Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Friday, April 13, 2012

Legal Stuff in Making a Book

What about the publishing contract? Most of what's online seems slanted toward the writer's benefit, to help them navigate the legal ramifications of the publishing contract. It can be downright scary to grant someone else the copyright for your work. It's a big step, but necessary if you want to work with a traditional publishing company.

When you write something, you automatically own the copyright on it. In order for a publisher to create your book, you must grant him the copyright. A contract is the first step in making a book. The publisher or editor won't touch your work unless you grant them the rights to do so.

A contract is simply an agreement between two people. It doesn't need to be long and full of legal language that's impossible to decipher. It essentially consists of the publisher saying what they want from you, the writer, and you, the writer, agreeing to it or not.

It will say what the publisher gives the writer as part of this business arrangement. If you don't agree, they might adjust it. It never hurts to ask. If you do agree, then you sign and proceed with  this exciting venture of having a publishing company invest in you as a writer.

Behind every contract is people. Consider the contract carefully but also consider the people. Do you trust them, or not? If not, don't sign the contract. A person without integrity can manipulate any contract for any purpose, which is why lawyers are so busy. If you do trust them, sign and move forward, trying not to second guess everything that happens. It will be okay!

L is for Legal. (This is an A to Z Challenge post, not intended to go into great depth and detail about the topic.)


  1. Such a scary minefield but worth really getting to grips with - your stories are your babies so you must protect them at all costs!! Take care

  2. Great post! Thanks for the reminder that a)contracts don't have to be full of legaleese, and b) it's all about trust.

  3. Great post...common sense sometimes leaves us in our excitement. This puts it into perspective.

  4. Hi Karen .. an essential to life - and different across the world .. but trust is the most important element ..

    Cheers Hilary

  5. Wise words to remember. Great info!

    When I published my first book, I got a rash of emails from someone who claimed I was infringing on her copyright to use the title of my book. I was glad that I had the backing of my publisher and their legal department to help me.

  6. Contracts are the side to the writing life that's a bit more under the "business" category. As writers, we often prefer the creative, story telling part where we can mess around with words, make things up and change as is helpful.

    Contracts have legalese, adjustments and agreements. Not as much creativity and fun, although the wording can seem quite creative. This post is helpful in providing some basic understanding for contracts so that it isn't so overwhelming. Thank you.

  7. Very informative and helpful. Thank you!

  8. Any contract is going to be scary, but if you that the people behind the contract are good then that makes it easier.

  9. Great insight which I hope to need sometime in the near future :)

    Happy A to Z-ing!

  10. I'm sure this is very helpful to writers who want to publish with a traditional publisher.

  11. Interesting...some things I never knew...I have never sent anything to be published but I have been a technical editor of several books. I just sent in the work and got paid :)
    Happy A-Z April!