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Whether it is your first book or your fifth, publishing a book is a huge achievement. As an author, it is important to understand and review your publishing contract before signing any deals with the publisher. A publishing contract includes key terms, such as royalty payments and the rights the publisher has to use your book. This article explains some key terms and outlines other important considerations.

Vanity Publishing Contract

You should be aware of vanity publishers, also known as subsidy publishers or vanity press. These publishers charge you a fee or co-payment to publish your book, regardless of whether the book sells or not. The fees are similar to the costs of self-publishing or printing. You can often spot these types of publishers as they respond very quickly with an offer to publish your work. Be wary of any publishing agreements where they require you to pay a fee or co-payment.

Delivery Clause and Publication Deadline

When you receive a copy of your publishing agreement, you should check whether it includes a delivery clause. The clause will set out the date of when you need to deliver a final copy to the publisher. You should ensure that the publishing contract includes both the delivery clause and a publication deadline. Doing so ensures that both you and the publisher are aware of essential dates. Take note of any additional requirements in the delivery clause that you may need to comply with or negotiate.

Alterations to Your Work

After spending so much time on your work, it is important to ensure that the publisher cannot vary your work without your approval. Most publishing contracts will include a clause which strictly requires your approval before the publisher can make any amendments. If your publishing contract does not include such a clause, you should consider negotiating with your publisher. 


Your contract should include clauses about how your royalties will be paid and at what rate. You may even be able to negotiate rising royalties depending on the number of sales. Industry standards are:

  • print: 10% of the recommended retail price;
  • e-book (released in print first): 25% of the net receipts;
  • e-book (released as an e-book first): 40% to 50% of net royalties.

The percentage can vary depending on how established you are and whether you are planning on selling your book in print, as an e-book or both.


The marketing clause will cover the presentation of your book in terms of images, the title, and cover design. It will also include the sales process and marketing strategy to promote your book. Typically, the publisher will ask for your opinion on book covers and see if you have any ideas. If you wish to have a greater input in collaborating with the publisher to find the right design for your book, you should negotiate with the publisher before signing the publishing contract.

Subsidiary Rights

Most industry standard contracts allow you to keep all rights to any audio, media and merchandise. However, it is important to check whether your publishing contract allows you to retain subsidiary rights or whether your publisher owns the rights. If your contract gives the publisher film and merchandising rights, you will usually receive around 80% of the net sale receipts. While you can always negotiate audio or film rights at a later stage (especially if your book becomes successful), it is best to negotiate at the outset.

Dispute Resolution

It is always a good idea to include a dispute resolution clause in your contract. Doing so establishes the steps that you and the publisher should take in the event of a misunderstanding or disagreement. The process will also set out who is the ultimate decision maker and what type of dispute resolution (e.g. mediation) is appropriate. 

Key Takeaways

Before signing a publishing contract, you should carefully look at the clauses and understand exactly what they mean. If certain clauses do not reflect your interests and publishing goals, you should negotiate the clause with your publisher. 

If you have any questions or need assistance with reviewing and negotiating your publishing contract, get in touch with one of LegalVision’s contract lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.


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