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!