A Real, Live, Bigtime Publishing Contract

header.pngAspiring authors frequently email me questions about publishing contracts. They want to know how payments are scheduled, what kind of rights are invovled, how legal is the language (meaning, can they feel comfortable signing a deal without an agent or lawyer), what are the royalties, and if you have to sign over your first born child. 

So for everyone who hasn’t seen a publishing contract, but is interested, then you can thank the OJ Simpon book scandal. The paperwork for the lawsuit filed by Fred Goldman against OJ contains the original HarperCollins contract.

Most interesting to cash-strapped writers hoping to hit the big time is the section that outlines HarperCollins’s payment schedule to the Juice. 

–$95,000 upon “execution of this agreement”
–$95,000 upon acceptance of an outline
–$95,000 upon acceptance of the first half of the manuscript
–$95,000 upon acceptance of the complete and final manuscript
–$95,000 when the hardcover edition is published
–$100,000 when the paperback edition is published
–$400,000 for an interview with OJ
–$125,000 to be “retained by the publisher to pay the writer”

There are plenty of other interesting aspects to the contract. So regardless of your opinions on the controversial book, this legal document is an educational read for writers who hope to one day sign such a contract.

You even get to see where Jane Friedman, HarperCollins’s President and Chief Executive Officer, signed the document. Judith Regan was reviled for the deal (rightly or wrongly, that’s up to you) while Friedman was named the Publishers Weekly Person of the Year, in part because of the way she managed to “distance the company from the book.” As Sarah at GalleyCat wrote, “Never has accountability been so visible in a single handwritten scrawl.”

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