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Re: Digest for - 1 Message in 1 Topic Lisa Macklin 4/27/12 10:09 AM
I agree with Chris that unless you are legally competent in contract law, copyright law and understand royalty structures, you may be doing more harm than good by trying to advise your faculty on book contracts.  In my experience, book contracts are more complex and varied than journal author agreements.  Also, the template book contract offered by most publishers often does a great disservice to the faculty author.  An experienced agent can provide the expertise and negotiating power to adequately represent the faculty author.

The other option if General Counsel's office, although most will not advise on book contracts because universities do not claim copyright in the books of their faculty.  


Lisa A. Macklin, MLS, JD
Director, Intellectual Property Rights Office of the
Emory University Libraries
Woodruff Library
540 Asbury Circle
Atlanta, GA 30322

    "Chris Aldrich" <> Apr 26 12:51PM -0700  

    I’ve done a bit of book representation over the years, but some of the peculiarities will depend on what types of books they’re approaching you about and what their particular desires are for the future of their book publishing careers.

    Typically if they’ve been approached directly by a publisher and have been given a “standard” contract, then everything in it is very heavily negotiable and they really should retain either an agent or attorney who specializes in this type of work, otherwise, in my experience, they typically sign the dummy contract and end up with a scant fraction of what they should get. This can be particularly onerous as the publishing business is shifting heavily now and having a reversion of rights in the future can be very beneficial. They also generally forego their right to shop the work around to others which can be difficult for a first time writer to do.

    If they’re highly motivated to create a career in publishing at this level, I’d generally recommend getting an agent, which isn’t too difficult since the agent won’t really have to “sell” their first work, and will only need to negotiate the deal on their behalf. (In cases like these, I’d recommend that they have the agent cut their agency fee in half for the limited amount of work involved.) Building a relationship like this is always much easier than seeking out representation since they’ll have an immediate track record for at least the one sale.

    If they’re reticent to pay a full agent fee and this may be their only publishing foray, then retaining an attorney (typically 5% of sale) can be very worthwhile, simple and straightforward. At minimum you want an IP or entertainment-related attorney, but preferably one with experience in the publishing arena.

    There are dozens of easily found worthwhile references for hunting down agents and attorneys (keeping in mind that you’d prefer to have one who specializes in their particular niche of writing/work). Generally I recommend people stay away from reading some of the cruft online about intellectual property rights as this generally only inflames issues in much contract work which really isn’t relevant and which most publishers are loathe to paper anyway (and particularly so for more academic related works) and won’t directly affect their outcome at all.

    Often simply having a competent/known agent/attorney will result in the publisher dumping their “dummy contract” for something twice as good without needing to negotiate at all.

    Keep in mind that though they may have an offer from one publisher, it certainly doesn’t prevent them from shopping their work around to others or even deciding to retain their own publicist, typesetter, etc. and self-publishing or even electronic publishing which can in many cases be more lucrative these days.



    From: [] On Behalf Of Sarah Shreeves
    Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 9:34 AM
    Subject: Advice on book contracts

    Hi all -

    I'm having an increasing number of graduate students and faculty come to me seeking advice on what to look for in contracts for books and edited books. I provide this kind of consulting regularly for journal copyright transfer and license agreements (at a fairly high level given the legal issues), but I don't have as much experience with the issues to look for within book contracts. I feel like there's a generally understood set of issues related to journal agreements, but not for books - at least not discussed within the library community.

    I thought I'd ask this community since many are focused on book publishing. Any thoughts?




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