books & blog > Book Contract:

The Author's and Artist's Guide To The Book Contract:

Demystifying the publisher's agreement and the economics of book publishing

White Paper. 37 pgs (PDF - 225 kb).
Thomas Bachand ©2011

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  • Don't fully understand your book contract?
  • Confused by royalty schedules and advances and how they are calculated?
  • Unclear on the publishing process?

By explaining the publisher's agreement in lay person's terms, this comprehensive review of the book contract allows authors, writers, and artists to more fully understand the book publishing business. Both the publishing process and the economics of publishing are reviewed, including royalties and advances and how they are derived. The key sections of the typical book contract are thoroughly explained in plain English.

Empowering authors and artists with this knowledge will allow for more focused and successful book proposals, informed and substantive discussions with agents, attorneys, and editors, and effective and successful negotiations with publishers.

While this is not a substitute for legal advice, it will help you better understand it when you get it.

Table of Contents


  • This Is Not A Substitute For Legal Advice2
  • Understanding The Other Side3
  • The Author's Viewpoint4
  • The Discussion4
  • A Note On Editing A Contract5

A Publishing Primer

  • A Brief Overview Of The Publishing Process7
  • The Economics Of Book Publishing9

Anatomy Of The Publishing Agreement

  • Agreement16
  • Manuscript Delivery16
  • Failure To Deliver And Unacceptable Delivery18
  • Edits19
  • Revisions19
  • Publication20
  • Copyright21
  • Publication Rights21
  • Royalties23
  • Advance26
  • Grants29
  • Complimentary And Promotional Copies29
  • Competing Works30
  • Publicity31
  • Option On Future Work31
  • Author's Warranties And Indemnity32
  • Termination (Out-Of-Print)32
  • Governing Law And Other Fine Print33
  • Addendum: Format Of Delivery33



To many authors and artists, simply getting a book contract is seen as an accomplishment in and of itself. Many though, do not understand the contract they sign. It is a paradox of the publishing business that the party bringing the most value to the enterprise understands so little about the basic transaction underpinning the business.

The rise of the Internet has only raised the stakes for content providers. As barriers to publishing come down and digital content becomes easily accessible worldwide, avenues for publishing, both print and web, have exploded. Individual authors have more options than ever to share their creative work worldwide, yet their ability to partner with publishers has become more constrained as publishers seek to exploit the same digital opportunities.

It is upon intellectual property rights that the publishing industry relies. In this competitive global publishing environment, publishers require greater exclusivity when securing rights to publish, whether in print or online. A careful reading of the contract reveals a publisher's intentions, anxieties and concerns, an author's obligations and liabilities, business strategies, revenue sources, hidden expenses, workflows, schedules, and more.

It is no longer sufficient to be a competent writer and leave the business details to others. In this age of global publishing, an understanding of the business landscape is a prerequisite to maintaining control of one's work. Publishers seek proactive and knowledgeable partners capable of expediting production and extending marketing and distribution efforts. By understanding the contract, the author opens the door to substantive discussions with attorneys, agents, and editors and conveys a level of professionalism required in today's highly competitive publishing environment.

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