!
In my experience, you’ll typically get a the contract a day or three after your work is initially accepted. This happens via electronic delivery. The bigger publishers might send you hard copies, but.. in the small press world, it’s almost always electronic.
Read the contract. Review it. Make sure that you understand it. None of my publishers have been unscrupulous, BUT… they do exist. I know of one that stopped paying their authors on time and then said they were able to do it based on the verbiage of the contract.
Don’t let this be you. Seriously. Look at the payment schedule. If it’s not spelled out that you receive specific amounts of royalties from specific sources within specific time frames, that’s a red flag. Ask for clarification. In writing.
There will be a contract period.. Five years, three years, etc. All facets of the contract will be in force during this period. Don’t get roped into a 20 year contract, a lifetime contract, etc. If you’re unhappy with the publisher, then you’re stuck. If the contract renews on a month to month basis after a certain period of time, figure out how to opt out of that before you sign.
Make sure that any rights that are not explicitly granted to the publisher are granted to YOU, the author. It should be in writing. If the contract doesn’t specify, you can translate your book to other languages. You can make your book into an audio book. Seeing dollar signs yet?
The publisher will usually grant promotional copies for the author. Some publishers also provide unlimited electronic copies for review. Read this section of your contract carefully. You’ll be promoting your own work, and it’s important to know your rights as the author.
Most of the time there will be an “first right of refusal” option for future works in your series. That means if they say no, you may take your work elsewhere or self pub. This is important because if you are unhappy with your publisher after book one, you’ll be stuck with them unless they drop that series.
Insolvency. There should be clause about this that states that rights revert to you in the event of insolvency. If there isn’t, run far and fast.
Sale of publisher. If your publisher gets sold.. which happens often in this business, it’s best to have a clause that either states that the new company will fulfill the promises of the old one or revert your rights back to you within a specified amount of time.. (Say 60 days?) If they don’t, then you might be in limbo.
There should be a clause that states that the publisher will publish your work within a certain period of time. That way, they can’t keep you in limbo for 5 years.
Every part of your contract will be important. I tried to pick the things that were URGENTLY important. Be sure that you’re picking yours apart. You’re signing a binding agreement.
When I’m back on Friday, I’ll be discussing the back cover blurbs, cover art questionnaires, and the like. See you then!