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Contracts and Rights Articles and Resources
How to Read a Book Contract (a several-part blog series)
(All sample contracts are provided for educational purposes only.)
A glossary of common contract terms:
Advance: Money paid to the author in advance, but to be taken out of ensuing sales and will be earned out before the author sees any further payment.
Agency Clause: A part of a contract that specifies the publisher will pay money owed the author to an assigned agent, who that is, and also outlines the relationship as pertaining to the contract.
All Media: The right to produce the work in any/all forms.
All Remaining Rights/All Other Rights: This section usually clarifies that any rights not outlined by contract remain with the author.
Audio rights: The right to make audio recordings of the work.
Audit clause (right to audit): This section outlines the author’s rights if they believe the publisher’s accounting/figures are suspect and determines who will pay for any auditing.
Author Compensation: How the author will be paid: one-time payment, advance, royalty, copies of book, etc.
Contributor Copies: Number and type of copies, if any, that the author will receive free of charge.
Earned Out: This means any money that has been paid to the author as an advance has been made up in sales, and author will begin to collect on further sales paid at designated royalty rate.
Electronic Media: The right to produce the work as a digital file or ebook or in an online publication.
Exclusive: Work may not be published anywhere else during the period of exclusivity. Many exclusive rights contracts will have a term after which it becomes non-exclusive.
First Rights: First publication rights to the work, which means it must not have been published anywhere else prior (including the Internet, though exceptions are sometimes made for work posted in areas not publicly accessible, such as private critique sites). Depending on the location and where the work is being published, this can be listed as First Serial Rights (magazines), First North American Serial Rights, First Anthology Rights, etc.
Indemnity: This section protects the parties as outlined from financial damages should legal situations surrounding the work arise.
In perpetuity: Duration of given rights is basically forever unless termination clause specifies otherwise.
Jurisdiction: This section outlines where any legal proceedings will happen if there is a dispute and which state’s laws will be in play.
Life of Copyright: In the United States, this indicates the life of the author plus seventy years.
Non-compete Clause: A non-compete clause can limit what else (or when) an author can produce similar (or sometimes any) work in relation to the publication of the contracted work.
Non-disclosure: An agreement not to speak about or share information regarding the publisher or contract.
Non-exclusive: The work is allowed to be published elsewhere as well.
Obligation to Print: Clause which states that the publisher is required to publish the work by a given date.
One-time rights: The right to publish the work once; this term is sometimes used instead of first rights or reprint rights.
Original work: This agrees that the work is the sole creation of the person signing the contract and that it was not taken or derived from any other work or author.
Performance rights: The right to read and/or perform the work in public.
Period of Exclusivity: The length of time the work is not allowed to be published anywhere else.
Power of Attorney: The right to act for the author in legal matters (uncommon and unadvised).
Print rights: The right to produce the work in a printed on paper version.
Print Run: The number of copies to be printed under this contract and the terms needed to have additional copies ran.
Reprint rights: The right to publish something that has already been published elsewhere. this usually requests specification that the rights from previous publication have been returned to the author.
Reserve on Returns: An amount to be withheld by publisher from royalties in case of books returned to them.
Reversion Clause: This section of a contract outlines whether the author can get assigned rights back and how to go about it.
Rights Granted: This section of the contract outlines exactly what usage permissions are being given.
Rights Reversion: The rights sold/given by contract revert back to the author.
Royalty Rate: The percentage of royalty paid to the author per sale either ‘of net’ or ‘of gross’.
Sole creator: In this section, the author agrees that they are the only one who has a right to the work and that they have the ability to agree to the terms of the contract.
Term: The period of time for which the rights are granted/in effect.
Termination: If the author of publisher wishes to terminate the contract, the termination clause usually outlines if they can and how to go about it.
Warranty: The author’s promise that the work is not plagiarized and is their original creation.
While the above is a list of terms often found on a contract, it is not exhaustive and attempts to be neutral. It is not a substitute for legal advice, nor does it endorse all of the clauses mentioned, many of which may be red flags in a contract. Writers are encouraged to consult other sources and seek legal advice if necessary before signing an agreement.