Definition of a Contract
- An agreement enforceable by law.
- It must contain an offer and acceptance.
- It must reflect the “consideration” (value) given each way, such as what the writer is agreeing to provide and what the buyer is agreeing to pay in compensation.
- Per copyright law, the publisher does not control exclusive rights of a work unless the agreement has been signed by the author.
- A verbal agreement is not legally binding. Confirm the agreed upon terms in a letter or email message.
Terms to be Included in a Publishing Contract
- Title of the material being purchased
- Rights being purchased (first rights, one-time rights, reprint rights, all rights, international, etc.)
- Medium to which the rights apply (print, online, etc.)
- Distribution for the publication
- Payment to be received and specifics of when it will be paid
- The writer’s obligations and liabilities (accuracy, originality)
Creating Your Own Contract
If you sell to a publisher who does not offer a contract or simply sends a check which is their confirmation of a sale, it is wise to protect yourself by creating your own letter of agreement.
- Keep the letter of agreement simple.
- Direct the letter to the editor.
- Acknowledge that you received the check (state the amount of $) in payment for the title of the work purchased.
- State that you look forward to seeing the work published in the agreed upon publication.
- This is not a legally binding co-signed document. But it is a written record of the terms you, the writer, have authorized.
Links to Discussions About Publishing Contracts
- “Understanding Contracts” at Writing-World.com: http://www.writing-world.com/rights/contracts.shtml
- “What NOT to Miss When Drafting & Negotiating Your Book Publishing Contract” by Attorney Lloyd J. Jassin: http://www.copylaw.com/new_articles/final.three.html. The article has an excellent book contract checklist.
- “What Makes a Good Publishing Contract for a Writer?” by Dave Taylor: http://www.askdavetaylor.com/what_makes_a_good_publishing_contract_for_a_writer.html
- “Publishing Contract Checklist” by Timothy Perrin: http://www.right-writing.com/checklist.html
- “Sample Publishing Contract” http://www.booksforabuck.com/general/contract.html
© 2011 Starla Kaye