Contracts: Resources for Writers

The first step of any book deal–be it with a publisher or agent–is the contract. Publishing your book is an important decision, and more importantly, it’s a business decision for both sides. We don’t negotiate contracts for our writers, but we do want to make sure you have the tools you need to be as successful as possible. So, we’ve gathered some resources on contracts, both Agent-Writer contracts, and Publishing contracts, for your convenience.

Author-Agent Contracts

“7 Dangers to Avoid in a Literary Agency Contract” from Writer’s Relief

“SFWA Model Author-Agent Contract” from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

“Author-Agent Contracts” from Writer Beware

“Signing With a Literary Agent? Here’s What Should Be In Your Contract” from The Write Life

“Frequently Asked Questions About Agents” from the Association of Authors Representatives

Publishing Contracts

“Publishing Contracts 101” from Writer’s Digest

“Book Publishing Contracts Checklist of Terms” from Morse Barnes-Brown Pendleton

Model Book Contract from the Authors Guild

“Improving Your Book Contract” from the Authors Guild

“Writer’s Legal Guide” from the Authors Guild

Copyright Advice from the Authors Guild

5 Top Legal Issues for Authors & Publishers from The Book Designer

Before joining AUTHORS I worked with a mid-size publisher and negotiated over 100 contracts with writers, some with agents but most without. I’d like to impart a few pieces of advice: 

  • It’s a business decision. The contracts are written from the perspective of the publisher, so they are going to lean in the publisher’s favor, and that is not a personal attack. While it is your creative property they are licensing–and I’m only talking about traditional publishers with this–they are putting up the money to make the book happen.
  • Do not have your real estate lawyer be the only person you ask for legal advice. Just like any skilled profession, lawyers have their own specialties. That doesn’t mean that they will not be a valuable resource for you, but if you are going to ask advice (in all likelihood paid advice), go to someone who knows publishing and copyright law inside and out, because it’s law that changes more frequently that you think. The Midwest Book Review has a list of publishing attorneys. The Authors Guild also has a contract review service for their members, as does the National Writers’ Union
  • Write out your concerns by section and send them via email. The person you are negotiating with will probably prefer that and it’s too easy for meaning to get muddled on the phone. Almost every time I negotiated a contract that involved some level of acrimony, it was usually because the writer called me the second they received the contract and started speaking very passionately if not full on yelling about portions of the contract. This did not make me very sympathetic to their concerns because now I was on the defensive.  In almost every case, they had misinterpreted the clause–which is easy to do with any legal language–or they were conflating different sections or both.  Emotions can run high with contracts and letting things get to the point of yelling usually isn’t productive; it just is a whole lot of negative energy that doesn’t need to happen for you to get what you want.

Most importantly, remember that even though negotiating contracts can be hard, they can be the path to your book’s future.

An Introduction to Copyright &

A common and natural concern of authors is of somehow losing the copyright to their work. Through our many conversations with writers, we’ve realized that new technology seems to amplify the fear that they might unintentionally give away their copyright or that their work will be outright stolen.

The raison d’etre of our terms of service is to protect writers and it requires anyone on the website to recognize the ownership of authors to their work.

But we don’t stop there.  Here are some of the other ways we protect your work:

  1. Only registered agents and publishers can view your work.
  2. Other writers on the platform cannot view your work.
  3. We track exactly who views and downloads your work.
  4. Internal, password-protected URLs to your work also expire in minutes, so they can’t be posted.

We worked with publishers to make sure we were using all of the best methods for protecting the work and one memorable conversation was the publisher who scoffed, “Do you think there’s protection when the writers email their work? it’s stored across easily-accessed systems in houses.  It’s crazy to trust email over a document management system.” We saw that by working with the latest technology, we could do a much better job protecting your manuscripts.  Emails can be hacked, forwarded without credit, or even just sent to spam.

Below we’ll supply a condensed overview of exactly what goes into this premise, but for the full legalese, please check our Terms of Use and our Privacy Policy. .

Safeguarding Your Rights

AUTHORS does not claim ownership rights in any of your data, text, information about you or your work, manuscripts, chapters, outlines, other samples of your work, usernames, graphics, images, photographs, profiles, audio, video, items, and links (“Submissions”).

By providing AUTHORS with your Submission, you are granting us a license to use that Submission in connection with the Services and as provided in our Privacy Policy.

AUTHORS acts as a platform to allow :

  • Writers to submit to our partners
  • Partners to review and download Submissions, and to connect with Writers.

AUTHORS is not directly involved in any transactions between the two parties. We require that your work must be original and that responsibility falls to the author to uphold. We take accusations of copyright infringement very seriously. If you are seeking to reprint someone else’s work or something that has fallen into the public domain, this is not the place for you.

What is A Guide to What We Do & Why We Do It

So what, exactly, is is an online platform that connects writers to publishers and agents seeking new content. We accomplish this through technology which streamlines and standardizes submissions. Our platform lets your work shine. Through intelligent machine learning,  we deliver efficient, accurate editorial snapshots to agents and publisher who are likely to be a good fit. The whole platform is built to help eliminate the guess work of the traditional query process without losing the valuable information that is conveyed in an ideal query letter. We connect writers to publishers and agents by using technology to simplify the whole process; so that editors and agents can do what they do best and technology can handle the rest.

