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.
- Balkin, Richard
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 –
- 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)
- Crawford, Tad
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)
- Fishman, Stephen
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)
- Kirsch, Jonathan
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)
- Levine, Mark
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 –
- 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.