Academic Writers: You Can Improve Your Publishing Contracts

Are you an academic writer? Have you signed a book contract?

* Guess what #1: You’ve probably already been screwed. Academic contracts are the worst in the business.
* Guess what #2: You’re no different than most academic writers, who are driven by the tenure system to publish or perish and don’t realize the value of their written words.

Meanwhile, other authors, especially new, unpublished authors, are afraid that publishers will blow them off if they ask for changes because “there are thousands of writers” who will accept those same unreasonable terms.

Still others just don’t know they can say no to a bad contract.

* Guess what #3: You can improve your contract through negotiation. Ask for nothing and you get—nothing!  Ask for everything and you don’t get everything—but you get a lot more than if you don’t ask.

That’s the lesson I’m going to teach you if you attend my upcoming workshop as part of the Ann Arbor Writer’s Conference and Book Fair.

I’ll also give you a brief overview of the publishing industry, cover some of the main clauses that you will see in your contract, and give you valuable tips on how to negotiate a contract over the phone.

If you’re a serious writer, don’t miss it.

Five major steps to keep in mind if you want to maintain your dignity during contract negotiations:
* Speak up, including over the phone (write out your entire intro paragraph)
* Question the clauses in your contract
* Never sign a boilerplate contract without asking for important changes
* Determine your “bottom line”— the minimum standards you are willing to accept through negotiating, and
* Exercise the right and the courage to walk away from a contract that doesn’t meet your minimum standards.

Remember, when you accept the terms of boilerplate contracts without question, you bring down the curve for your brother and sister writers. But every clause you negotiate for the better is a victory for writers everywhere. Solidarity.

Date: Friday May 15, 2009
Time: 8:45-9:45 a.m.
Location: Palmer Commons at 100 Washtenaw Ave. in Ann Arbor
Room: Forum Hall

Then join me Saturday at the 6th annual Ann Arbor Book Fair inside the Michigan League on the University of Michigan campus. I’ll be at booth #30, selling books through my own Azenphony Press, and promoting my editing service and my next book, about the underground press from the Vietnam Era.

Check out the Ann Arbor Book Festival Web site for directions to Palmer Commons and the Michigan League. Or just Google “Ann Arbor Book Festival.”

And for full, clause-by-clause contract advising and help in negotiating, you would be wise to join the National Writers Union, where your  membership gives you free contract advising from NWU’s Grievance and Contract Division, the best group of contract advisers in the business. You can join online.

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