Thursday, 6 February 2014

Contractual matters

Receiving your first publishing contract is an exciting moment for any debut author. Especially if, like me, you’ve dreamed about having a book published for most of your life.

But it’s also a time to be pragmatic. Much as you may wish to sign the thing immediately with a flourish of your quill pen, it’s important to rein in your artistic urges and make sure you have a fair and reasonable publishing deal.

The one I received for Hocus Pocus Diplodocus was remarkably straightforward and seemed fine to my untrained eye. However, I knew expert help was at hand in the shape of The Society of Authors and its free contract vetting service for new members. And, as a writer with a publishing contract offer, I qualified for membership.

I duly paid the membership fees and sent in my contract in for checking. The service was fabulous. Very promptly I received an email outlining some ways to make the contract more comprehensive and suggesting a few amendments.

I nervously fed these comments back to my publisher, hoping they would not precipitate an immediate rejection of my book. Thankfully, they were extremely graciously received, and the publisher was very amenable to altering the contract. They explained why they couldn’t alter some parts of the wording, but were every happy to go along with many of the Society’s suggestions.

I went back to the Society with the revised contract and spoke directly to one of their contract experts, who suggested a few further tweaks. These were made and, within a day, I signed a final version of the contract that everyone was happy with.

Without an agent on my side, I found it extremely reassuring to have an expert check through my contract. It also meant I could go back to the publisher with recommendations from an experienced third party, which added considerable weight to my requests for changes – and also distanced me slightly from what might have been awkward negotiations.  

But best of all, I was now a paid-up member of the Society of Authors. What prestigious company I was in! I felt like adorning my membership card with flashing lights and fixing it to my hat.

Mercifully for the world at large, I have no aptitude for electronics and almost never wear a hat.


  1. This was exactly my experience, when I sold my first book before I got an agent. They were so professional and reassuring. On their advice, I got several rights percentages bumped up and, when my book was sold in Brazil, got a higher cut of the advance. They're brilliant. Good luck with your book!

  2. Thanks for your comment Jane. It's great to hear they supported you so successfully. Congratulations on your overseas success too!