Today I'm going to let a friend of mine post about Publishing Law. Something I think all writers should be knowledgeable about.
Please welcome, Marion Browning-Baker w/a Ella Quinn. http://ellaquinnauthor.wordpress.com/
Thank you! Enjoy!
Thank you for having me, Denise. I’ve been a practicing attorney for twenty years and have done everything from military prosecution to divorce law. But when I started to write, I became interested in the legal aspects of publishing. For the past year, I’ve researched publishing and agent contracts. Studied entertainment business law books and taken a class or two. What I’ve learned is that this area of law, in some respects, is an ever shifting platform. Both publishing and agency contracts range from very user friendly to legal gobbley-gook. I like the ones that are simple but complete. And although is most definitely buyer beware time, most of us are so happy to have one offered, that we don’t really read or understand them.
When I received my agent’s offer I was so excited I couldn’t keep my heart from thudding and all I wanted to do was sign the contract and talk to her right away. But I did tell you I’m an attorney. So instead, I told her I couldn’t talk to her on Friday, but I was available on Monday. Downloaded the contract, reviewed it and made notes and sent it to one of my CPs who is also a lawyer. By Monday, even though my heart was still pounding every time I thought about it, I had my questions prepared and was able to sign the contract with no qualms. When she got her offer, I returned the favor. I’ve also reviewed publishing contracts, both new and previously signed for other CPs. It was about then, that I realized very few attorneys were offering contract advice at a reasonable rate.
There are many clauses an author should beware of when preparing to sign a publishing contract. One of them most fundamental is any clause dealing with royalties. Usually, an author is paid royalties based either on the publisher’s net or gross sales for the book. Gross is preferred. But lately I’ve seen a number of contracts that state “gross after expenses.” That is problematic. Everyone knows what “net sales” are. But “gross after expenses” is no man’s land and you should make the publisher state with specificity in the contract which expenses they mean.
Many agents use standards contracts, however, with the rise in indie-publishing, some of the contracts haven’t been revised, either through oversight or for another reason. Again, it’s your purse that can take the hit. Be very careful that you’re not signing a contract that allows your agent to be paid the standard 15% of a book you self-publish. Or at least, go into the contract with open eyes.
I could go on for a long time, but I’d prefer to answer your questions and I’ll be available for the next hour to do so.