Understanding Publishing Contracts

Navigating the world of publishing can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to understanding publishing contracts. Whether you’re considering self-publishing or going the traditional route, it’s crucial to grasp the key elements of each type of contract to make informed decisions.

Self-Publishing Contracts

Self-publishing offers authors greater control and higher royalty rates, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. A self-publishing contract typically outlines the relationship between the author and the self-publishing platform. Key points to look for include:

  1. Royalties: Self-publishing platforms often offer higher royalties, and a good ‘publishing house’ will allow you to keep all of your royalties but some offer up to 70-80% of the sales price. Ensure you understand how and when these royalties are paid. When publishing on Amazon or Ingram Spark you will gain all your royalties less printing and posting costs.
  2. Rights: Check the contract for terms regarding the rights you retain. Most self-publishing contracts allow authors to keep the majority of their rights, but it’s important to confirm this.
  3. Distribution: Understand where and how your book will be distributed. This could include online retailers, physical bookstores, and international markets. For example, we publish through Amazon and also make sure your book is listed in Waterstones and Foyles online websites too.

Traditional Publishing Contracts

Traditional publishing contracts are generally more complex, involving more parties and a broader range of rights. Key aspects include:

  1. Advance and Royalties: Traditional publishers often provide an advance against royalties, which is a lump sum paid upfront. Royalties are then paid based on sales, but only after the advance is “earned out.” The other way they do it, is to base it purely on sales without an advanced payout, but it means you earn from book sales from the start.
  2. Rights and Licensing: These contracts usually involve the transfer of multiple rights, including print, digital, audio, and foreign rights. Ensure you understand what rights you are giving away and the terms for their reversion.
  3. Marketing and Distribution: Traditional large well known publishing houses typically handle marketing and distribution, which can be a significant advantage. Understand what marketing efforts will be made on your behalf and any costs you might incur. However smaller traditional publishing houses may require you to have a good following before this, which is common place.

Both self-publishing and traditional publishing contracts have their pros and cons. Self-publishing offers more control and higher royalties. Traditional publishing provides professional support and no upfront fees, but often at the cost of higher rights transfer and lower royalties. Carefully reviewing and understanding these contracts can help you choose the best path for your book’s success.

Sharon Brown

Founder - The Book Chief