I watched Thor: Love and Thunder this weekend. Spoiler alert: so much G’n’R!
Today I want to keep going in my “lessons Eli learned the hard way” self-publishing series. I will admit this one wasn’t a hard-earned lesson because I already knew about the importance of reading fine print with contracts (anyone else remember when GameStation got 7500 people to literally agree to sell their souls?).
Why You Always Read Your Contracts
Whenever you work with a third party, chances are a contract will be involved. In fact, it’s definitely in your best interest to have a contract involved. This is also true for freelancers who need to protect their interests as much as you do yours. Freelancers can include cover artists, book designers, editors, and reviewers.
If you work with any agency that sends you a contract that’s difficult to read, make them clarify everything that you don’t understand. A huge red flag for me is anything super convoluted that’s explained away as “don’t worry about that, it’s standard.” Another red flag is when my point of contact tries to gaslight me by making me feel stupid for asking questions or implying that I’m hung up on small details. That usually means they’re trying to sneak something by you.
If you plan to outsource a lot of the publishing responsibilities and don’t have experience reading and understanding contracts, consult with an attorney. The Authors Guild, your state’s guild or organization, and ALLi members all get access to excellent legal advice and resources.
There are a lot of great resources online for contract templates that you can modify to suit your needs (I use Rocket Lawyer for mine). But why is this really important?
One word: accountability. Okay, two words. “Expectations” is important too. Your contract not only sets expectations for when you need and expect the finished results at each stage of the process, but it holds you accountable for making sure that you give your contractor everything they need when they need it. It guarantees payment for services rendered, and it offers legal recourse if the terms are not meant or if either of you needs to end the relationship before the contract is fulfilled. In other words, it covers everyone’s asses.
This is an important part of standing up for yourself as an author. You are a business entity, and as such, you have as much right to protect your interests as a tradesman, retailer, or service provider. Do not ever let anyone convince you otherwise.
Now go make magnificent works of art!