Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Rare Look At Contract Details

A great deal of publishing has a public face where the details are easily known about different aspects. There is also a rarely seen part of book publishing and that's the book contract.

Several times, I've been privileged to write a couple of books which garnered a six-figure advance. One of my book proposals with a six-figure advance appears in the appendix of Book Proposals That Sell.

When you receive a book contract from a major publishing house, it can be daunting. Often these contracts are about 18–20 legal-sized pages of legalese. No wonder people turn to literary attorneys when they receive such an agreement. The parties to the agreement (the publisher and the author) sign the arrangement then tuck it away in their files. It's not a public record for other people to read it or see how it even looks--normally.

Last year, I moderated a panel on contracts at the American Society of Journalists and Author meetings. One of the panelists brought a handout of the Random House Joan Collins contract from the pre-computer days. I posted it (follow this link) because the contract is in the public domain. You can see the cross-outs and how it appears.

Now because of another legal matter, you can see an actual Regan Books/ HarperCollins contract. It’s complete with the signatures and everything. The Media Bistro Blog posted an article about the cancelled OJ Simpson book. Because the contract went into a public court document, Media Bistro posted this agreement and you can see it from a link in the article. If you scan through it, as I did, you will notice the writer was paid $125,000. Many have discussed the inappropriate nature of this book and celebrated when it was cancelled--and I agree.

My point in this entry is to show you something rarely seen--a recent, signed full-length, complex book publishing agreement.

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