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Author contracts: our steps towards accessibility

Author contracts- off putting, right?


The language is fiddly, the clauses are complicated, and the run on sentences can leave you feeling totally befuddled. It’s easy for us, as publishers, to send out contracts without considering how well they can be understood. After all, we’ve spent hours getting to know the clauses and language as we’ve drafted and redrafted. I know that I am guilty of this myself, but after much thinking and consultation with authors I have decided to make a step towards accessibility with March Hamilton’s contracts.


The first step was the language. No more complicated phrases, just plain English that anyone can understand. The Society of Authors have been a great help with their help and resources in this case, and I have now simplified the language of our contracts so they can be more easily understood.


Another way I have worked towards making our contracts more accessible is the introduction of our very own ‘Understanding Contracts’ pack, which explains each clause so that there is no confusion when an author is reading through.


Thirdly, I have now set time aside to talk through contracts face to face with authors. This has proved useful, and has often increased the confidence the author has in me and the paperwork itself. When I took over March Hamilton, I wanted to build author relations for a long term partnership and by offering this contact I am hoping to build trust between myself and my authors.


Overall I want to be transparent about publishing contracts offered, where royalties will be earned, and how Rights operate. I don’t want authors publishing with March Hamilton to feel duped or tricked into contracts that they aren’t sure about.


Aside from the work I have been doing, I have also been impressed by the work the Society of Authors have done with writers. They have kindly talked through clauses, and have protected author interests in terms of rights, royalties etc. Their feedback on my contract has been invaluable and has really helped me strike a fair balance between trying to make money as a small independent, and protecting the livelihood of the authors I publish.


Our author, Beth Webb, signing her new contract in March 2018