Help us create our new educational book and share it with authors everywhere!
Authors Alliance is a nonprofit organization based in Berkeley, CA. Our mission is to further the public interest by providing resources and tools designed to help authors better understand and manage key legal, technological, and institutional aspects of authorship in the digital age, with the goal of sharing their creativity and knowledge as widely as possible.
Authors, wouldn’t you rather be writing than combing through copyright law or unpacking contract terms? We thought so! But we don’t think that creativity and business savvy have to be mutually exclusive. With the right tools, authors can be empowered to advocate for their creative and pragmatic goals. That’s why, with your help, we will research, draft, and publish a comprehensive guide to book publication contracts for authors.
As every author knows, good writing isn’t all effortless inspiration. Behind every page of polished prose, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work—research, editing, rewriting, cutting, second-guessing, pasting, rewriting, reviewing, designing…and did we mention rewriting? Then, once your labor of love is complete and you have a final book in hand, it’s time to share it with the world.
For many creators, this stage of the process can be daunting. After all your hard work, don’t let a bad contract stand in your way.
Feedback from our members tells us that authors—especially in the early stages of their careers—may sign publication contracts without understanding the terms, the implications of their decisions, or even that it may be possible to negotiate for terms that align with their goals. We’ve heard many “If only I’d known!” stories, and, in keeping with our mission to empower authors and help them understand their rights, we plan to create a guide to Understanding Book Publication Contracts to be published in late 2018 under a CC-BY license.
The guide will identify clauses that frequently appear in publishing contracts, explain in plain language what these terms (and typical variations) mean, and present “author-friendly” variations for these clauses. When authors have more information about copyright and publication options for their works, they are better able to make and keep their works available in the ways they want.
Understanding Book Publication Contracts, written by legal experts, will be based on surveys and in-depth interviews with authors and publishers about their contracts. These real-world scenarios will help authors understand how to approach negotiation, what kinds of clauses to look for (and which to avoid), and how to engage in productive conversations with agents and publishers to ensure author-friendly contracts that align with their creative and pragmatic goals. In turn, the resulting terms will also benefit the public’s long-term access to creators’ insights and creativity. While the guide cannot take the place of legal advice from a qualified attorney, our hope is that it will provide guidance that may otherwise be unavailable to authors due to financial barriers or gaps in expertise.
Authors Alliance has a proven record of producing expert, high-quality resources, and this guide will be the fourth in our series of educational handbooks. True to our mission of providing our resources to all authors who may need them, the guide will be released online under a Creative Commons CC-BY license, as well as in print in order to make it as widely available as possible to the author community.
With the proceeds from this Kickstarter, we will:
Conduct in-depth surveys and interviews with authors and publishers to gather the most relevant, up-to-date information on what authors need to know
- Work with the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley, School of Law to write a reliable, high-quality guide backed by legal expertise
- Hire a graphic designer to create professionally-produced online and hard copy versions of the guide
- Work with a local Berkeley-based printer to produce a high-quality paperback that will be released under a CC-BY license to encourage sharing and reuse.
Note: Authors Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. We will issue tax receipts for all donations exceeding $250.
Late Fall 2018: Online guide to Understanding Book Publication Contracts is made available in pre-release to backers at the $25 pledge level and above
- November 2018: Print books
- December 2018: Ship books and backer rewards
The guide to Understanding Book Publication Contracts will be stewarded by Authors Alliance Executive Director Brianna Schofield, with legal assistance from the Samuelson Clinic at Berkeley Law and logistical support from Erika Wilson, Communications & Operations Manager at Authors Alliance.
How You Can Help
Are you an Authors Alliance member or backer? Share your contract story with us! If we hear from you by June 15, 2018, your story could make it into the Guide. Help other authors by sharing your experience with us.
Spread the word! Tell your friends and colleagues about our project, and share on your social networks!
Risks and challenges
We know that there are other resources out there that provide information about book contracts, so we are working to ensure that our guide doesn’t just duplicate information that’s already available. We’re consulting with a range of sources—including authors, attorneys, agents, and publishers in a variety of contexts—to provide realistic strategies that cover a spectrum of alternative contract clauses.
Collaboratively writing, designing, and producing a quality book is a complex task, and there’s always the risk of production delays or unforeseen circumstances. However, we’ve tackled this kind of project three times already in the production of our previous guides, and we have a proven record of success.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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