Thursday 27 May 2010

How to read a publishing contract (14)

At last we get to some money! This is the clause in which they promise to pay you :-)

There are two very different options here, so we will - just this once - look at two alternative clauses. We won't worry about which is the best (I'll look at that argument another day), just what they both mean. Today we will do the flat-fee clause.

14. Outright Fee

The Publishers agree to pay the Author an outright fee of £xxx (EX HUNDRED POUNDS STERLING) per title, payable £yyy on signature of the contract, £yyy on receipt of the manuscript and £zzz on publication. The Publishers agree to pay invoices issued by the Agent relating to all aspects of this contract strictly within 30 days of receipt of said invoices.

This outright fee clause relates to a short story, that's why the fee is so low - don't go around thinking you have to write a whole book for only a few hundred pounds!

You might instead have a royalty clause. It's quite a long and complex clause so I won't do it today. It will be too taxing for both of us, and I'm feeling pretty taxed already (which is why there has been such a long delay since part 13 - sorry, tolerant people).

Have you spotted the unfair bit in this clause? Yes, it's that they pay part of it on publication. Now, you have no control whatsoever over when they publish it, and you work is done long before publication date, so this is a REALLY UNFAIR condition. I have always managed to get it changed to 'on passing of page proofs' for non-fiction books. (An aside - children's non-fiction often pays flat fee only, with no royalty. That's something for another day, too.) I have never got it changed in fiction contracts. My suspicion is that it's because I negotiate non-fiction contracts myself and my agent negotiates fiction contracts and she is simply not stroppy enough. Maybe I should set up as Stroppy Agent instead of doing all this writing...

Now the payments are generally in the order of a quarter on signature, half on delivery or approval of manuscrip,t and a quarter on publication (or passing of page proofs). You might be able to get more up front, if you want it. I never do. I hate the idea that I've already spent the money before I've written the book, but I concede that it's actually more sensible to have the money earning interest in your bank account than not.

Sometimes, you can get the 'on publication' tranche reduced but only if you reduce the 'on signature' tranche equally. I'd say this is worth doing, as the bulk moves to the on delivery payment so you still get it reasonably early (unless you plan to spend years on the book, of course).

The Publishers agree to pay invoices issued by the Agent relating to all aspects of this contract strictly within 30 days of receipt of said invoices - Now this is just a lie, and you might as well accept it. Very few publishers actually pay so promptly.

The wording of this clause is so generous because I have insisted on it, as the publisher in question always pays late. They still pay late, but at least now they are in breach of contract and - looking ahead - if I want to strop or take them to court for non-payment, I can claim late payment interest from 30 days after the date of the invoice. Email the invoice, of course, so that you know the date of 'receipt' rather than just the date you sent it.

Your contract might say 60 days, or even 90 days, and it might say 'after the end of the month in which the invoice is received' which can add nearly a month to the period you are waiting. Look out for it, and argue. Another trick they might pull is not telling you when it's been published, so you don't send the invoice in immediately. Look on Amazon to see when your book is coming out.


1 comment:

  1. How bizarre that someone wants to spam us with info about wound infections!