The all important MoA is the document where the publisher wants to enter into a contract with you. The salient stuff in this are the points given below (at least form the agreements I have seen) apart from names, addresses and stuff saying that you really wrote this book and did not copy it or plagiarise it and all:
Royalty: Varies, I believe, between 7%-12%, first timers have no option but to take what is offered which is normally 7-7.5%. Take it. Second novel, I consider it an affront if you get nothing less than 10%. Otherwise self-publish it, you'll make more money. And the percentage is on jacket price not on net sale. Royalty is normally paid at the end of the year or some mutually agreed time.
Copyright: Remains with the author (else reject the offer)
Rights: Publisher retains the rights to everything - from movie, to television, to translation, to hardcover, to overseas rights etc. Unless the chap is going to do something by himself about it, you can always ask him to remove the clauses, so you can deal with movie houses directly.
I had an experience when I concluded the movie deal by myself but since my contract bound me to pay the publisher 50% I was in a fix. Thankfully my publisher is a fair man and he said that since I had done all the hard work he will relinquish the rights, I had no problem. I paid the publisher some amount as goodwill which we used to promote the same book!
So, either delete the movie, tv clause or modify it to say that if you get the rights through your efforts, the publisher is not entitled to the % he demands.
Rights: The rights to the publisher are given for a specific region (normally India, South Asia etc), for paperback, for a certain number of copies (upward of 1000 normally because that is normally the minimum print run)
Other rights that the publisher may wish to retain are:
- Hardcover rights licnsed to another publisher
- Translation rights
- Reprint rights
- Mechanical, electromagnetic and electronic, facsimilie and reproduction rights
Of these, the author gets a % (I get 50% in my agreeement)
E- book rights: On this again a % is paid to the author on sale of these e-books (I get 35%)
Complimentary copies: Depends. My publisher gives me ten and I can buy them from him at a 40% discount which he gives everyone anyway!
Nominee: In case of death of the author.
Review of contract: Will be reviewed mutually at the time of reprint of the work and in case of any co-publication venture.
Reversal of rights from publisher to author: When books printed are sold out and publisher does not wish to go for subsequent print runs, rights given to publisher revert back to author. Publisher undertakes that a minimum stock of 100 copies is maintained failing which the book shall be considered to be out of print.
Time frame: Publisher will take a maximum of 8 months on the work till the date of publication from the time when the final work is received in a shape with all editorial inputs and ready for layout and designing.
This timeframe can get quite dicey sometimes, like it did for me.
These then are the general clauses one should look at in the agreement. As one of the parties signing it, you have every right to negotiate each and every clause, so just think ahead and be aware of what you may want to retain and what you wish to delete. Do sign with awareness (trust yourself to take care of your interests) and with trust (trust the publisher to do the best he can).