This post, by Alex Adsett, originally appeared on Writers Victoria on 12/13/13. Note that while the author is Australian and what she covers here are standard publishing contract terms from Australian publishers, much of what’s there matches the standard boilerplate in an American commercial publishing contract as well. It’s a particularly noteworthy read for anyone who intends to sell foreign publishing rights.
I often have authors approach me for publishing contract advice with the almost sheepish disclaimer “this looks pretty standard”, with the usual follow up, “so it will probably be alright”.
I always want to ask, “how do you know?”, and unless you are an author who has done their research or published before, do not just trust that every publisher will send a contract that complies with industry norms. Even if the publisher tells you it is a standard contract, they (a) might be fibbing, but also (b) might be wrong. Just because it is perhaps that publisher’s everyday contract, does not mean it is in accordance with the broad industry standards that authors should expect to receive.
I am not blaming the publishers (except the fibbing ones) as many operate within their own bubble, and even if they wanted to, government regulations frown on any commercial competitors getting together to set commercial terms. So here are some of the key “standards” that are broadly accepted as the base commercial terms across the Australian publishing industry, and what every author should know before negotiating their publishing contract:
– 10% RRP print royalty. It is standard for the publisher to pay 10% royalty based on recommended retail price (Note: RRP is very different to net receipts) on all print editions (including the subsequent paperback edition that will go on to backlist for decades).