Book contracts

Graham’s response to my response on book titles raises the issue of contracts. Generally you can negotiate details of contracts, or simply strike through clauses that you are not prepared to be bound by. The key one for me, which I always remove, is the ‘option clause’ – this is basically one where you commit to send your next book to the publisher, for them to look at and to give them first refusal. I’ve always refused this one. The most recent contract I signed made a point of saying that there was no ‘option clause’, and that the press hoped that by the way they treated authors, they would want to send them their next book. A very good sign early on.

I’d done a little legal work when I was a student, including working in a county court, and I think this helped. This is absolutely not to say I’ve not made mistakes – I have, and plenty of them – in book contracts. But it is important not just to accept whatever the publisher gives you (unless perhaps you’re in the unfortunate situation Graham mentions). And it’s not that because you tried so hard to get a contract that you should accept anything. If in doubt, get advice.

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