Thursday, July 21, 2016

Notes from All Write Now Conference (Part II): John Rudolph on "Don't Call the Lawyers: Understanding Publishing Contracts"

One of the most informative sessions at the AWN Conference was John Rudolph’s presentation on “Don’t Call the Lawyers: Understanding Publishing Contracts.”

It was apparent that Mr. Rudolph, an agent with Dystel and Goderich Literary Management, is skilled on his topic. Here are a few tips he shared with the standing-room-only crowd:

* Hiring a lawyer might cost more than what an author makes on a book.

* Pay attention to who pays for ancillary materials (photos, indexing).

* Unless you’re dealing with a movie studio, don’t give up movie rights.

* Author should have approval over copyedited manuscript.

* Unless you accept a flat fee (work for hire), you own the copyright.

* Reserve the right to an audit and ask for an accounting statement at least once a year.

* Plagiarism and lawsuits are rare but expensive.

* Limit as much as possible the first look at next book option.

* Define Out-of-Print status.

* Agent commission should match original agreement with agent.

* Any rights not expressly covered by contract belong to you.

* Areas to negotiate: Advance, Royalty, Territory.

Remember, the publisher wants you to succeed. A contract is an act of good faith, not an adversarial relationship!


  1. Donna--Thanks for sharing information from this session. It was one I did not get to attend; I regret it.

  2. Thanks. I didn't have time to go to that session. This sheds a little light on the subject, but I'm still pretty much in the dark where legalese is concerned. Thank goodness it doesn't affect my cliche usage!

  3. Thanks, Donna. I missed this session so I'm copying and saving this post for reference.

  4. Hi Sioux,
    You're welcome. it was an informative session.

    Hi Val,
    There was a lot of information presented, but John did it in an orderly and logical manner.

    Hi Mary,
    You are right!

    Hi Marcia,
    You're welcome.

  5. This is all so very true, Donna! When I signed my contract I did hire an attorney, and I wished I hadn't. He charged me $250 for about 30 minutes of his time, and he didn't see anything that I hadn't already figured out for myself. It might be different with one of the big-boy publishers, but with the smaller presses---at least with my publisher---the contract is straightforward and easy to understand. I wish I had seen this two years ago. I would have saved myself some money!

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for this post. It might help other writers avoid paying for unnecessary fees.

  6. I think I took 5 pages of notes during this workshop. Very valuable information!

    Critter Alley

  7. I think I took 5 pages of notes during this workshop. Very valuable information!

    Critter Alley


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