The hardest part as a book author may not be the writing, nor book marketing or finding a book publisher. Negotiating with a publisher also may not be as difficult -- that is, if you educate yourself about what is rightfully yours as the creator of the work. The book contract could come easy. What is the hardest part? The hardest part is preventing the book publisher from taking advantage of you.
Yes, publishers have a nasty reputation of mishandling new book authors who lack business-sense skills, especially in the financial department. Publishers entice unsuspecting authors with a huge advance payment; but typically, these publishers expertly rework other price points (royalties and licensing) to their advantage. The advance payment is just the beginning in the life cycle of your book. The royalty is the real money-generator. It is the most profitable part of the book's sale, especially if your book becomes a bestseller. So how does an author protect himself and his intellectual rights?
Authors should consult experts, such as a literary agent or a lawyer who specializes in the book publishing industry, on negotiating book contracts and royalties. You can also join advocacy organizations that can advise you with firsthand experience on publishing contracts. However, most advocacy organizations only accept published authors. New authors may be out of luck with this option. To safeguard yourself against publishing predators, use a lawyer who will handle the contract and explain every detail to you in plain English.
If you cannot afford a lawyer and you feel confident enough dealing with the publisher by yourself, then follow this advice about book publishing contracts.
Tip 1: Determine the number of book copies that you and your publisher have agreed upon.
Know how many copies your publisher is going to ship and distribute; this includes book stores, grocery stores, book conventions and so on. This way, you can keep track of the number of copies that the publisher actually sold and the number of copies that people returned.
Tip 2. Make it clear with your publisher what type of royalty you are agreeing with in the contract.
Is it a regular royalty? A foreign export royalty? Or a special discount? Because the publishing industry has no standard format for royalty contracts, the royalty could also be "some other type" of royalty, unknown to most authors. Make sure you know and understand the royalty rate, both in percentage and dollar amounts.
Tip 3. Know the details of reserve against returns as clearly stated in dollars.
Make sure you get the details of subsidiary contracts, income and sales. As much as possible, try to know everything you can. Be brave and ask your publisher many questions. After all, it is your creation -- so protect it!
Tip 4. Use Print-On-Demand Clause, if Applicable
Print-on-demand technology lets the publisher print a specific number of your books to meet orders and keep your book "in print" for eternity without the rights ever reverting back to you. If your publisher decides to distribute your book by print-on-demand, make sure you specify your book's lifespan in the contract's "out-of-print clause." For example, you can specify that your book goes out of print if your book sells less than a certain number of copies, or automatically goes out of print in 36 months.