Authors aren’t perfect. They are always prone to making mistakes. In the writing and publishing process, there are many mistakes that can trip an author along the way. It may be the manuscript format or the proofreading of the book. It may be the color illustration or book cover as well. Among all of the mistakes that authors, especially the new ones, can make, the worst one is probably not understanding the legal terms printed on their publishing contract.

Here are key terms that authors should pay attention to when they are about to sign a publishing contract:

1. License

Writers signing a book contract don’t “sell” their books; they “license” it to their publishers. If you break it down, what the authors are signing away is the permission for the publishers to use their manuscript. All underlying copyright to the book is still in the hands of the author.

2. Exclusive

Granting a publisher an exclusive license means that you are giving that publisher the right to stop another entity from using the licensed work. Even you won’t be able to use your work if you give its exclusive license to a publisher. As an author, you should be careful when signing away your exclusive license. Not all publishers deserve that kind of permission from you, after all, especially when you are self-publishing.

3. Indemnity

In every contract, there will always be an indemnity clause. This is the clause that binds to you to a promise to reimburse and defend the other party (typically, your publisher) from economic losses and legal claims from inaccuracies in your representation or breach of agreement. In layman’s term, this basically tells you ahead of time that, in case of lawsuits, you are going to be the one to hire the lawyers as well as pay expenses and settlement costs.

To go in-depth, let’s say that you are published a photo book. In case one of the pictures in the photo book isn’t yours and someone claims ownership as well as ask due compensation, the one who will have to settle the problem is you and not your publisher. In order to avoid such situations, it is highly recommended to check your work for any defamatory or infringing materials first before publishing.

4. Infringement

We encountered the term “infringing” above. In the legal world, there’s the term “infringement”. Let’s talk about it then.

Infringement is the use of any copyrighted work without the permission of the owner. It is imperative to get explicit permission from the owner if you want to use a copyrighted work if you want to avoid an infringement claim. Just giving credit is not enough.

5. Royalties

Royalties are the monies paid to you by the publisher taken from the sale proceeds. How a publisher calculates royalties differ from each other. Thus, before you sign your publishing contract, it is important to know first your royalties on a per copy basis before affixing your signature.

It is always a given to take the time to read the fine print. It isn’t just limited to authors. Anyone who is faced with a contract should always meticulously read through the document they are affixing their signature to before anything else. Otherwise, they may end up getting the short end of the stick.