Can I renegotiate my contract?

Posted on March 13, 2008

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I sold my first picture book to a small publisher for a flat fee. Now, a year after the book’s release, the book is selling really well and was just picked up by a children’s book club. Because of my contract I won’t see any royalties from my book’s success. That just isn’t fair! I had no way of knowing my book would do so well way back when I signed the contract. Do you think it’s possible to renegotiate my contract? What should I do?

Congratulations on the success of your first book!

No, it’s isn’t fair that you won’t see any financial gain from the success of your book. And you certainly had no way of knowing the publisher would be so successful at marketing your book. The problem is you signed a contract. A signed contract is almost impossible to change after the fact, unless it contains a loophole, or language that indicates that the contract expires after a certain amount of time. The problem with an expiration clause is that even if you try to negotiate new terms, such as a royalty, or percentage of sales, the publisher also has the option to cancel the contract and take your book out of print.

Since I don’t know the details of your contract, the first thing I advise you to do is hire an attorney to look over the contract for any loopholes, or openings, for re-negotiation. For example, I don’t know if you sold all rights to your work. If that’s the case, you simply can’t negotiate a thing. Then again it’s possible that the publisher did not include a clause about book club sales, in which case, you could have an opening to renegotiate. But I’m not an attorney, and only an attorney can accurately evaluate the situation for you.

For more information on publishing contracts see Attorney Ivan Hoffman’s Articles for Writers and Publishers at his web site. 

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