Book publishing contracts – understanding what you are signing

reproduced with permission
Reproduced with permission

Michael Arnold is an avid researcher and amateur historian who specialises in cricket and military history. In March 2010, Michael approached Arts Law regarding a book he had written entitled ‘The Sacrifice of Singapore’, which analyses the fall of Singapore during the Second World War.  

Michael had been offered a publishing deal to publish by a major Singaporean publishing house Marshall Cavendish which had sent him a draft agreement outlining both parties’ obligations under the deal. Though eager to have his book published, Michael wanted to ensure his intellectual property in the book would remain secure after he signed the agreement. He also wanted to confirm that there were no unreasonable terms in the publishing agreement.

We referred Michael to one of our external pro bono lawyers with book publishing expertise. The free advice session provided to Michael as part of his Arts Law subscription was so helpful that Michael decided to engage that lawyer on a private basis to negotiate with the publisher on several changes to the contract.

Michael’s book has since been published by Marshall Cavendish and is widely available. It is recognized as an authoritative work on this period and is held in the collections of numerous public and educational institutions.

His experience demonstrates the wisdom of writers reviewing any agreement carefully before signing it and seeking advice if they are unsure or unclear about the meaning of any clause. A lawyer can advise you if your agreement contains unduly onerous clauses or clauses which are not typical of the industry standard.