Let’s start off by addressing what it is does and what it is we definitely do NOT do.

We DO:

Simplify Submissions & Queries

If you’ve ever written a query letter—or a cover letter or resume for that matter—you know just how exciting the idea of a “streamlined submission” is for writers. For kicks, Google “Query Letter template.” I’ll wait.

Did you catch that? 311,000 results. Literally thousands of options and opinions on what the “perfect” query is. And it’s all completely subjective. Some talk about making sure to personalize. Others mention describing your audience while others leave that out and just want to know more about your qualifications. With all of this guesswork, it’s easy to understand how discouraged writers, publishers, and agents can get with this part of the process.

But with our platform, that’s gone. If you complete every field for your project and writer details, and complete it with thought, consideration and detail, you will not have missed anything. Even better, you won’t have added too much. We deliver the information  in such an easy-to-read format that our partners know just where to send their eyes for the details they care about. Yes, it will take time. But it’s time well spent. It’s your virtual pitch for why an editor or agent should invest thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours into you and your book, and why they should want to. Why they should beg to spend that money on you.

Level the Playing Field

How often have you heard a story about a how someone met their agent because of a cousin or a friend? It can sometimes feel like the only way to get published is to know someone in publishing, regardless of your talent or work ethic. But through our platform, the work is allowed to shine, and the agents and publishers are able to evaluate not just on the subjective word of a trusted friend, but by objective, empirical information we deliver on the suitability of your manuscript to their needs (which, by the way, they tell us).

We Do NOT:

Publish your Book is not a publisher, plain and simple. We work with publishers, and we like them very much…we just aren’t one of them.

Use, Sell, or Distribute your Book has never and will never take our authors’ content and sell it, give it away or even show it to anyone who did not have permission to view it  or was not a publisher or agent we work with. Likewise, we have no interest in working with anyone who has a less than stellar reputation. We’ve actually denied account requests by agents and publishers who do not have upstanding reputations, which means we’ve turned down money. We take copyright and intellectual property very seriously (more on that here) and would never jeopardize that integrity. The only people who can view your work are people with logins, and no other writer can view your work. The site is secure and encrypted.

Promise you a book deal

This might sound harsh, but it’s the reality of it. We’re not going to say we guarantee you any kind of deal or attention, because we work with publishers and agents who are making decisions about their business. We can’t—and wouldn’t venture to—make those decisions for them. What we’re interested in doing is giving everyone involved the tools and data they need to make good, efficient  decisions for their business.


“So that’s what you do, but why do you do it?”



The traditional submissions process is a pretty fraught ordeal. Every year, 2 million people submit proposals to agents and publishers, trying to make the case for their book. Every year, about 350,000 trade books are published. Is that difference because there is a lack of quality, or because the editors, agents and scouts finding the projects are finite? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but we saw the latter as a very solvable problem. We talked with acquisitions editors, agents, and publishers, and asked them what they loved about their jobs and what they wished they could change. Almost universally, they loved the stories, and the process of bringing a book to life, but hated the drudgery that can come along with finding those stories.


“So much of what is sent to me just isn’t right. I want trade romance, not sci-fi mystery. I feel bad, especially when it’s really good stuff, but it’s just not right for me.”

“We get proposals in all shapes and sizes. Some have the things we want, but so many just have the manuscript or are missing a big chunk of vital information. And even figuring out what is missing takes time. When you need to review 100 submissions a week, seemingly little things like  the wrong subject line or a missing CV will get a project rejected before it’s read. There just isn’t enough time.”


We heard concerns like these and saw two very solvable problems: the need for standardized submissions that shows the publisher and agents the things they need in addition to the manuscript, and a way to easily navigate through submissions. So, we built just that.

Reinvigorating Tradition

In addition to this, we have developed a proprietary technology that looks beyond genre and word count to match elements of your manuscript with the publisher who is most likely to make it a success. Our technology is able to review entire manuscripts to look at story arc, character development, scene location, and more to further showcase manuscripts that might otherwise not make it past the 2-sentence hook. This has resulted in an acceptance rate that is almost 10 times faster than the traditional model of an email sent into the ether, perhaps never to return. And we’re talking about first-time authors for the most part!

About fifteen years ago, the self-publishing movement started to answer the call of authors frustrated with the traditional publishing industry. Some self-published authors have thrived in that environment, but it’s not for everyone. To be a successful self-published author, you not only have to have a great book, but you have to have business acumen, design and sales experience, money to pay an editor or a knowledge of copyediting and proofreading, experience with events planning, marketing, distribution, and more. In short, you have to be either: a superhero, have deep enough pockets to hire someone every step of the way, or be really, really lucky. It’s not a bad thing to admit you need help and the benefit of professional expertise to make your book happen. It’s logical. And the publishers and agents are in the same boat. They need you, too. And they want to find you. And we want to help.