What is a publishing contract?
A publishing contract is a legal and binding agreement between an author, an agent, and a publishing house. Occasionally, yet rarely, it is also between the publishing house and the author only.
A book publishing contract defines the details of the publishing agreement.
This agreement includes future royalties, advance payments, author grants, the publisher's rights, and more. Your book publishing contract comes after a book proposal template, and the publishing house or agent has agreed to represent the author.
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Why you need a book publishing contract
A book publishing contract is an absolute must for any author, whether you're a first-time author or a seasoned professional. The entire agreement is signed by all parties involved.
It clearly states what the publisher agrees to do for the author and what will happen if the publisher fails.
Your entire agreement constitutes of the rights granted, the publisher's cost (if any), and defines the governing law of the contract. It's a must-have legal document if an author wants to control their work and have a clear overview of what they can expect to happen in the future.
Your publishing contract typically comes with a proofreading contract and any other agreement the publisher deems necessary to get your work to market successfully.
What should be included in a book publishing contract template
Legal advice can be overwhelming when it comes to book publishing. There's a lot of information out there. However, our legal experts have designed a contract template you can adapt to your own publishing needs.
If you're looking to build your own contract from scratch, then the following clauses are must-haves in your book publishing agreement. They include everything the publisher agrees to, the rights granted to the publisher, any third parties needed, and more.
Detailed descriptions of the work and parties involved
Here you'll want to outline the book itself, including word count, topic, and publishing date. You'll also want to include descriptions of the work involved to get the book published, including cover design, editing & proofreading, formatting, and any third parties involved to make the book happen.
Schedules and dates
There's so much more than just a release date for book publishing. Here, you'll want to include draft dates for the completed manuscript, book sales goals and milestones, when you will deliver a sample chapter if you haven't done so already, electronic book publishing dates, and any press events the publisher may deem necessary. For example, the author may need to run a publicity tour.
Pay royalties are critical for any author. The payment details are complicated when it comes to book publishing; this section looks at the payment you'll receive for creating the book.
- How much will the publishing house offer, either as a lump sum or monthly, to support you in getting the completed manuscript?
- Will you be supported financially for anything else that will enable your research for the book? Consider travel costs, coworking spaces, writer's retreats, anything that will help you finish your work.
Advance and royalties
This clause is an extension of your payment details. It's important that you take the time to plan who gets what percent of the sales profits for your work.
The agent often does this on the author's behalf; however, such circumstances are not always necessary if the author knows exactly what they want. Advances and royalties largely depend on if you're an unknown author or already have work out there that's selling well.
Copyright clauses for book publishing need the author's approval before anything happens. This includes:
- the trade paperback
- the trade hardcover
- the ebook version
All of which are treated as separate products.
Your publishing agreement needs to outline who owns the rights to the book once it's in the public domain. Plus, who owns anything the evolves from your story, like films, radio shows, or television series.
This book contract clause should also cover actions involving plagiarism, should your copyright ownership be jeopardized once the book is live. Make sure you register copyright claims for your ideas/plot, as well as the book itself.
Your book research may require travel. It's important this is expressly granted by your agent and publishing house in order for you to complete your manuscript.
Map out the places of interest you'll need to visit and how you plan about going there. Plus, if you're going on tour with your published book, this type of travel should also be included here.
When are you planning to deliver new chapters of your manuscript, and when will the complete manuscript be ready for print? Plot the timeline of the book creation here so all parties can align on the dates of your publishing agreement.
Advertising and promotion
There are so many ways to advertise your book. A few of these include:
- Paid advertisements
- Book tours
- Podcast appearances
- Guest blogs and listicle placements
- Radio interviews & breakfast shows
However your publishing house chooses to promote the book, this should be outlined clearly in this clause.
Termination of contract
There are occasions when the publishing contract may need to be terminated. This is because the author has done something to damage their publication relationship or has failed to meet the terms of the contract.
In this case, the publishing house or agent may need to terminate the contract.
Outline the process for this. Specify if the author retains rights to their work and what happens to anything created for the publication that's no longer usable.
The last section of your contract is for anything specific to this agreement. This can include an overview of book sequels or any further similar agreements governing under the same law that the author has pending with the publishing house or agent.
The subject matter of this clause can change depending on who initiates the contract in the first place.
Simple publishing contract template
As the sole creator of your work, you'll want to ensure subsidiary rights, payment details, and your delivered material all work in your favor. No matter if this is your first publication or you've been selling for years, this publishing template will help ensure you're in the best position possible to go to market with your work.
What's the benefit of using Bonsai instead of editing a template yourself?
All Bonsai contracts are legally vetted and accessible in just a few clicks. You can send your contract online for signing and know that it's still legally binding.
When you use Bonsai, you don't just get access to this template but all related templates, ensuring the future of your publication is looked after across the board.
How to create a book publishing contract template with Bonsai
Simple, this can be done in a few steps.
- Sign up for Bonsai and get access to the resources you're looking
- Select your book publishing template and make any edits needed
- Submit your contract via Bonsai, track when someone has viewed and signed it
Book publishing contract FAQs
A few questions we regularly see from publishing authors are:
How much do you get paid if you publish a book?
This largely depends on if you're self-publishing or publishing through a publishing house. If self-publishing, you can make anywhere between 40-65% in royalties. However, you'll need to pay more for expenses like promotional campaigns, book printing, and delivery costs.
When going through a publishing house, you'll typically make 10-15% in royalties.
How do book publishing contracts work?
Publishing contracts work by aligning the agent, the author, and the publishing house on the legal conditions of publishing the author's work. These contracts come after a book proposal has been accepted, and all parties agree to bring the work to market.