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Margot Finke's of Writing for Children


. . .Contracts . . . .The Fine Print!

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Harold Underdown
The Purple Crayon


I have to jump in here to say that the no resale clause is very common, is in the contracts of all the publishers for whom I've worked, and indeed is in there for the reason Han thought.

Publishers want local bookstores to get the book orders for school visits and such.

HOWEVER, publishers are flexible. If there IS no local bookstore, then other arrangements have to be made.

Also, there's nothing to prevent you from changing hats. Set yourself up as a bookseller, which will require some paperwork. I know authors who have done this. You can then order as many books as you like--and they will be returnable, which author copies generally are not.

Another Post from Harold Underdown:

To add to what Anastasia said:

Lila and Han, you do not need to have a bookstore as such. You simply need to establish an account AS a bookseller with the publisher. The publisher isn't making exceptions--they'll establish such an account with anyone if they fill out the paperwork.

To answer your specific questions:

1. Yes, but I don't know the details. You'll need to research this--requirements may vary from state to state.
2. Not as far as I know. Room in your garage for some cartons of books is all you will need.
3. I've never done this. My only book is the CI Guide to Publishing Children's Books, and so I don't do school visits! The authors I know, like Anastasia, generally do a good number of school visits and have several different titles to sell. Jerry Pallotta, who I know from Charlesbridge, did this when I was there and may still do it.
4. The publisher won't push other books on you. You might decide to order some, but I think most people carry only their own books.

If this is your first book, most likely you won't want to do this. Not worth it. I just
mentioned it to let you know that if the "no resale clause" bothered you, there was a way around it, when the time is right. For now, if you are trying to get changes in your contract, put your energy elsewhere.

More Harold Underdown:

Thanks for adding that, Anastasia! It reminded me of another point I forgot:

If you are a "bookstore" you earn royalties on the books you sell. You generally don't get paid royalties on your author copies.

More Harold Underdown:

A few quick answers.

1) Re the publisher selling sub. rights they aren't entitled to sell--you pretty much just have to keep your eyes open. Publishers do NOT routinely and deliberately do this. If you think your publisher can't be trusted on this, then you shouldn't be
signing the contract--this is pretty basic. Mistakes DO happen and publishers will pay you appropriately you if they make a mistake.

2) Ask your editor about termination. Generally if the publisher can terminate, you can too, even if it's not explicitly stated.

3) Re Converted Books: Check out Turtleback Books. This is a company that literally buys stock from a publisher, removes the bindings, and then puts new, library-standard, bindings on.

Hope that helps. As I say in my Idiot's Guide, it doesn't hurt to ask your editor if you don't understand something or have a concern.

More Harold Underdown:

And to add another wet blanket to the pile, think about the consequences in the other direction.

If the publisher WON'T revise objectionable language in an indemnity clause, or any other clause, are you prepared to walk away from the contract?

Angela's right that what's in the contract can always be acted upon. But there's a balance to be struck. It it comes down to it, and it doesn't always, how do you weigh the slim chance of having to live with an indemnity clause kicking in against the
reality of walking away from a contract?



Shelly Becker

I also see this issue from the publisher's position. I know my opinion might be unpopular (call me a traitor), but it really does make sense that a publisher would want final say. Yes, I know the author has put their blood, sweat and tears into it
(boy, do I know), and is putting their name on the line (hey, I've worried about this with every sale--book and magazine), but the publisher is putting forth a sizeable financial investment. They're taking a risk with each book they publish--even more so with a book by a first-time author.

They WANT the book to be successful and (if it's a reputable publisher) they
usually want the author to be happy with the final book. But they do need to
protect themselves (their financial investment and their reputation) by having final editorial say--otherwise they might end up with a stubborn author who refuses to make the changes they feel are necessary for the success of the book. Doesn't that make sense?

One possible solution might be to do the revisions before signing the contract. If you work on revisions now, you'll know if you and the editorhave the same vision for the book and if not, you can always opt not to sign. Of course, you'll have to decide if it's worth losing the deal over, but at least you'll have the information you need to make that decision. Right now, you don't know what changes they want (and you don't know if it's worth losing the deal over), and if you go ahead and sign giving them editorial control, you might not end up happy with their vision it will be too late and too bad.


Margot Finke

What you receive up-front, when you sign a book contract, can vary a lot from publisher to publisher. Larger publishers tend to offer more, because they have deeper pockets. Some small publishers only offer royalties. There is no "set" amount, especially if this is your first book. If you are a well established author, with a proven sales record, either you or your agent (if you have one) could negotiate a higher advance and other perks.

Unfortunately, for a first time author, YOU do not set the amount of money a
publisher pays you as an advance. The publisher offers you their basic, first time author fee, and that's that. Only later on, when book sales prove that you are an author worth keeping, do you get "wiggle room" regarding some items in your contract.

If you do consult a lawyer about your contract, make sure they are well versed in literary law. This is a specialized field.


Mary Siddals

One resource that I found invaluable for educating myself about my contracts is Tad Crawford's book BUSINESS AND LEGAL FORMS FOR AUTHORS AND SELF-PUBLISHERS. It provides a sample book publishing contract along with an extensive and detailed negotiation checklist (more than 10 pages) that goes over the contract point by point, explaining what is meant by various provisions, what issues should be carefully considered, what specific language to watch out for, and what changes you might want to pursue, suggesting not only what you might ideally seek (though not likely get), but also what you might realistically expect. It even includes discussion of some issues specific to children's writers/illustrators.

Of course, there's still the potential pitfall Harold alluded to in connection with the Author's Guild contract service, of being so focused on the unrealistic goal of getting the publisher to conform to the "ideal contract" that you get caught up in raising concerns about boilerplate legal language that just isn't going to get changed, and that isn't really the issue. However, as an educational tool, I found the book provided an excellent blueprint to guide me in understanding and negotiating my own contracts.

Also, regarding the second clause you quoted, which begins: "Indemnification: In the event of any claim, action or proceeding based on or arising from any alleged breach of any of the warranties and representation set forth in Paragraph 4a above..." I note that this appears to refer back to a warranty and indemnity provision (4a), in which the author typically acknowledges being the sole creator of the work, and declares that the book does not contain any copyright infringements, defamatory material, etc. So, only if you actually breach any of the warranties you've made in 4a (by plagiarizing, for example,) will the consequences described in 4b kick in. Hope that puts the perceived "bombshells" of this (fairly standard) clause into a more reasonable context for you.

I hope you'll find at least some of this info useful in preparing for your contract negotiations, and wish you...

All the best,


Angela Durden

Here comes the wet blanket again.

It does not matter what any editor, publisher, or well-meaning friend SAYS the contract means. The contract language rules in case there is any future questions to be answered or situations to be resolved.

If a publisher says "don't worry, that clause doesn't apply to your book", then ask them if they have any problem striking that clause from the document. If they still do not want to strike it, then you better well be able to live with the worst-case scenario should the "letter of the law" be asked of you. Which means, of course, that you better thoroughly understand what the contract language means in order to make that decision.

Do not get in such a rush to be published that you put yourself in a precarious financial situation in order to cover their boohineys. It is not worth it. Only YOU can have your best interests at heart; and the language in the contract is prepared
in such a manner as to look after those.

It's called doing business.