Mark Terry

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Contracts 101, Part 9 (Delivery of Work)

January 20, 2011
And so on and so forth:

5. Delivery of Work: Author shall deliver to Publisher, at Author's expense, an electronic, disk or two hard copies of the Work in final form, including all relevant photographs, maps, diagrams, charts, bibliography and all necessary licenses, releases and consents by REASONABLE DATE HERE. Delivery format to be mutually agreed upon between Publisher and Author.

a. If Author does not deliver the Work to the Publisher in form and content satisfactory to the Publisher in its judgment (which shall be final) by the date specified, or at another date mutually agreed upon on writing (the aforementioned provisions as to time, form and content to be deemed of the essence). Publisher may terminate this Agreement by notice to Author, who agrees to repay all amounts thus far advanced by Publisher. Such termination, if not caused by circumstances beyond control such as strikes or unavoidable accidents, shall be without prejudice to any other remedies Publisher may have for breach of contract.

b. If Publisher elects to submit the manuscript of the Work to Publisher's legal counsel for review (at the Publisher's expense), then the Work shall not be deemed complete and satisfactory unless and until all changes which may be required by legal counsel have been made by Author.

c. Author agrees to review and approve the copyedited manuscript. Publisher shall send Author galleys and/or page proofs of the work which Author agrees to read, review, correct and return to Publisher within thirty (30) days. In the event Author does not return the proofs within this time period, Publisher shall have the right to publish the Work as submitted in proof. Author agrees to pay the cost of additional alterations in type or in plates required by Author (other than those due to printer's errors) in excess of 5% of the cost of composition.

Okay, a few comments here. I think these are fairly straightforward and relatively noncontroversial, but there are a few things to think about. When the publisher sets a date you need to deliver the manuscript to them, if you think you're going to have problems hitting that date, say so. That delivery date sets a lot of things in motion for the publisher, including (but not limited to) your publication date. If you can't hit that date, everything starts getting moved around or people start doubling up or rushing things. And you don't want to cause the publisher extra work or force them to change your publication date, because that causes all sorts of problems with marketing and other important things involving the publisher's support of your work. So think about the date hard when you agree to it and negotiate what works for you.

Subclause a) is only controversial in that it allows your publisher to decide at a later date if they like your work and want to continue to publish it. They pretty much had that once they give you money anyway, but there it is in writing.

Subclause b) probably applies mostly if you're writing nonfiction or if your fiction has some references to real people or can be construed to be about real people. I doubt it's a good thing when a lawyer starts looking for things that might get the publisher sued--they'll tend to find things, because that's what they're being paid to do.

Subclause c) is not a big deal. The thirty days is probably negotiable, but you should be able to hit that for proofing and if you can't because of some family emergency, let your publisher know right away. At this point everybody's working to make the manuscript as good as possible, so if there's a problem, they'd rather have it proofed than not proofed. However, there's a reason for that last sentence about pushing costs off on the author if changes increase over 5% of cost of composition. I don't know if this is as big a problem as it used to be, given that most if not all printing is done using computers instead of hand-fixed printing presses. Nonetheless, there comes a point in the galleys--and I can attest to this strongly as the editor of a technical journal--where things start to get inconvenient and expensive to change, even if it's computerized (mainly because of changes in the production schedule by paying people overtime to do work that should have been done earlier). My suspicion is that this is mostly for those anal-retentive writers that decide at the last minute that they really want to add a chapter or a couple paragraphs or something along those lines. My advice as a writer, not as an analyst of these contract clauses, is to have your manuscript pretty much the way you want it to be when you turn it in the first time, so 9 months later when you're wrapping up galley proofs and going into production, you don't suddenly have major changes to make.


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