How To Read A Publishing Contract

This post, by Stroppy Author Anne Rooney, originally appeared on Stroppy Author’s Guide to Publishing.

So, you’ve got a contract – congratulations. Now it’s time to argue about it. Here is the whole series of posts on how to read a publishing contract. The series works through one of my publishing contracts, clause by clause, explaining what it means and what you should argue about. You can see it as a series of lessons in how to be stroppy, or in how to protect your professional and financial interests.

Every so often, I’ve included a clause from a different contract. This means we can cover mutually exclusive positions, such writing for royalty and writing for a fixed fee. It might be useful to work through your contract comparing it with this one. Yours may be very different, but a lot of the same issues will be covered.

Don’t assume your contract is non-negotiable. And don’t be so pathetically grateful the want to publish your book that you accept any outrageous terms they offer you. Publishing is a business and no matter how friendly and reassuring your editor, they want to make as much money out of the deal as they can.

Don’t take any notice of arguments like ‘we never use that clause’. If they don’t use it, it doesn’t need to be there. If ‘it’s just the standard contract’ you say that’s fine as a starting point but now you are going to make it suitable to you and your book. If they say ‘no one has ever objected before’ that means either they’re lying or no one has read the contract properly and taken a professional approach. So  – put your angry eyes in and let’s look at that contract!

Introduction to the series and preamble to the contract

Delivery of the manuscript




Read the rest of the post, which includes links to posts that cover over 20 more contract sections, on Stroppy Author’s Guide to Publishing. 

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