How often have you heard of someone who knew someone who signed a book contract at a conference for their debut novel. They walked into the conference, pitched a story and signed on the dotted-line. It has happened,its rare, And I don’t recommend it unless… you and the publisher planned to do the signing at the conference, and you’ve had your agent, or a lawyer look over the contract.
Don’t misunderstand I’m not cautioning you because I think publishers are going to give you a terrible contract. Although some authors have told me their tales of woe from now defunct publishing houses. But the simple truth is:
You don’t know what you don’t know
I signed my first contract without an agent. I was so starry-eyed over being published. The contract was good, fair and pretty boilerplate for the industry. My second contract I had an agent. Here’s where I didn’t know what I didn’t know. He negotiated a few extra things I had no idea I was entitled too. He also perused the contract to be sure my rights could be easily returned if needed. Here’s a link to explain the parts of a contract. It reenforces my statement: you don’t know what you don’t know.
Read every word and ask questions
Are you aware publishers can withhold your first sales for ninety days before paying you? This is normal industry wide because book stores have a 90 day return option and they charage a restocking fee and it eventually can trickle down to the author needing to return royalties. Some publishers pay every quarter rather than monthly. Some insist that you must have a minimum sales dollar amount before you receive your royalty check. A few publishers i.e.… academic publishers only pay once a year.
Read every line and ask questions. If you haven’t read your contract carefully you’ll be anxious for no reason. Of course, a lawyer or an agent will know what kinds of questions to ask. Be sure you hire a contract lawyer familiar with book contracts. It’s worth the fee for peace of mind.
Talk to other authors
If a fellow-author is willing to share ask them about their contract experience. That will help you know what kinds of questions to ask.
It’s great PR to have your picture taken signing a contract at a conference. And if you’ve done your due diligence enjoy the spotlight.
Anyone care to share about their contract experience?
My latest contracted book comes out August 15th. Preorder link here.