As a publisher, you need to understand publishing law. If your publishing responsibility is new author/book acquisitions, a working knowledge of book contracts is essential to your success. To provide you with a working knowledge of publishing law and book contracts, I recommend seven books I have found valuable. Each of these books should be part of your professional publishing library. I have read and evaluated each book. I share my evaluations with you. Since publishing law is dynamic and some aspects of publishing law vary from state to state, these books are not a substitute for consulting a qualified intellectual property/publishing lawyer. However, these publications will prepare you to meet with your lawyer and may save you money on lawyer's fees. Many of the books I recommend are written for the author rather than the publisher. These "pro-author" books are excellent resources for publishers too. Read them with the understanding that the books have the author's interests in mind.
A Writer's Guide to Contract Negotiations
Cincinnati, Ohio, Writer's Digest Books, 1985
Don't let the publication date fool you; this book is still vital and contemporary. The author is an agent with an understandable pro-author bias. This is a gem packed with valuable information for publishers as each and every book clause is minutely analyzed for implications for both author and publisher. It also discusses contracts for professional, technical, and educational books in addition to trade contracts. (Writer's Digest Books - 800/289-0963)
Bunnin, Brad and Beren, Peter
The Writer's Legal Companion
Reading, Massachusetts, Addison Wesley, 1988.
This is a solid conceptual treatment of all publishing law including contracts. Co-author Bunnin is a publishing lawyer. The book has a pro-author bias. (Addison-Wesley - 800/822-6339 or 617/944-3700)
Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self-Publishers
New York, New York, Allworth, 1990.
Publisher Crawford, who is a lawyer, has compiled a treasure trove of contracts not only for authors but also contracts a publisher can use with book designers, printers, sales representatives, book distributors, etc.Crawford provides commentary on each legal form and sound practical advice. The book has some pro-author bias. This outstanding resource belongs in your library! Highly recommended. (Allworth - 800/247-6553 or 212-777-8395)
The Copyright Handbook: How to Protect and Use Written Works, Second Edition
Berkeley, California, Nolo Press, 1994.
Every publisher should have one authoritative book on copyright and this is the one! Attorney Fishman discusses every conceivable aspect of copyright.All of the necessary copyright forms are included with advice on completing copyright paperwork. Fishman writes from the perspective of the copyright owner, which should be the publisher. Highly recommended. (Nolo Press - 800/992-6656 or 510-549-1976)
Handbook of Publishing Law
Los Angeles, California, Acrobat Books, 1995.
Kirsch, an attorney, provides 96 pages on book contracts. He discusses everything about the subject and more. Possible, important legal implications are discussed.Kirsch views the contract from the perspective of both author and publisher. There's a heavy emphasis on subsidiary rights and trade book contracts, which reflects the author's location-Los Angeles and Hollywood. The Kirsch book is an outstanding survey of publishing law. Like the Fishman book, the Kirsch book is a must for your publishing library. Highly recommended. (Acrobat Books - 310/578-1055)
Negotiating a Book Contract: A Guide for Authors, Agents and Lawyers, Third Edition
Wakefield, Rhode Island, Moyer Bell, 1988.
This excellent little book has a pro-author bias with an adversarial edge against the publisher. If you deal regularly with agents and lawyers representing authors, you will gain many insights as to what the other party is thinking as you negotiate. (Moyer Bell - 401/789-0741)
McHugh, John B.
Managing Book Acquisitions: An Introduction
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, McHugh Consulting, 1995.
My book provides an overview of the book-author acquisition process with an emphasis on the how-to. It utilizes my experience as a publisher who has actually acquired and published books. This is a companion volume for Book Publishing Contracts, another one of my books. (McHugh Consulting - 414/351-3056)
National Writers Union Guide to Freelance Rates and Standard Practice New York, New York, 1995.
As you may have gathered, a pro-author bias dominates this book. It contains 39 pages on book contracts. This guide provides valuable insights into the author's perspective on contracts and a wide variety of publishing matters. (Distributed by Writer's Digest Books, 800/289-0963)
The preceding was adapted from Book Publishing Contracts: An Introduction, 1996, by John B. McHugh, Publishing Management Consultant, 5747 North Ames, Glendale, WI 53209. Phone 414/351-3056, fax 414/351-0666. Reprinted with permission of the author.