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Lawyer: Rank your textbook contract negotiation goals

Successful contract negotiation requires knowing “what you’re willing to give up and what you’re not,” said authoring attorney Michael Lennie, with Lennie Literary & Author’s Attorney.

Authors should negotiate better terms on several contract provisions, he said. They include:

  • Timelines: If the author has to have the manuscript in by a certain date, then the publisher has to let the author know if the manuscript has been expected by a certain date. If the publisher insists on loose language on when it must notify an author of acceptance, like a “reasonable” time, then the author should turn the tables and ask if they can be given a similar latitude, like submitting the manuscript within a “reasonable” time.
  • Change approvals: Authors should insist on the right to make final approval of any changes made to their manuscripts.
  • Additional uses: Authors should have the right to approve how their work is used.
  • Non-compete clauses: “You won’t be able to strike this clause entirely,” Lennie said, “but at the very least, you shouldn’t agree to anything so broad that it keeps you from writing books for say, upper-level grad students.”
  • E-rights: Some publishers have been trying to make 7 percent a standard for electronic versions, but since it costs considerably less to publish an electronic version, authors should get at least the same rate as for print versions of their work.