The Questions

First Right of Refusal and Contracts When Publishing

Right of Refusal – A Standard Clause

RefusalFirst right of refusal is a standard clause in publishing. It allows a publisher to have first dibs on an author’s next book. What it does not do it give them the right to have the next book.

So what does the first right of refusal mean?

It means you need to submit your manuscript to that publisher first, before you seek other publishers or self-publish. It is set to protect the publishers for all the hard work they did in getting your career launched as a writer. The clause also allows them to cash in on a series of books. For if they published the first one they don’t have to advertise as much to get the second one out there, thus cutting down their costs. The audience is already out there for the author.

But do you have to publish with them? No, you still have the choice. If the contract is sub-standard or offers you less than what the first one did, point it out to them. The publishing company will realize they need to be fair to you. But that usually does not happen when you deal with a small press.  Big publishing companies (the big six) will try to sneak it past you, especially if you don’t have an agent.

But My Agent Says It’s Good!

Agents are people as well, but they love books to the extent they went into the book industry. They see dollar signs when a publisher picks up the first book in a series for they believe pushing the publisher will result in more money. It backfires more than it works.

Think of it like the child always asking for more. Grandma has two chocolate bars and tells the kid they can have one. After the child devours the one they picked, they ask for the second. Initially, the child was given a choice between the two knowing full well they would not get the second. Now they want the second. Agents are like that. They want all of it. So if you have an agent, make sure they realize you will have final say.

Wrap Up

Usually when you sign a book deal on the first book of a series the contract will have laid out everything concerning the next books. If it didn’t, the publisher didn’t have faith in the first book. This does give you a good opportunity to increase your share of the profit. Don’t be greedy. Publishers need to make money as well. If they don’t, you could find your series sold to a not so reputable company. And if that happens, you could find yourself fighting them to recoup what is actually yours.

So my suggestion is to make sure the contract is similar to the first in compensation. If so, keep with the first publisher for there are a lot of people out there writing and you don’t want to see your name back balled from the industry.

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