Dr. Susan Swartwout on Book Contracts

This is one of my compilation of notes from a workshop I attended at the Ozark Creative Writers Conference back in October.  This particular workshop was well worth the fee to the conference.

While there are some things that you won’t get to experience – such as the handouts (an example of a book contract, as well as an unattached book cover so we could see what they look like by themselves and what a GOOD one should look like), this information is something every author looking to get published needs to know.

Dr. Susan Swartwout, of the Southeast Missouri State University Press, presented this workshop.

Book Contracts: Know Your Rights & Permissions

1. Get an agent.

Rebekah says – an agent is your representative in the publishing world. They know the legal lingo, and if they don’t, they know someone who will.

2. If you can’t get an agent, look at independent (small) presses.

Rebekah says – these are some of the few places that allow you to submit without an agent these days. In many cases, they will work with an author more directly than a large publishing house will.

3. Covers are what sell a book when the author’s name is unknown. Ask for veto rights on the cover.

Rebekah – one of the things we got to see at the workshop was some covers gone VERY WRONG. Cover illustrators (especially at small presses) don’t always read the book before illustrating it – sometimes they just go off the title. And sometimes they’re just plain bad, regardless of the content of the book. “Veto rights” isn’t getting to have a say in every little thing about the cover, but at least it does give you the power to say “that doesn’t fit the story AT ALL. NO!”  Also, you may not always get veto rights, but it never hurts to ask.

4. The author (not the agent or publishing house) is responsible for obtaining copyright permissions for any music, quotes, pictures, etc, included in the finished work.

Rebekah says – no matter how little of someone else’s work you use, unless it’s public domain, you should make sure you have permission to use it. Before the work goes public.

If you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them, but I am most definitely NOT a professional, and don’t even think about asking me about intricate legal things.  I’m most likely as clueless as you are :).