Home Forums Writer’s FAQ What do I need to know about signing a publishing contract?

This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Carolyn Juricskay 2 years, 11 months ago.

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    Carolyn Juricskay

    I’ve just been offered my first publishing contract for a YA fiction (first in a series) – HUZZAH!!! Where can I get advice regarding what things to look out for? How can I get educated about this whole new world called the publishing industry?


    Peter M. Ball

    First, congratulations. Getting an offer is awesome news.

    Second, before you do anything else, get someone who understands publishing contracts to look at the contract and tell you what each clause means. This can be a contract lawyer (Arts Law Australia is a good starting point), an agent (the Australian Literary Agents association includes members who offer contract advice), or a consultant such as the ASA Contract Assessment or Alex Adsett Publishing Services (Disclaimer: Alex Adsett is a board member of Queensland Writers Centre, the organisation that runs the Australian Writers Marketplace).

    Your contract is an area where it’s worth spending money up-front and bringing in someone who truly knows what they’re doing – there are so many variables in publishing contracts, so many clauses that can come back to haunt you, that it really is time to stop thinking of yourself as a writer and to start thinking of yourself as a small business owner about about to engage in a partnership with another business.

    The best advice with any contract: take your time; Be sure; Know what you’re getting in to, so there’s no surprises.

    I usually advocate getting a grounding in standard publishing practices, even if you’re taking my advice above and hiring a specialist to take a closer look. I’d start with a quick review of the resources on Writer Beware which cover the warning signs when dealing with a publisher, then familiarize myself with some of the standard publishing contracts and expectations available via the Australian Society of Authors. Then contact your local State Writers Centre to see if they’ve got any upcoming courses or advice about contracts, copyright and the business of publishing.

    This post introduces some of the major red flags to watch out for and I’ve personally used Kristine Rusch’s Deal Breakers to scout out some potential problems when signing contracts as a writer, but also be aware that publishing is changing fast. What was considered a deal breaker in 2013 may be different today, as publishing figures out different ways of using ebooks and digital spaces.

    Similarly, both those resources are aimed at American writers, and the idea of a deal breaker may be different in Australia


    Carolyn Juricskay

    Excellent advice, thanks for being so prompt and thorough! I’m getting started right now…

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