So I'm sitting here signing the contracts for Secret of the Snow Queen (or whatever it will eventually be called), and I figured some of you might be curious what a book contract actually covers. I'll stick it behind a cut tag out of consideration for the rest of you who could care less :-)
I'm not going to go word for word, but we're looking at three copies of a five-page document on legal-sized paper. There's a lot of verbiage in this sucker, starting with the date and who's involved (me, my agent, and DAW).
Part 1 is the rights granted, basically spelling out that DAW gets to be the exclusive distributor of my book in the English language in the U.S. and a few other regions. Each subclause here talks about a different right being licensed to the publisher. (Licensed, not sold -- I still own the rights.) There are clauses about licensing DAW translation and motion picture rights, but these are crossed out. My agent kicks ass on the foreign sales, so we keep those. And in the unlikely event that something does happen with Hollywood, we own those rights as well.
Part 2 just says that DAW gets to change the title and edit the book if they want. They have to give me proofs for approval, and I have to get those back within 10 days. This is the first of my books where I believe we're going to change the title I came up with.
Part 3 says I'll write it All By Myself, and I won't be ripping off long passages from Tolkien and Pratchett to get us all sued. Ripping off Hans Christian Anderson is fair game. Yay for copyright limits!
Part 4 says DAW will register the copyright in my name. Even though DAW is publishing the book, I still own it. With the exception of work-for-hire, you don't want to be giving away the copyright to your work. That's why part 1 talks about licensing specific rights.
Part 5 says if we do get sued it's my problem, not DAW's, and the legal costs come out of my pocket. So ... um ... please don't sue me, 'kay?
Part 6 is my deadline: October 1, 2010, for a manuscript of roughly 95,000 words. I then get another four weeks to do revisions. I've never actually been held to a revision deadline, but it's interesting to know it's in the contract. I know a lot of authors have blown deadlines at some time or another. The contract says this gives DAW the legal right to take back their advance and terminate the contract if I miss my deadline, but I don't know anyone who's ever actually had to return their advance. I'm sure it's happened, but usually the publisher is willing to work with you. On the other hand, as most of you have seen, I'm pretty obsessive about deadlines and don't plan to blow them.
Part 7 spells out my advance. Yay, money! I get half of the advance when we all sign the contract, and half upon acceptance of the completed and revised manuscript. So even though the deadline is 10/1/10, I then have to do revisions, and those revisions have to be read and approved, which means it will probably be early to mid-2011 before I see the second half of the advance.
Part 8 is the royalty breakdown. A certain percentage of the cover price for the first X books sold, a slightly higher percentage for the rest. I doubt we'll sell enough to make that higher royalty, but it's nice to know it's there. This also covers royalties on trade paperbacks, hardcovers, e-books, reduced-price copies, audio, and overstock, all of which are slightly different percentages. Also note that royalties are based on the cover price, not the net.
Part 9 brings us to royalty statements, promising them twice a year on specific dates. Interpreter not included, but DAW's royalty statements aren't too bad, and my agent is good at translating the bits I don't understand.
Part 10 says DAW agrees to publish the book within 24 months of acceptance of the revised manuscript, which puts their deadline for publication sometime by 2013. They've always published my books much faster than that. I'm guessing this one should be out by the end of 2011.
Part 11 promises 48 author copies to be split between my agent and myself. My agent uses his copies for foreign marketing.
Part 12 is the reversion clause. If the book goes out of print after seven years, I can get my rights back. The contract also notes that DAW putting out a print-on-demand edition does not qualify as keeping it in print unless that edition sells a certain number of copies. THIS ONE IS IMPORTANT! I might choose to release an e-book or POD edition of my books someday, but I can't do that while DAW owns the rights. So long as they keep the book in print, great! But if they decide to let it go out of print, this gives me the ability to get my rights back and market it on my own.
Part 13 gives my agent's contact info and says all money goes to him, and he gets to keep his 15%. He'll then write me a check for the rest. That's right, the agent's commission is written right into the contract. Even if my agent divorces me tomorrow, he'll still get his 15% for this book for as long as it's under contract.
Part 14 says I agree to give DAW the first chance to buy my next book before letting any other publishers see it. If I was writing more than a book a year, or wanted to do multiple series, we might negotiate this clause to say DAW gets first look at my next fantasy, giving me the ability to market works in other genres to other publishers. Right now though, I'm very happy writing for DAW, and have no problem sending them my next.
Parts 15 and 16 state that the contract is governed by the laws of New York, and any arbitration over the contract will also take place in New York.
Part 17 specifies that the agreement applies to me, my heirs and executors, and to DAW and its subsidiaries. If DAW is consolidated or sold, then whoever buys them gets the rights listed in this contract. In theory, this means that if DAW went bankrupt, for example, the rights could be tied up for a while. But part 10 up above should limit how long the rights would be stuck in limbo. If the book has already been published, then part 12 would provide the limbo limit.
Part 18 gives me permission to post a free excerpt of up to 7500 words. That's right, it's legal for me to post the first chapter of my books ... but this is why I can't post the first four chapters (unless they're really really short).
Part 19 says that if there are overstock copies, DAW will try to let me buy some, but no promises.
And that's it. I sign, my wife signs as witness, and then it goes back to DAW for their signatures.
I'm not an agent, nor am I a lawyer. This is how I understand my contract to the best of my knowledge, but there's a reason I have an agent going through these things. No clue whether this will be interesting to anyone, but here it is. Let me know if anyone has questions. To other authors, I'd be curious to hear your take, and whether I've missed anything important.