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A legally binding contract is crucial if you are undertaking any transaction or agreement. The purpose of a legally binding contract is to ensure both parties maintain their obligations under the agreement. If they do not, either party can claim compensation through the court. One such popular contract is an author publishing contract. Therefore, this article will explain how to structure an author publishing contract and key clauses to include.

What Is an Author Publishing Contract?

An author publishing contract governs the relationship between an author and their publisher. This is an important relationship as it will determine how the publisher will sell your literature and in what channels. It will also outline the rights and obligations of each party and how long the contract will be valid. 

How to Structure Your Contract?

Names of the Parties

The first step to any contract is clearly naming the parties at the start of your contract. In this case, it will be the name of the publisher and the name of the author. The respective party should sign each name, and it should also be dated.


The most important part of an author publishing contract is the particulars. The particulars will contain what the contract gives both parties. It will determine what the publisher is entitled to publish and what the author has to provide. For example, a particulars clause should clearly specify the piece of work that the author has licensed the publisher to use.

The particulars clause will also define how long the contract is valid. Contracts will usually have a set date on which they end. However, they will also have a right of renewal that allows both parties to renew the contract for a certain amount of years. During this time, both parties will renegotiate the terms of the contract and more often than not, they will form a completely new agreement.


The way that a publisher makes money is usually through a commission. This means that the author will receive some money for every book sold, and the publisher will receive some of this money. The reason the publisher receives money is that they have marketed the book to the wider public. They have also distributed the book to stores, whether that be in person or online. The commission clause clearly states how much the publisher and the author get from the sale. The publisher often takes this money after both parties establish the costs. The commission clauses are important as an author does not want to be undercut by a publisher.

Tip: You should be aware of the market rate and negotiate with your publisher to get this. 

Reserved Rights

Another clause that authors should include in their contract is one relating to reserved rights. This means that authors retain all rights over their work that the contract does not divulge. This is because publishers may try and undermine you by arguing that the contracts give them full rights over your work. However, a reserved rights clause stops this from happening.

Geographical Scope

A clause that many often overlook is a geographical scope clause. This clause defines where in the world the contract is binding. For example, it could mean that an author has the right to publish a book only in a particular country or continent. This means that authors can sign other author publishing contracts in other countries.

However, an exclusivity clause may not allow an author to do this. An exclusivity clause could bar an author from signing any other publishing agreements other than with the original publisher. 

Termination Clause

Finally, all contracts should include a termination clause. A termination clause is a clause that allows you to cancel a contract in specific circumstances. This is usually when one party breaches the contract. This allows both parties to be free from any responsibility under the contract. Even if one party terminates a contract, you can still claim damages if you have suffered some loss because of the initial breach.

Key Takeaways

Author publishing contracts are a type of contract that outlines the relationship between an author and a publisher. Contracts are legally binding as long as they meet all the legal elements. It is vital that an author publishing contract is structured well, so either party can receive compensation if the other party breaches the contract. A court is less likely to award damages if you do not word your contract in a way that promotes certainty. Some of the main clauses in an author publishing contract include:

  • particulars;
  • a commission clause; and
  • a termination clause.

For legal assistance with author publishing contracts, contact LegalVision’s contract lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the names of the parties refer to an author’s writing name?

No, they must contain the author’s legal name to avoid a situation where there is a dispute as to who the contract was formed with.

Are there laws around what the commission has to be?

No, however, all parties must abide by all general consumer laws. 

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