2Leaf Tip: Signing the Publishing Agreement

When 2Leaf Press agrees to publish your work, you will be required to sign a publishing agreement. Let’s just say, right off the bat, that many complaints are hurled at publishers for legal requirements, including the seemingly unfair percentages of income and the extensive rights they retain in publishing deals. But the truth of the matter is that the publishing industry, just like any other industry, is very much a bottom-line business.

In simple terms, a publishing agreement is a legal arrangement between an author and publisher. The author agrees to transfer to the publisher certain rights in the bundle of rights associated with their copyrighted manuscript, and the publisher agrees, in turn, to pay for the costs to publish the manuscript. Basically, the publisher is an investor in the author’s manuscript and agrees to pay for all costs of publishing. In return, the publisher is entitled to recoup the initial investment and take a sizeable percentage of the income generated by sales and licensing of the work, while the author receives a percentage of royalties and subsidiary rights income.

In fact, it’s often a challenge for publishers to make a profit, since the majority of publishing agreements do not “earn out,” meaning most publishers (small and big alike) do not earn back their initial investment, which includes production, marketing, promotion, publicity, distribution and, in some cases, an author’s advance. So, despite your core values as a creative spirit who values words over profits, if you intend to be successful in this business, you must understand and embrace the bottom line, too, which is why it’s critical for the author and publisher to have an agreement in writing — it’s the road-map to all aspects of producing your book, including finances, production, and promotions.

The terms and conditions in the agreement will determine what rights are transferred, what compensation the author and publisher receives, when the rights revert back to the author, and what state law governs the contract (in our case, New York), and address other issues that clearly state what each party agrees to do and what each will receive in return.

Of course, we advise all authors to retain legal counsel and to review our publishing agreement carefully so that they fully understand what they are agreeing to. In the end, we want all of our authors to be happy with both our legal and post-production arrangements so we can all concentrate on developing, publishing, and promoting a high-quality book we can all be proud of.