I am going to say something that is… not a popular statement, but it is a factual one. It’s something that a lot of people forget. It’s something a lot of people want to ignore. But, the fact is, if you are here right now reading this blog, then you are serious about being an author and publishing and succeeding and doing it right, which means, we need to have this conversation.
You, as an author, are running a business. This is a business. And you, as an author, are your brand. Your morals, what you stand for, what you believe in, all of it. That is all wrapped up in it together. And furthermore, you are the company that you keep. Your friends and friendships and who you work with will all reflect back onto you, both to your readers and to other authors and other entities in this business.
Because, if you give someone a recommendation and they have a bad experience, the person who you recommended them to isn’t going to trust you anymore. If you say one thing is important to you and then your close friend turns around and says the opposite, it looks badly on you. And if someone you are working with is involved in a scandal, particularly one which is illegal… Oh, no.
You need to protect yourself and your brand. And of course, some things cannot be controlled. Some things you cannot predict. But.
You need to play this smart. You need to be wise. And you need to have a contract, to protect both parties involved.
Because if something happens and your brand is tied to someone you are working with and you have no way in or out…
Or, let’s say you agreed to work with someone on something, and they failed to deliver the goods, or they failed to do as asked…
Listen. A contract doesn’t hurt anyone, except for the person with bad intentions.
This is why today, we’re going to be talking about working with others in a professional manner, what to expect from the various people you may work with, how to set up and sign a contract, and THE CLAUSE.
Because Lord help us, given Booktok in 2023… we all need THE CLAUSE.
YOU ARE RUNNING A BUSINESS. ACT LIKE A PROFESSIONAL.
Okay now hold up and just listen to me. Am I fully aware that we are all basement-dwelling library trolls? Yes of course I do. We’re all just vibing in our sweatpants, hair in a bun, coffee stains on our t-shirts, no bra on, living life. I fully recognize and get and understand that. That this is some silly goofy passion we’re all pursuing and somehow turning into something.
But full stop – the second you decided to publish this work on a platform that requires your bank account information, this stopped being a silly goofy game. This is real stuff. This is real money. Real taxes. Real influence. Real consequences if you screw up.
You are a business. You and your brand and your books are a business. When you hire a cover designer or work with an editor or collaborate with other authors, you are a business. You are a self-employed business, yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that this should be treated like a job and you should be a professional.
Now, are there a lot of casual Fridays around here? Of course. I mean, I’m the queen of controlled chaotic content. I curse and I laugh and I keep it real. I’m casual a lot of the time.
But when I respond to emails or when I respond to critique or when I respond to things, I put my big girl panties on and I step up to the plate and I handle it with the professionalism that is required for the job. Because again, this is a business, and the way you carry yourself and present yourself…
Particularly, and this is very important, particularly behind the scenes. I think it is very understood that what happens on social media and in front of the camera is often very different than what is happening behind the camera. Y’all don’t see me frustrated crying while doing math or stressed out pacing the halls while trying to word a single sentence or angrily typing out responses to things that annoy me. Why? Because that’s not professional.
And you definitely don’t see me airing my dirty laundry. I handle my things behind closed doors, with receipts, and keep it clean.
Why? Why handle it professionally behind closed doors?
Because people talk. Because people know things. Because people will share information. You have a bad interaction with someone? That’s not going to stay between the two of you. They’re going to tell someone who tells someone else, and so on and so forth. You’re going burn bridges you didn’t even know existed.
This industry, for as big as it is, is also so very very small. You can make so many connections, it’s unreal. Most of the people who I work with were people either recommended to me through my connections, or I was recommended to them through other connections. Because people want to work with me. Because I have my crap together. Because I know what I want.
If you burn bridges, if you act a mess, if you screw up, people are going to talk, and people are going to know.
And in particular… if you screw up bad enough out in public, even if the readers forgive you, other publishing individuals might not work with you, because they’ll see you as a liability and they won’t want to put their brand behind you.
Don’t believe me? You want to know how petty some people in this industry can be? I was denied by a number of cover designers specifically because they didn’t want their brand to be associated with plus size heroines. They didn’t want their name attached to a fat girl on a cover, because fat girls are “not aesthetically pleasing”.
This is a business. So act like it.
PREPARE YOURSELF. YOU WILL GET SCAMMED.
Now listen… having a contract isn’t going to save you from every depth and peril and struggle you encounter… but it will save your ass at some point in time.
Every single person I know involved in this business has at some point in time been scammed by someone who offered something and they didn’t produce the goods, or they failed in their delivery, or they asked for more payment beyond what was discussed, or whatever. I’ve been scammed. Most of the people you read have been scammed. At some point in time, they had a person try to take advantage of them.
I’ve seen at least ten videos this week discussing scams that authors have fallen into…
Do you know what will save your ass at the end of the day and get you separated from a scammer? A contract. Why? Because a contract lays out the expectations, deadlines, payments, and it should also include THE CLAUSE.
One of the most common questions asked on all of the scammer posts is… did you have a contract. And nine times out of ten, the answer is no.
The only person who wouldn’t want to sign a contract is someone up to no good. A contract protects both parties involved, or at least, it should. And it’s a legally binding thing, protecting your business.
This is a business! When money is involved, this is a business item! So act like a professional! Have a contract! Save yourself in case you get scammed!
Because you will. Happens to us all.
PROTECT YOUR BRAND
Am I repeating myself throughout this post? Yes I am, because I cannot repeat enough how important it is to protect yourself and your brand. Protect yourself! It can be so easy to make a mistake that you can’t come back from! And yes, okay, sure, you could just… delete and start again and never show your face or whatever, but do you really want to throw away all of your hard work because you made a small mistake and didn’t act profesionally and set yourself up for success? No! Of course you don’t!
