How Do Independent Writers’ Decipher Contracts? By:Jane Isaac

on January 3 | in Featured, Guest Writer, Literature | by | with No Comments

Jane Isaac  Jane Isaac~ Guest Writer

I think it’s wonderful that there are so many routes to publishing these days. Some writers’ will snag an agent who will have a sound knowledge of the marketplace and connect their work with the most appropriate publishers, negotiate their literary contract and ensure royalties are paid timeously. Others prefer to keep control of their own work and hire editors, proofers and possibly even formatters to enable them to publish it themselves.

 

My books are both lodged with small independent presses. Why? Because I work and have a family, not to mention a very demanding black Labrador. I want to be able to channel my spare time into writing my novels, and enjoy the support of an indie house to prepare my books for publication. But without the benefit of an agent’s wealth of experience, how do we know if we are getting a fair offer?

 

You might think this doesn’t apply to you. Perhaps you’ve already set your sights on self-publishing and are happy with your choice. But what happens when you receive an email like I did just before Christmas from a production company, asking if the film/TV rights to your book are still available? One of an agent’s jobs is to decipher any contractual offers and negotiate a favourable deal. Without their support, this falls to us authors. How do we get past this stumbling block? Answer: utilise the host of organisations out there that can help.

 

Truth be told, I was so delighted to receive the contract for my first book from Rainstorm Press that I read it through quickly and signed on the dotted line. However I later switched publishers and, with my new publisher, Legend Press, I was more circumspect. How did I know whether the offer was competitive and the contract fair? Answer: The Society of Authors.

 

Membership of the Society of Authors in the UK costs around £95 per year and offers a host of benefits including free access to a media lawyer for independent advice about any contracts. They were extremely helpful and explained all the clauses and small print so that I understood what I was signing my name to. It turns out that my book contract was fairly standard, but the peace of mind is worth its weight in gold. I’m not sure whether the film rights enquiry will ever develop into anything more, although it’s good to know I have access to assistance if it does.

 

Don’t worry if you are not based in the UK. A quick search on Google identified similar organisations in the UK and Australia on the very first page. And these are just some of the plethora of sites out there that can help us work our way through the publication process.

 

Another site recommended to me recently was Writer Beware. Writer Beware is a fabulous website sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and supported by the Mystery Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association, that supports both new and established authors by raising awareness on fraud or ‘other questionable activities in and around the publishing industry’. The good news is that they are not genre or country specific. I emailed them regarding my film rights enquiry and they responded within 48 hours. Their advice was sound – they were not aware of any scams associated with this company but, like everyone else, advised me to proceed with caution.

 

The creative journey is full of twists and turns which at times can be arduous to navigate. Whatever route you choose to publish your work, it is reassuring to know that there is a wealth of assistance out there that we can pull on to help and support us through.

 I wish you all much writing success for 2014.

Jane Isaac was runner up, ‘Writers Bureau Writer of the Year 2013’. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies and her first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ The sequel, ‘The Truth Will Out’ will be released on 1st April 2014 and is available to pre-order here.

Jane Isaac lives with her husband, daughter and dog, Bollo, in rural Northamptonshire, UK. Visit www.janeisaac.co.uk to connect with Jane and find out more about her work.

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