Pub Rants

Reading That’s Not So Much Fun

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STATUS: Just finished the contract. That’s a way to end a Friday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? EVERY LITTLE THING SHE DOES IS MAGIC by The Police

And since I have contracts on the mind…

I pretty much have to say that a contract is agent reading that’s not so much fun. It’s slow and detailed work–even if you already have a boilerplate with the publishing house. You would think that an already-negotiated-boilerplate contract, even for a new client, would be a snap. Plug in the new items and away we go.

Nope. You still have to ascertain whether all your boilerplate items are included. Take today’s contract for example. I caught over 10 items that are normally included in my boilerplate for this house but were just missing in this contract draft.

And before you leap to any conclusions, I don’t think it’s the pub house being deliberately nefarious or anything. Chances are good that they used an older version boilerplate to create this draft instead of my most recent contract at the house which would include all of the most up-to-date clauses.

So even with boilerplates, every contract has to be viewed and negotiated like it’s the first time.

And I bring this up because some unagented authors do their own contract negotiations and if it’s time for a new contract to be generated for your next book, don’t just assume it will be exactly the same as your first. Don’t skim it. Read it just as carefully as your first. You might be surprised at what is missing.

12 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    I don’t have anything to really comment except, what happened to the print in your blog? I read your blog faithfully every day and it seems the last week the print is much smaller. At first I thought I was having eye trouble but I’ve noticed it all week. I don’t always read the comments so maybe someone has already mentioned it. Regardless, I’ll continue to read if I have to get glasses to do it! Thanks for all your good work.

  2. L.C.McCabe said:


    I was at a writers conference a few years ago and attended a session by a literary attorney whose topic was the Anatomy of a Book Contract. One anecdote I remember distinctly was the mention of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice did not review his book contract for his memoirs. He simply trusted that the publisher would do right by him.

    Of all people who would pen a book and sign a contract, a Supreme Court justice is someone I would have expected to go over it line by line. Then again, humans don’t always follow logical patterns and they surprise us with their actions.

    (Offhand I don’t know who the justice was, but that’s probably because names were not used. I’m a political junkie and I think I would have remembered otherwise.)

    I wanted to tell you that I discovered your blog yesterday and have enjoyed what I’ve read so far.

    Keep up the good work.

    Understanding how the publishing industry works is not something that can be accomplished in a day. In my own occupation, I try to gently educate others in the hopes of relieving them of unrealistic expectations from me.

    I see that kind of purpose behind the blogs from agents and feel that you and your colleagues who blog are doing a service for writers everywhere.


    Linda McCabe

  3. Kimber An said:

    Linda, Kristin does provide an excellent education in this business. Don’t forget to go back and read her archives.
    I’ll still refer back to them when I need to know something.

  4. Cyndi Drolet said:

    Anonymous 8:37: Do you use a mouse with a scroll wheel? If so, click somewhere on the blog page, then hold down the Control key while turning your scroll wheel. That will adjust the size of the type you see. Doesn’t work on Web pages where the Web master has designated unchangeable type size, but it works for the blog pages and a lot of other sites.

    Hmm… Hope you’re reading these comments since you don’t normally read them!

    Kristin: Thanks for all the great “insider” info!

  5. Anonymous said:

    Thank you Cyndi. I have been reading because I really hoped it was something with what I was doing. I wouldn’t want anything to be wrong with the blog. I love this blog and it really bothers my eyes to read it lately. Thanks for the tip, I’m going to try it now.

  6. Anonymous said:

    Cydi, again, my eyes thank you. I have a 1year old daughter who is now navigating the furniture and she’s contantly by me at my computer desk. She can just reach the keyboard. I think she may have put her little fingers on the ctrl. key as I was engrossed in one of the blogs. Amazing how they affect even the smallest part of our lives! Thanks again, Chris.

  7. C said:

    As to the Supreme Court justice–probably not. The Supreme Court justice knows that if it comes to litigation, he’s going to lose even if he wins. And if it doesn’t come to litigation, the Justice has a huge platform, and a publisher who screwed him wouldn’t get further books.

    It’s a perfectly rational response from someone who’s a big name. He has enough weight to throw around that he can trust that the details resolve themselves.

    The little people have more to worry about, because we have no leverage to do post-fact negotiation.

  8. Jackie said:

    I too, have learned so much from the archives and current blogs. The info on advances and the payouts was an eye opener.
    I have a related questions that could be of interest to others.
    Mr. Major Humungo author has not published a book with his own name on it for years. His name is prominently featured on the cover of a current book, with blurbs relating to his past super heroic seller books. On the bottom of the book cover are the words: Written by Author U. Donnotknow. How is the money split on that type of deal? Also a bit of speculation on why a Mr. Major Humungo author would do this type of deal? Please.

  9. Jane said:

    Just curious about the comment “unagented authors”. Is there such a thing? Seems like everything you read out there says it’s impossible to get published without having an agent.

  10. Anonymous said:

    I am an agentless children’s author. After reading this post, I went over my current (boiler plate) contract from a publisher I first worked with last summer. I compared it with last summer’s contract and they were exactly the same except for FIVE WORDS. But those 5 words make a difference! I’ve asked that they be removed from the contract.

    Thanks, Kristin! I don’t think I’d have been so thorough had I not read your post. I will be from now on.