Best Tips for Negotiating a Contract with Book Publishers

Like most legally binding agreements, you can expect to find more than a few complex legal terms when reading through a contract for a book deal. That’s why some authors hire attorneys to handle the contract negotiation process on their behalf, while other authors prefer pairing up with literary agents. However, many authors choose to walk the negotiation journey alone.

Whichever approach you choose, be sure to read and understand the contract before signing on the dotted line. Otherwise, you might find yourself locked in an unfavorable deal. At that point, it will be too late to renegotiate the terms or employ any of the following contract negotiation training advice.

Employ Win-Win Bargaining Techniques

Deception is among the unethical practices that define hard negotiation techniques. Although hard bargaining can be used to secure a deal, it often results in a win-lose or lose-lose outcome. That’s why expert negotiation trainers advise against using hard bargaining tactics during discussions.

Below are some of the most effective win-win strategies to use during book deal talks:

Adding Clarifiers to the Book Contract

A well-formulated book deal takes care of the interests of all involved. However, it’s common for publishers to draft a contract that favors them. If you’re not careful, you might end up signing a biased agreement that favors the publishing house alone.

For instance, the book agreement might state that you’ll receive 50% of the total amount earned from eBooks. If you thumbed through the contract and only did a quick glance of this clause, you might miss the clause’s vagueness and ambiguity. Does it mean you’ll receive 50% of the gross, or 50% of the net?

Adding clarifiers helps to lift away ambiguity from a book contract. In the above example, the clause would be clearer if rephrased to, “You will receive 50% of the net amount earned from eBooks.” That way, you’ll know what to expect and can command favorable terms for your book deal.

Note the Unsaid Words

Train yourself to scrutinize your book deal for missing information and to seek clarification. For instance, the publisher may omit finer details about how they will market your book.

If you sign the agreement, it could mean you’ll need to coordinate your own marketing drive—and round up the cash for it, too. So, be sure to pore over the contract to find what isn’t being said, and request additions if you need them.

Use Win-Win Stratagems to Secure Better Terms

Win-win stratagems are often phrased conditionally: If the publisher does A, then the author will do B. For example, you might decide to forfeit a certain percentage of your royalties to convince the book publisher to market to a specific audience.

Given that publishers use analytics, have insider knowledge, and use a variety of promotional tools, their marketing efforts are often successful. For both author and publisher, this would be a win-win outcome.

Hire a Contract Negotiator

While some authors want to go it alone, it pays to consider hiring a professional negotiation consultant. In the book publishing industry, you can choose to work with a  intellectual property rights lawyer or a literary agent. Most agents work on commission, which is often a specific percentage of your royalties. Attorneys will likely request to be paid per hour worked.

Although hiring a professional negotiator can be costly, their expert advice can help you command better book contract terms. Further, trained negotiators can easily manage a chaotic discussion and prevent a no-win outcome.

It’s also essential to avoid spending on substandard services. Remember to research the negotiator’s level of knowledge and expertise—a skilled negotiator provides better services.

Do Your Homework

Just like a school assignment, doing your homework when it comes to negotiating effective contracts can be strenuous but also rewarding. When you put in the time and effort, you can enter book contract talks armed with information that can guide your approach.

With that in mind, ensure you come equipped with knowledge of the:

    • Deal breakers (agreement terms that hinder your goals)
    • Pressure points
    • Wants from the publisher, as well as your own
    • Goals you can bend on for the sake of the contract

Wrapping Up

These days, authors approaching smaller but legit publishers can successfully negotiate a book deal without hiring an agent. If you decide to negotiate alone, here are two additional tips for you:

    • Join a writers’ group or association. The purpose of joining an association is to help you research publishers. Seek out the experiences of other writers on publishers. Aim to confirm the publishers you might work with are kosher and favored.
    • Get familiar with contract law. Although intellectual property and copyright law can be challenging to wrap your head around, make an effort to learn the basics. Most importantly, understand your rights as an author and how to protect them to avoid falling for a raw deal.

Negotiating a Book Contract

About John Kremer

John Kremer is author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, the Relationships Matter Marketing program, and many other books and reports on book marketing, Internet marketing, social media, and book publicity. -- .

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