Navigating a Publishing Contract – Compass, Please

First Contract Draft

I received an eight-page contract from She Writes Press, which includes an Exhibit A, stating those services to be performed by Publisher; Exhibit B, which is to eventually list any additional services, timeframe, fees, etc.; and Exhibit C, which contains a Fee Schedule.

The entire contract is in small print.

I hate contracts. I hate reading them.

I haven’t been able to find a publishing lawyer here in Arizona. So far. Maybe never.

Which means I’ve been trying to understand this thing myself. Bad idea.

I took paralegal classes years ago, one of which was contracts. Learned enough to get me in trouble. Similar to driving a four-wheel drive vehicle and heading for the mountains. I’ve done that, too. A person can get into big trouble with a four-wheel drive vehicle on those trails. I’ve been there and I know. Nearly got stuck overnight on this road once. My ex-husband was driving. Three of us had to get out of the vehicle and move rocks to back out. Big rocks.

Four-wheeling, photo by Karen Lynne Klink

Another time I was driving and my friend said, “keep going, keep going, keep going.” Nearly went right over a cliff.

Back to the contract.

I learned the following from reading that contract: She Writes Press is not risking a darned thing.

The author risks all. I pay for their expertise. Quite a lot, actually. I pay for printing, shipping, warehousing, returns, and numerous other fees. If anything goes wrong, I pay for that, too. Like, if my book doesn’t sell. Eeks, I can’t stand that “like” word, and I used it. Ah, well. Welcome to the millennial generation. I promise to not use it again, at least not in this post.

What do She Writes Press services include?

The following is Exhibit A:

  • interior design of the book up to 120,000 words
  • cover design
  • E-book file prep and upload to Amazon, B&N and iBookstore
  • Distribution to Trade Accounts through their current distribution partner
  • Management of the distribution relationship for the term of the Agreement
  • Proofreading of final manuscript
  • Copyright filing and obtaining Library of Congress control number
  • Warehousing of short-run printed books for first year
  • Fulfillment of orders on short-run printed books (I pay shipping)
  • Support and management of title metadata
  • Ongoing project management of title for term of Agreement
  • Support for getting books into bookstores, libraries and other trade outlets

All the above costs $7,500.

I found a blog by Lloyd J. Jassin, an experienced New York publishing attorney, that clearly explains what a publishing contract should contain, and She Writes Press matched his suggestions. If you are interested, his blog is here

There are a number of terms in the contract that have not been defined to my satisfaction.

  1. One of these terms is “derivatives.” Does this include sequels to the novel?
  2. The contract says nothing about a particular date for She Writes Press to publish my novel, what the New York attorney calls a “Duty to Publish.” Brooke has told me when she expects my book to be published, but this is not in the contract.
  3. Lastly, I want subsidiary rights. These include rights to foreign publishing, motion picture, TV, audio, merchandising, and TV rights. I don’t expect any of that to happen, but, who knows? 

Obviously, they are in the publishing business to make money publishing, not to take risks. They are going to be sure to make their profit, no matter what happens to me and my book. 

I must go into this with my eyes and my bank account open.

I welcome any and all pertinent suggestions and comments. 

In other words, HELP!