Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

Before You Sign on the Dotted Line

I’m sure there will be a follow-up post to this where I’ll explain the situation that led me to write it in more detail, but for several reasons, I can’t discuss all the facts just yet. I do, however, think I can share this one–and it’s something I’m a little ashamed to say I obviously didn’t do.

Specifically, authors, when you get that shiny offer from a publisher, when the contract comes, TAKE THE TIME TO REVIEW EVERY PARAGRAPH. (Yes, I’m shouting.) If you have an agent, get on the phone with him or her and discuss each paragraph/clause to ensure you understand exactly what you’re granting to the publisher and what you’re reserving for yourself. If you don’t have an agent and can’t afford to pay a contract attorney, read it thoroughly and carefully. If anything strikes you as odd or you’re not sure what it means, ask other authors in your circle of friends whether they know what it means and/or whether they’d agree to it.

Just because it’s the publisher’s “boilerplate” and they “never negotiate” does not mean that you should not take the time to make yourself fully aware of exactly what you are agreeing to. And if you find anything you really take issue with, at that point, you have to decide whether it’s serious enough to walk over. But at least you will KNOW what you have agreed to or rejected.

And please, for heaven’s sake, if your agent tells you that the contracts are iron-clad or non-negotiable rather than ensuring you understand thoroughly what you are signing, you need to run, not walk, in the other direction. But first, ask. Don’t just be so happy to have a contract that you sign first and get gobsmacked by something you never suspected later.

I didn’t ask. And I got gobsmacked. I’m not happy. Lesson learned.


  • Carolyn Jewel June 23, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Something pretty much like this happened to me several years ago, and I have been paying the price in various insidious ways ever since.

    I thank dog I got my rights reverted or I’d still be in the situation.

  • Lynne Silver June 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Call me Gobsmacked the Second. There needs to be a contracts 101 or 201 for authors. Don’t always count on your team of experts, inform yourself!

  • Jackie Barbosa June 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I’m honestly considering pitching a workshop for RWA in 2012 on reading your contract. I’m not an attorney or an agent, so I can hardly call mysefl an expert on contract law, but as far as explaining how you should go about the process of determining which contract clauses are a problem doesn’t seem to me to require legal training. It’s just–wow, does this mean what I think it means? Highlight. Ask someone who knows more than you.

    Although that might not be enough for an entire workshop.

    That said, I’d gladly pull out the contracts I’ve signed and walk through them, showing the areas where I had questions, and I think that could take a whole hour.

    Of course, I’d have to redact the names of the publishers…

  • led tv for sale July 7, 2011 at 1:53 am

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