A Publisher's Conversation with Authors: What Does My Contract Mean and Should I Sign it? (paragraph 8 - purchase of services/hybrid contract)


It is Tuesday. Time to tall turkey. Monday's madness is over, and Wednesday will take us over the hump, so Tuesday it is--for some serious discussion with authors. Tuesday talks mean to address authors in waiting and self-published authors who would like to go a more traditional route or who would at least like to take their steps with a publisher by their side.

Today's topic addresses contracts -- what is a good one, what is a bad one, and what do the specialized terms actually mean? I will answer these questions in a series of posts, using, to start, our contracts, and will go through them paragraph by paragraph. Then, I will look at some other publishers' contracts for differing content. So far in this series, we have looked at paragraphs 1-7. Now we will look at paragrahs XX. At this point, it is important to know that all contracts differ, sometimes even those from the same publishing house, and numbers are not going to match. However, all contracts should have essentially th same content, regardless of the order in which it appears.

Paragraph 1 states what rights you are offering -- specifically and in detail. The next three paragraphs (2-4) spell out related understandings (copyright, warranty, permissions). Your contract may have a different ordering of paragraphs, but this information must be somewhere or should not sign the contract. Following these two sections (or somewhere in your contract) will be three (or fewer or more) paragraphs that contain details about the book's production. After that will come infromation and agreements about purchase of services. 

Purchase of Services generally refers to a hybrid contract, not to traditional publication. Self-publishing support services contracts (vanity presses) will look different from hybrid contracts and generally everything is paid by the author. This is not the case with hybrid contracts. Authors pay a portion of the expenses (academic presses sometimes do something similar with subsidized publications) and receive a greater percentage of the revenue. The following services are typically included in hybrid contracts:

Editorial Services

  • The cost for these should include editing the original manuscript, copyediting the edited final manuscript, and proofreading the galleys. 
  • These fees will generally not include developmental editing; it is expected that any help with manuscript writing will have been taken care of ahead of time. 
  • Ranges for editing fees can be googled online. They vary over time, and they vary by editor.

Production Services

  • Production costs generally include typesetting, preparing galleys, cover design, preparation of texts for printing, and any other kinds of graphic work expected -- and negotiated.
  • The range of fees for production services can be googled online; there can be a very large range. 

Art and Illustration

  • There are options for artwork:
    • Author provides the artwork.
    • Publisher provides part or all of the artwork.
    • Artwork is acquired from a stock agency or other readymade source.
  • If the author is submitting the artwork, there will be specs that must be followed, but there should be no cost. If the publisher is doing the artwork, then cost can be considerable and will be negotiated, depending upon the kind of artwork.   

Promotion and Marketing

  • There are as many variations on this as there are publishers.
  • With hybrid publication, publishers may 
    • provide a certain amount of promotion and marketing for a specific fee upfront; 
    • share costs of various marketing and production activities;
    • expect the author to do all the promotion and marketing; and/or 
    • some variation and/or combination of these options.

The bottom line is that you live well or suffer by your contract. The terms are difficult to understand sometimes but understand them you must. Take them to an intellectual property rights lawyer if you do not understand them; it is worth the money.  

Lesson for today's Tuesday talk: Many aspects of editorial, production, art, and marketing services are negotiable. Ask. 

Read more posts about publishing HERE.

The Tuesday talks reflect real discussions between the management of MSI Press LLC and our own authors or those would-be authors who come through our doors but don't make the cut--yet. If you have a topic you would like addressed, leave the question in the comment section. Chances are, in our 18 years of publishing first-time and experiences authors, we have had a conversation with one of our authors that we can share with you.

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