Book contracts can be immensely complicated. (We would never suggest that the lawyers drafting them make them that way to prevent anyone reading them, them being lawyers and all.) We can give only general pointers here and in the the main advice section. And please send us your accounts of successful negotiations.
- Possibly the most crucial thing in negotiating a licence to publish a work as a book is defining the limits on that licence: what territories does it cover, for example? See examples of common combinations of territories for English-language works.
- The rates are suggested as minima from which freelances will negotiate upward according to their experience and specialist knowledge and the value of the work.
- The rates for shifts do not include paid time off.
- Freelances who are registered for VAT will add it to every invoice.
- It is very, very important to check the detail of book contracts. In particular, authors should beware of the enormous difference between royalties paid on cover price and those on net receipts: see the advice section for more detail. Members of the National Union of Journalists (and those of the Society of Authors) can get contracts checked professionally.
- Writers considering book contracts should beware of indemnity clauses. Many contracts are lawyers' laundry lists that include both:
- a "waiver of the moral right to defend the integrity of the work" - in English, that is granting the publisher the right to change it at will; and
- a clause making the writer "indemnify" the publisher against any legal action - in English, that means that if they change the work to libel someone, or lift a whopping copyright violation and drop it into the middle of the work, they want you to pay for the court-case. Or, for that matter, if they inserted a claim that Amanita Muscaria is good to eat and a small village was wiped out as a result... they would want you to be liable.
all statements in the Work purporting to be factual are true to the best of the Author's knowledge having undertaken proper and diligent research with respect heretoAnd one writer managed to get a contractual agreement that the facts in their book were, to the best of their professional ability,
true for the purposes of the National CurriculumSee the section Indemnities - challenge them and get insurance
- Another trap for authors to beware is the "no competing works" clause - in many ways worse than a copyright grab. Such clauses may claim to stop the author writing on the same subject for any other publisher, ever.
- There is more to authorship than writing. Writing is only part of the job. Authors will have to check proofs, obtain licences to use any images, write captions and correct mistakes introduced by an editor who has just arrived from the Planet Gymkhana and knows nothing of the subject.
- Authors should not waive moral rights: apart from the general considerations of their honour and reputation, they are invaluable in arguing with said Gymkhanan.
- Authors of technical or children's books negotiating with publishers who insist on a flat fee argue for advance agreement that they will receive extra payment if proof checking takes an inordinate amount of time on account of said Gymkhanan.
- Authors must INSIST that it is agreed in advance that YOU WILL SEE PROOFS before the bok goes to press.
Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. The collection (database right) © National Union of Journalists. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org please. You may find the glossary helpful.
The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.
Suggestions apply to contracts governed by UK law only. In any event, nothing here should be construed as legal advice.