Good practice in publisher-author contracts
This list summarizes the main points from the
1. The publishing contract must be clear, unambiguous and comprehensive, and must be honoured in both the letter and the spirit.
The contract should include:
(i) Title, nature and agreed length of the work.
(ii) Who retains copyright, author or publisher - and for which areas, languages and types of publishing.
(iii) Schedule for manuscript completion, and for publication.
(iv) Details of payments, royalties and advances.
(v) Provisions for sub-licensing.
(vi) Responsibility for preparing index, illustrations etc., and for obtaining and paying for permission to use copyright material.
(vii) Situations in which the contract would terminate, with all rights reverting to the author.
2. The author should retain ownership of the copyright, unless there are good reasons otherwise.
3. The publisher should ensure that an author
who is not professionally represented has a proper opportunity
for explanation of the terms of the contract and the reasons for each provision.
4. The contract must set out reasonable and precise terms for the reversion of rights.
5. The publisher must give the author a proper opportunity to share in the success of the work.
6. The publisher must handle manuscripts promptly, and keep the author informed of progress.
7. The publisher must not cancel a contract
without good and proper reason.
(Change of circumstance would not in itself be a sufficient reason to end the contract without any compensation.)
8. The contract must set out the anticipated timetable for publication.
9. The publisher should be willing to share legal risks not arising from carelessness by the author.
10. The publisher should consider assisting the
author by funding additional costs involved in preparing the work for
11. The publisher must ensure that the author receives a regular and clear account of sales made and money due.
12. The publisher must ensure that the author can clearly see how any payments due from sub-licensing agreements will be calculated.
13. The publisher should keep the author informed of important design, promotion, marketing and sub-licensing decisions.
14. The integrity of the author's work should
always be protected.
of the significance attaching to the option clause in a publishing contract.
(This relates to the author giving the publisher first option on his or her next book.)
17. The publisher should recognise that the
remaindering of stock
(i.e. selling off remaining stock of a poorly-selling title at a low price)
may effectively end the author's expectation of earnings.
and of any changes in the imprint under which a work appears.
20. Above all, the publisher must recognise the
importance of cooperation with the author in an enterprise in which both are
This relationship can be fulfilled only in an atmosphere of confidence,
in which authors get the fullest possible credit for their work and achievements.