Friday, January 28, 2011

Lesson 1: Any Fool Can Sign a Book Contract

Okay, so first you have to have one. But once you do, signing is easy.

Unless you want to understand what you are giving up and what you are receiving in exchange.

I have decided to dedicate my 2011 posts to book contracts. And yes, you'll have to wait an entire year to read all of them. So if you are fortunate enough to have a book contract in your hand, look for other resources.* Or if you have an agent, get the agent to explain the contract to you. But if you are still waiting for both an agent and a contract, these posts may help.

I'm not going to talk about specific clauses in this introductory post, but I will tell you what you'll get out of the series. AND what you won't.

These posts will not help you negotiate the perfect deal. Unless you are already a big name, you aren't likely to get many concessions out of your publisher. And some won't negotiate at all. Since a royalty publisher takes the financial risk in the enterprise, I don't blame them for wanting to get as much from the contract as they can.

So you may be able to use the information in upcoming posts to negotiate small changes, but don't count on even doing that.

Then why do you care what the contract says? If you're desperate to publish your book, maybe you don't. At least not at the time. But somewhere down the road it will matter. Like when a large house accepts your second book and then you discover that your earlier contract says you have to offer it to that publisher first. (More about these clauses in a later post.)

If you aren't quite desperate, you may want to know what the contract says before you sign it. Even if you can't negotiate, you can walk away.

So stay tuned for Book Contracts 101.

Kathryn Page Camp

*At the 2010 ACFW Conference, the Indiana chapter's own Cara Putman discussed book contracts in a session called "Author Law 101." You can purchase a downloadable MP3 file of that session at


  1. Wonderful, Kathryn--I'll look forward to your posts! And a year's pace is probably just about perfect for my brain to absorb the info.

    Meanwhile ... I have a question. I think you've answered it before, but now that I need the info I can't recall the answer. So, here it is: what are the "rules" on using excerpts from published authors on, say, this blog? Maybe 4-5 paragraphs to illustrate a point. Do I have to get permission? Also, what about using material posted on other people's blogs to use in this (Hoosier Ink) blog?


  2. Steph,

    That is NOT an easy question to answer. It's called fair use, and it depends on a number of factors. The quick and dirty answer for stuff used on this blog is that you can take a minimal amount and it CANNOT be the heart of the other person's work. There is no hard and fast rule on the amount, but if you are borrowing from a blog (which is short by nature), one or two sentences would probably be the maximum without permission.

    By the way, I'm going to be guest blogging on Lisa Lickel's Reflections blog in the latter part of February, and I'm going to do one of my posts on fair use, so you may want to check that out when it posts. (I'm not sure of the date at this point.) I think the web address is


  3. Thanks, as always, Kathryn. I look forward to your posts in the upcoming year.

    Speaking of Reflections in Hindsight, I'm now a regular contributor. My Hoosier Ink blog is up tomorrow, and I hope I'm not violating any fair use rules by using part of my own blog posted there this past week and posting it here. It generated quite a bit of discussion, and I would like to continue it here. Should I first get permission from someone (Lisa Lickel)?

    Thank you!

  4. JoAnn,

    Since you wrote it and contributed it without pay, you own the copyright. So if you want to reuse it, the only person you need permission from is yourself.


  5. Thanks for the answer, Kathryn. ;-)