Publishing contracts

Clark’s publishing agreement is the bible for putting together an author contract. Contracts protect both the publisher and the author.

Publisher issues and determines the terms of contract because they take financial  risk (unless you’re Stephen King and have more say). The author provides expertise, an index (in academic publishing), and the material. There is a symbiotic relationship between author and publisher. Both parties can terminate depending on certain conditions.

Bluemoose Books (trade) contracts and those at MUP (academic) are very different. In the Bluemoose ones, there is no legal terminology, everything is written clearly – they can be more author-centric as a small publisher.

In a MUP contract, here are a couple of the important clauses:

  • Form and content clause – most important one in the contract, in 80% of cases could use this to cancel the contract because authors very rarely deliver on time
  • Delivery and acceptance of work clause – more detail about first clause and explains terms on which the MS will be accepted
  • Typescript and proofs – how these will be sent, usually sent by email nowadays, don’t actually want hardcopy nowadays
  • The publisher promises publication within “reasonable promptitude” (in case something comes up) and within their “entire control” (the author will get consulted but the final say belongs to the publisher)
  • Rights granted – “any digital form” covers any future new digital formats
  • Copyright notice and moral right – the publisher has rights to publish in this form. Copyright lasts 70 years after death of author.
  • Author warranty and indemnity – e.g in case of plagiarism on the part of the author
  • Payments to the author – Advance is advance money of future royalties, usually given in three stages (when you sign the contract, when you deliver the MS, and when it gets published). Royalties are based on the invoice, not the list price.
  • Accounts – authors gets paid once a year if more than £75 (if low sales, especially for monographs, this can mean not getting paid for years)
  • Subsidiary rights – this gives the publisher the rights to do these things . Other publishers can buy the rights off you.
  • Author’s copies – Frees are any copies you’re not selling
  • Competing works – the author can’t produce something that competes with the work without the publisher’s consent
  • Revisited edition – which basically says that when market conditions determine the title needs new edition, then let’s do one together, and if you don’t want to do one, we will work out the terms with you and other person
  • Remaindering – passing the book on to shops like The Works
  • Out of print
  • Illustrations – how many there is impacts on cost
  • Option on future work – the publisher gets first look at new works –> basically get first refusal (though this might not be enforced depending on the publisher and circumstances)
  • Arbitration
  • Applicable law – laws of England , especially important for international authors


    The series editor contract defines who the series editor is. If there’s a series with a series editor and multiple contributors, the editor gets contract and the contributors get contributor agreements for their chapter.

    Co-Publishing would mean two publishers working together e.g. giving rights to American publishers in markets where they might be better. This would mean wanting the right to sell a lot of copies usually, they would print their own copies, and would want a copy of the files to adapt it to UK or US spelling (but wouldn’t necessarily change the spelling in academic publishing).


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