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Weeding Out Good Publishing Contracts from the Bad Ones

Signing with a traditional publisher is the dream of many authors, especially of young and debut authors. Authors put their hearts and souls into their novels so signing on that dotted line and having their novel published by a reputable publishing house feels like the best reward they could ever have. However, simply getting your hands on a contract is not enough. Getting a contract from a publisher may seem like an offer that you would be a fool to pass on, but it does not mean you should sign just anything that is thrown your way.

While contracts vary from genre to genre, there are certain things about a contract that give you clear red flags you might be signing away your creative freedom. Working closely with your agent and showing the contract to your lawyer can help you weed out the bad from the good ones, but there are certain signs and warning that give you a clear indication that there is something wrong with the contract.

Here are some things that you can easily look out for in the contract you are offered.

1. The first things that you should look for are the typos and the tone of the sentences. As a contract will legally bind you to the publisher, you need to read each word carefully. There will be clear mistakes such as misworded titles, wrong dates and small errors such as very casual wording instead of the use of legal jargon. The lack of proofreading and editing is a sign that something is fishy.

2. There is an option clause in the contract that is open for negotiation. Agents usually work with the authors and the publication houses to work this clause in a way that is beneficial for the author. You may want to stick to the same publisher for the next book, or you may like to switch publishing houses after the publication of the first novel for any reason. Look for this clause specifically and see if the contract is taking away the option from you. The contract may state that this clause is non-negotiable or presents unfair options to the author.

3. Revision of rights is the portion of the contract that states the period in which all rights of the book will be given back to the author. If this portion is stated as non-negotiable, it means that the publication house might be the sole owner of the book for however long the book is in the market. You need to look for any clause that constitutes to the insolvency of the publisher, an “out of print” point and even a bankruptcy clause for the publication house. It is usually very difficult for an author to get their rights back once they have signed such a contract, especially in cases when the author feels the publication house is not doing their book(s) justice.

Signing a contract is very exciting but a very serious development, so it is better that you take your time to read it thoroughly. If the publisher is pushing you to sign it quickly, politely tell them that it is your right to read it carefully before signing it as it is your future that you might sign away in haste.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Rabia Tanveer