Freelance copyeditor and writer Paula L. Fleming, author business consultant and former agent Laurie Harper, and Hazelden Publishing’s Executive Director of Operations, Lenny Peterson, brought their own perspectives on contract negotiations. Lenny explained that a publisher’s primary goal is consistency in contracts; Paula, that a freelancer is trying to educate the other party on expectations; and Laurie, that an agent’s goal is to protect the client from a worst-case scenario.
The panelists covered what authors should and should not expect to see in a contract. Determining when a book is out-of-print is an especially pressing issue in an era of e-books. What happens if a publisher decides not to publish must also be considered. As a freelancer, Paula was especially concerned with overly restrictive non-compete clauses that will inhibit her from future work. However, an author should not expect to be given final say over the title, and marketing plans are never included in contracts.
The panelists agreed that tone was also important in negotiating a contract. Total inflexibility is a sign that the relationship might be a difficult one, as was a hyper-focus on the advance. A phone conversation, rather than an email, can often build consensus. At the same time, each party must be willing to walk away.
An audio recording is available to members in Member Resources. Thanks to everyone for a great event!