Unless you have a background in dealing with contracts, they can be pretty daunting for writers. When my contract came through for my first trilogy it was 75 pages long, (25 pages for each book). Gaah. I was swamped. Luckily I had an agent and handed it over to him. Before this I’d been published with my children’s books and short stories and the contracts had been pretty straight forward.
I did have one experience where I signed a contract to deliver 6 children’s books, then the editor left the publishing house and the publisher reneged on the contract. In this case I contacted the Australian Society of Authors for advice. (This is where it pays to be a member of a professional body such as the ASA or your State Writers Centre. I’m a member of the Queensland Writers Centre. Here’s a list of their resources for writers).
The ASA was able to get me a ‘kill fee’ on the contract. Of course I would much rather have had the books to add to my CV, but the kill fee was certainly better than nothing.
As a member of the ASA you can take a look at their standard contracts. Non members can purchase these. There are also free how-to-guides for members, which can be purchased by non members. And while I’m talking about writers getting ahead the ASA offers several mentorships each year. This year’s mentorships are closed, but watch out for the program, when it opens. Working with a published author as you develop your book is a wonderful opportunity.
While we’re talking about opportunities there’s the QWC Allen & Unwin Development Program and the Hachette Manuscript Development Program. Both are closed for this year, but watch out for them next year. All of these are great ways to get your manuscript noticed by an editor, develop contacts and polish your writing.
Back to contracts, over on The Pitch University Blog lawyer, Jeffrey V Mhalic, analyses a contract and shows you what to beware of. This is where having an agent is great because they have experience in this field. I have one multi-published author friend who uses Alex Adsett’s services. Alex has experience in publishing and contracts. She will go over the contract for you.
So, if you get a contract, don’t feel overwhelmed, you have options.