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Writing Contracts - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Writing Contracts
Over the years, I've coaxed and coached a number of friends into becoming editors, and been approached by people I know for tips on editing/publishing. One current discussion has to do with contracts. I also have a lot of writer-friends, and the topic of contracts often comes up in that context as well. So I've compiled some basic resources here. Further discussion is welcome.

Personal Observations About Contracts

  1. A good contract reduces the chance of misunderstandings, conflicts, and lawsuits. A bad contract can increase those chances. Nothing can eliminate them completely.

  2. Before drafting or signing a contract, do your homework. Talk with other people who have used similar contracts. Read sample contracts. Figure out what works and what doesn't work, and why. That way you can emulate the good parts and avoid the bad parts.

  3. It's okay to write a contract in plain language, as long as you pay enough attention to what a contract is and does so that it will be legally valid. Clarity is an asset.

  4. If you need a contract written in legalese, hire a lawyer. However, many contracts written by lawyers are wretched. Make sure your lawyer understands your principles as well as legalese and contract composition techniques.

  5. Don't feel compelled to make a contract long and fancy. Brevity is an asset too, as long as you cover the important points.

  6. Don't try to screw anyone. It just makes trouble. Avoid clauses or phrases marked as "booby traps" by reputable organizations. Aim for a fair contract that will make everyone as happy as possible.

  7. Remember that the world is full of jerks, and some of them may want to sign a contract with you. So make sure the contract covers things that can go wrong and how they are to be handled.

  8. It's okay to propose changes in a contract. Be polite and professional when asking.

  9. If the terms are terrible, walk away.

  10. Use your common sense. Trust your instincts.

Online Advice on Contract Composition

How to Write a Contract (short & simple)

How to Successfully Write and Negotiate a Contract (long & complicated)

How to Write a Contract for a Desktop Publishing or Graphic Design Business

How to Write a Freelance Contract

Writing a Business-to-Business Contract

Author Organizations' Information About Contracts

Contracts Page (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America)

Got the Contract! Now What? (Absolute Write)

Writing Contracts & Payscales (Canadian Authors Association)

Contracts Watch (ASJA)

Sample Contracts

Sample Freelance Writing Contract

Example Author Contract

Agreement on Consulting Services

Contract Example, Board/Card Games

Books on the Business of Writing & Publishing

How to Start a Home-Based Writing Business by Lucy V. Parker

Mastering Online Research by Maura Shaw

The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman

Writer's Little Instruction Book: Get Published by Paul Raymond Martin

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Published by Sheree Bykofsky and Jennifer Basye Sander
No. No. Idiots should not get published! But of course they do.

The Craft & Business of Writing by Editors of Writer's Market

Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter

Book Publishing Encyclopedia by Dan Poynter

Publishing for Profit by Thomas Woll and Jan Nathan

How to Start and Run a Small Book Publishing Company by Peter I. Hupalo

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross

The Book Publishing Industry by Albert N. Greco

Now go forth and make some stuff that's worth reading.

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Current Mood: busy busy

3 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 4th, 2008 12:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

An additional useful reference

I now have an agent to negotiate my book contracts but in negotiating the contract for my first book I found a useful appendix in How to Be Your Own Literary Agent (Richard Curtis); it lists the elements of a poor contract, a fair contract and a good contract.

And many thanks for referencing my Writer's Little Instruction Book: Getting Published.

Paul Raymond Martin
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 4th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: An additional useful reference

Thanks for the added resource.

I have an agent to negotiate my contracts, too, at least the ones they'll look at. (I do a lot of stuff they won't cover.) It's very convenient. However, I've found it extremely useful to have a good idea of favorable and unfavorable contract motifs; that makes it a lot easier to discuss necessary changes.

One of the things I do frequently is collate recommended reading lists on various topics. The LJ version usually has batches of links and books. I never know when one of those authors will stumble upon what I've written; it's really cool when it happens.
talithakalago From: talithakalago Date: June 5th, 2008 09:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
3 comments or Leave a comment