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Master Your Book Contract Negotiation Skill

Every book contract is negotiable. But what does contract negotiation look like? Is it done on one phone call or a series of emails? Should I Email or Call to Negotiate? In my more than thirty years of contract advising for author members of the National Writers Union, I encouraged a combination of the two methods, beginning with email. With email contract negotiation, if your publisher sends their contract as a Word file, you type your questions into the contract at the points where they arise. You delete unfavorable wording and replace it with clauses that read exactly as you want them to appear in the final draft. Use Track Changes so your changes stand out. Then return it attached to a well-reasoned, carefully written cover letter that gives your […]

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Copyright Registration: So Simple but So Essential

In “Copyright: Keep It in Your Name” I explained the importance of keeping the copyright to your book in your name even if your publisher pressures you to give it to them. If you succeed in hanging onto your copyright, your publisher will then contact the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress to register the copyright in your name. If you publish independently, you will contact the Library of Congress and handle copyright registration yourself. In either case, make sure you do register your book. Copyright registration is your officially recognized notice to the world that the work belongs to you. It gives you the right to take copyright infringers to court and collect any damages that result. Copyright Registration a Simple Process And the process of registering is […]

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Copyright: Keep It in Your Name

I’m asked by writers why they would want to hold onto a copyright. A better question would be, why would they want to give it away? How important is copyright protection to society’s well-being and the continuation of our culture? It is guarded by the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8: “the Congress shall have power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” The Copyright Pie In the early years of this millennium,  I often lectured academics and  writers about book contracts and copyright. The work was a feature of my job as National Writers Union contract adviser specializing in academic contracts. I used to picture copyright as […]

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Book Contracts: The Drunk Lawyer Clause

Some contract clauses are so stupid you swear only a drunk lawyer could have written them. With book contracts, this lawyer was the drunkest. But I’m getting ahead of myself. A number of years ago I was the freelance editor of a four-volume set of books known as the Banned Books Series that were published by Facts On File, a major reference publisher. I was offered a modest advance — well, not too modest; it enabled my wife and me to make the down payment on our first house. Contributors Give Me Editor Royalty They offered me no royalty, just the advance, because that’s how book editors were traditionally treated. I told my agent I wanted a royalty also. I knew it wouldn’t be a major windfall; the writers deserved […]

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When Is a Book Out of Print?

When a publisher allows your book to go out of print, you have a right to have all rights revert back to you thanks to the “out of print” or “reversion of rights” clause in your contract. But what does it mean to be out of print? A clause in one academic press contract I reviewed as a National Writers Union book contract adviser attempted to define the term: “The Work will be considered to be ‘in print’ as long as copies are offered for sale through normal retail and wholesale channels by the Press or its licensee.” Normal Retail Channels A good beginning but it raised another question: What are “normal retail and wholesale channels”? The phrase used to refer to print copies in inventory in the warehouse. If […]

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