Read, read, read that contract. Make sure you understand it. Make sure it is reasonable. Make sure you can live with the worst consequences. Be prepared to negotiate, if needed.
This is my favorite resource when I’m checking out a contract: The Writer’s Book of Checklists: The Quick-Reference Guide to Essential Information Every Writer Needs by Scott Edelstein. It has sections on:
8 Key Points of a Magazine, Newspaper, Newsletter or Anthology Contract
Author Kay Murray also has a downloadable pdf on copyrights.
And then there’s The Authors Guild. http://www.authorsguild.org/ Their website says, “The Authors Guild has been the published writer’s advocate for effective copyright, fair contracts, and free expression since 1912.”
Previously, I wrote about contracts on my blog in this entry.
Today I’m talking about inQuiry letters and Contracts. This is by no means exhaustive–just some things I’ve learned along the way.
INQUIRY LETTERS ON STATUS OF MANUSCRIPT
• After a reasonable amount of time has passed–say 1 month past when (and if) a publisher says they report–you may send an inquiry letter, or inquiry email if that’s how you submitted.
Be brief and to the point. Here’s what to say:
– When you sent it
– What you sent (picture book, first 3 chapters of a middle grade novel), include title
– Request for action
EXAMPLE: In July I sent you a short story called “No Way!” about a girl whose mother has said they are moving. I haven’t received either a rejection or an acceptance from you, which considering how long it has been is quite unusualyou’re usually so prompt! I’m wondering if you either didn’t receive it or whether your response to me was lost.
Consider including an SASP with check boxes – see sample following. Many writers find an SASP most effective.
INQUIRY POSTCARD • Don’t call or email unless the editor has invited you to do so.
• If you receive no answer to your inquiry in a reasonable amount of time, you may submit the manuscript elsewhere. In the past I’ve written letters withdrawing a submission, but it’s usually not necessary, especially in today’s climate where no response meaning “no” is becoming standard practice for many houses.
(photo courtesy of Alvimann)
About 15 years ago I refused to sign a contract after doing research. The pay was bad, and they wanted first option on my next three books for the same rate. The editor told me their contracts were non-negotiable. If anyone tells you the same, don’t go with them!
About 10 years ago I used “25 points of a book contract” from The Writer’s Book of Checklists by Scott Edelstein (Writer’s Digest) to help me figure out whether to sign the other book contracts I had received.
• DON’T SIGN WITHOUT READING CAREFULLY
– Delivery of Satisfactory Copy
– Permission for Copyrighted Material
– Grant of Rights
– Proofreading & Author’s Corrections
– Advances & Royalties
– Author’s Warranties & Indemnities
– Copies to Author
– Option Clause
– Going Out of Print
One of my favorite resources is SCBWI. Check out this article.
Darcy Pattison has a short helpful article entitled: “Don’t Sign that Book Contract Until –”
See Writer’s Digest “Publishing Contracts 101.” Subtitle is “Protecting Your Work.”
“The Warrior Queen’s Guide to Contracts COPYRIGHT FAQs” has good background info.
Read info on this topic to see what is usually negotiable and what is not. I heard one editor say, “You can ask for more money, once.”
A nice clause to include especially for children’s picture books is: “The Publisher undertakes to commission illustrations for the Work, and the Author shall be given the opportunity to approve the illustrator’s first dummy roughs and final presentation (including text).” from the SCBWI Bulletin 1996
• IF IN DOUBT, GET A LITERARY LAWYER OR AN AGENT TO LOOK AT THE CONTRACT. (Author’s Guild offers services.)