Welcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!
Today I’d like to talk about publishing contracts. Unless you self-publish, you likely signed a contract for that book releasing sometime in the future. Or the one that released last week. Even if you do self-publish, if you’re one of the authors taking advantage of a host of programs Amazon has to offer, you may have signed something that sets up certain rules or guidelines you need to follow for that book.
But I’m here today to talk about traditional publishing contracts, meaning your book was or will be published by a book publisher, such as Evernight.
Our own April Zyon wrote a wonderful post on Friday about what kind of red flags to look for in a contract BEFORE you sign it. You can read it HERE. I’d like to build off her post to talk about that contract you did sign.
First of all, it’s a LEGAL DOCUMENT. Meaning if you signed it, you agree to the terms inside it. If you signed it without reading it, or without clarifying anything you didn’t understand, DUH. Yeah. Sorry, but DUH. You’re an adult. You’re old enough to put your signature on one of those. The obligation falls to YOU, chicklet, to read that thing and make sure you understand it before signing it.
In a court of law, that’s what they will look at. The contract itself. Not your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, or what your best friends say about you on Snapchat. None of those things have anything to do with what’s inside the four corners of that contract. If it’s in there, you and the publisher are bound by it. Done. End of discussion.
No, I’m not an attorney. But I do work in insurance and have seen enough claims that went to suit to understand what the courts look at when it comes to allegations of breach of contract. An insurance policy is a contract, as well.
I’ve seen authors get their panties in a twist when other authors point out those simple facts, and try to explain that in a court, that contract is ALL they will look at or care about. Welcome to the world of grown ups. It doesn’t matter how the author in question FEELS about what he/she did, if what he/she did constitutes breach of contract.
The reason for this blog post was actually sparked by questions I saw in a Facebook group, where the issue in question had to do with what we, as authors, could or could not do with respect to offering discounts on our books. Very simple answer, actually, as it’s spelled out in our author contracts. Clearly the people asking didn’t bother reading theirs.
You need to be aware of not only general contract law, but what your local government has to say about them. In the USA, for example, most states have specifics when it comes to looking at disputes over contracts. These are easily searchable. You also need to understand what it means to that contract if you live in one state but the publisher does business in another, or if you live in a different country than the one where the publisher is based.
Bottom line: ask questions and do your research BEFORE you enter into ANY contract with another person or business. This includes other authors who make series partners sign contracts. It’s a lot easier on the front end to clarify or negotiate certain points of that contract than it is to throw up your hands when things go south and cry foul. That won’t fly in most courts. YOU signed it. YOU are obligated by it. YOU are an adult. Act like one when it comes to something as important as signing a legal document.
Why am I placing all the responsibility on YOU, the author? I’m not. The publisher has their end of the contract to uphold as well, but that’s another blog post.
If you’re lucky, like the Quillers are, to have a publisher who is professional and approachable, you can simply ask them “Can I do X, Y, or Z with my books?” If you don’t have that option available to you, I’d strongly encourage you to return to that contract and read it before proceeding with whatever it is you want to do with respect to your book.
Until next week, Happy Writing!!