Publishing Contracts: Understanding Key Provisions

Many writers want to be traditionally published. Years of querying, submission and rejection are often endured in the quest.

When a publisher does accept a manuscript, the thrill of having accomplished that goal can cloud a writer’s judgment when it comes to analyzing the terms of the publishing contract.

Contract terms are negotiable. Negotiating favorable terms is part of doing business. It is not impolite to ask for what you want or what you want changed. The decision of whether to sign a contract is always yours and it is your comfort level with the contract terms that matters.

Kelly Abell, an author with two different publishers, asked me to write a series of guest posts for her audience explaining some of the key provisions found in publishing contracts. Each post cites actual contract language and breaks it down into manageable and understandable parts.

What is the Grant of Publisher Rights?

What are the Author’s Warranties?

What are Some of the General Terms?

What is the Non-Competing Works Clause?

Autolycus, a character in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is a charming peddler who sings ballads. But he is also a cunning thief and an expert in clever tricks. The best way to protect yourself against clever tricks in contract language is to understand what the language means.

Autolycus Selling His Wares

Autolycus Selling His Wares (ca. 1830) from The Folger Shakespeare Library

I am interested in making useful legal information easily available to writers and am always on the lookout for troublesome issues that could be made less troublesome if properly understood. If you have a publishing contract issue you would like help with, drop a comment. Or, if you’d like to keep it private, send me an email: kgoldman “at”

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2 thoughts on “Publishing Contracts: Understanding Key Provisions

  1. Mary Deal

    A lot of great information is presented here. Anyone can avail themselves of these facts and know how to wade through much legalize of a contract. Thank you for posting this. It’s much appreciated.

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