Negotiation Step 3: Read the Contract

Step 1 to a successful negotiation is attitude: go in seeking a mutually beneficial solution.

Step 2 is know thy business, and the publisher’s business too.

Which brings us to Step 3: Read the Contract, and Understand Every Word.

I’m always surprised when an author approaches me with a publishing problem and then admits to not having read the contract before (s)he signed it. The offered reasons vary, but at the end of the day they’re unimportant. A contract signatory is legally responsible for knowing what the document contains.

Do not ever sign a contract – publishing or otherwise – unless you have read and understand it.

This probably frightens many of you. Most authors dont’ speak fluent legalese. Fortunately, you’re not alone. Websites like this one (and the Twitter #PubLaw hashtag) exist, in part, to help authors learn. An agent or a publishing lawyer can help you understand your contract language.

Understanding contract language is even more important for independent authors, who must be business-savvy as well as writing pros.

Starting this week, I’m the Thursday blogger at Chiseled in Rock, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog. My opening series there will take an “up close and personal” look at publishing contract language, with a focus on helping authors understand the legalese of the publishing world.

Join me tomorrow at Chiseled in Rock or leave your questions in the comments here – but whether you learn from me, your lawyer, your agent, or another reliable source, by all means learn. And read that contract. Your rights – and perhaps your career – depend upon it.