Read the Contract

Outtakes 71

Read the Contract

by Cait Collins

I am appalled by the number of people who will affix their signatures to contracts and documents without reading them. Or if they read them, they do not understand all the terms. Instead of asking questions or requesting an attorney review the contract, they scribble their names on the dotted line. Bad move for anyone, but how does this impact a writer?

While I prefer to believe most people are honest in their business dealings, I know this is not always true. Think back a few years when writers would see an ad in a writers’ magazine representing a publisher. “Get your novel published today.” A friend of mine saw such an ad and gave me a copy. I followed the instructions and submitted my first novel. Several weeks passed before I received a letter of acceptance with the contract to follow. I was in heaven until I received the contract. Not only did I lose all my rights, I would be required to give first right of refusal to the publisher for all future works.  If I was unwilling to do the changes they requested, they would hire someone to do the rewrites. The real kicker was the “publisher” required me to pay $3,ooo.oo for the privilege of seeing my book in print. What a wake-up call! I keep that contract in my files to remind me to read the fine print.

Unfortunately there are unscrupulous agents, editors, publishers who prey on writers desperate to be published. They promise the moon, get the signed contract, but never follow through on the promises. How many promising authors have been burned and give up?  Trust your instincts. If you are uncomfortable with the submission requirements such as reader’s fees, or unreasonable time frames for response, back off. If after meeting an agent or editor, you have that funny feeling something’s not right, or you don’t click personality wise, make no promises. Request a business card and check out the agent or editor on predator websites or read references from other writers.

Reputable agents, editors, and publishers may present you with a good offer, but can you negotiate a better deal? What’s the harm in investigating the possibilities? And remember to ask questions. If you don’t understand clauses in the contract, have an intellectual properties, copyright, or literary attorney review the document. Remember this is a business. A few extra steps just might save you disappointment and problems in the long run.

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