And if someone in your circle, someone in your loop, screws up…
Something I have often asked myself is… would I trust my career in someone else’s hands. Would I trust my family’s livelihood in another person’s hands. And the answer is no!
So don’t screw up by trusting others to not screw up!
PROTECT. YOUR. BRAND.
I know I keep repeating the bad possibilities and keep teasing THE CLAUSE, but beyond that, a contract can do a lot more than just say don’t screw up. A contract can detail all of the, well, details. And discussions for that contract can work out the details you hadn’t necessarily considered up until that point.
Some considerations for your contracts might include things like responsibilities of each party, where credit or acknowledgement is given, dates and times of the specified requests, obligations and expectations, payments, and any other things required based on who you are working with.
Contracts set out clear expectations and can clear up misunderstandings before you even begin working with someone. It protects both parties, so that everyone can receive what they need.
The only person who doesn’t want a contract is a person who has no intentions of following through with what they promise.
Write a contract. Sign a contract. Require a contract.
AND FOLLOW IT.
Now then. You know why you need a contract. All of the reasons why you need a contract. It’s time to write it up and get it signed.
But first, some things to consider, depending on who you’re working with, and a little expectation management while we’re here…
WHAT TO EXPECT ( and what to include )
While a contract in general is very basic, and by that I mean, all contracts should include things like terms of agreement, termination clauses, THE CLAUSE, and payment, some are a little more specific, particularly the scope of work. So, lets run over a few things for a hot minute on what you should expect, and some tricks based on who you are working with.
Most cover designers you work with SHOULD already have their own contract. I have only ever run into one person who did not have a contract, and we hashed that out very quickly and easily. So, do not go into a discussion with a cover designer expecting to have to use a contract you write up.
THAT STATED, if they do not have one, USE ONE.
And, of course, read the contract they give you to sign.
Things of note are expectations on how many alterations you will get on the cover, when the first proof is due, and when the final is due. You might also want to go over the cost of additional hours worked, if you need more alterations than are within your original purchase.
Another thing is WHERE you will give acknowledgment to your cover designer. Many people request that it be on the copyright page, however, I have seen a new wave of cover designers wanting a VERY LARGE IMAGE ON THE COVER WITH THEIR LOGO, which, in my opinion, isn’t okay, but you do you.
Just make sure you know, before you sign the contract, where they want the acknowledgment.
This is another one that will likely come with a contract already built in, particularly if you are using a platform such as ACX. That stated, when you are in the original phases, make sure that you take note of certain dates while scheduling. So, for example, expectations of when the fifteen minutes will be ready for proof, when the final product will be ready, and how they want acknowledgement on the cover.
ALSO!!! Just a fun note to throw in here!
There has been a recent wave of people noting that content warnings are not being spoken at the start of the audiobook, which, is not something normally done. I’ve chosen to request this be added to all future audiobooks from me. You can ask that your audiobook narrator include this, and it should literally take less than a minute so like… the cost to add them in would be cents. So, something to consider.
Also, total side thing again, it will take days, weeks, maybe even a month or two for your audiobook to get approval on most platforms once submitted, so keep that in mind…
Another party that SHOULD already require a contract and have one on hand, and if they don’t, this is probably a red flag.
Seriously. If they’re an editor who has been at this for any length of time, they should have a contract ready for you to sign, outlining dates of payment, the date your manuscript is due for editing, how many editing passes your work will undergo, when your review phase begins, and when the final manuscript will be ready.
Also, you should know what kind of editing you’re signing up for. Seriously. You should know what you signed up for. And if you don’t… then ask. Or read the contract. Or something. But too many don’t seem to know the different types of editing. It should be in the contract. Read it. Please.
Acknowledgments should also be noted somewhere, but generally, it’s expected to be on the copyright page.
Okay. Remember how I said dates etc should be outlined on things? Yeet that one into the void for this one.
Because you do not want art from an artist that they pressured themselves into working on.
I mean, have a deadline for check-in or something and an ultimate deadline at which the project is terminated, or something, but don’t have an unrealistic deadline.
Something big to keep in mind with artists is distribution, and by that I mean… who can distribute it and where and for what cost.
Is this something going only on your patreon? Then you don’t want them posting it on their instagram. Or maybe you can both post edited versions of it to social media? Also, where are you tagging them? And how? Also the watermark. Because there should be a signature on the work.
Furthermore, Commercial Distribution. This means, are you selling prints of this artwork. Generally, this costs an additional fee. Ask about it. Include it in the contract. Don’t screw yourself over here.
This right here is where we are going to get more fact specific, depending on your individual needs.
When you initially hire a PA, you should have a list of what you need help with. PAs can help with a variety of subjects, from social media management to arc team management to vendor management to newsletter distribution to a whole wide variety of things. Now listen, can you include an “other tasks” note? Sure. Of course. Yes.
But you should have a general outline of what you expect your PA to manage and take care of, what you expect in terms of releases, what you expect in terms of social media and arc teams, and anything else that pertains to your certain needs. This should all be discussed well before you even hire your PA, and after you have begun working together as well, but—
THIS SHOULD ALL BE IN THE CONTRACT.
Furthermore… the clause. THE CLAUSE. The Clause.
Your PA will most likely have passwords. Access. Control.
They can send out newsletters and contact people on your behalf. They act as, well, your assistant. They communicate to people with your blessing.
And if they fuck around… it comes back on you. Not them.
So you better cover your ass.
SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT
This one is much more like PAs, however… I am specifically including this one because of behaviors I have seen on booktok in particular. What do I mean by this? I mean that I see book readers who are passionate about reading and books and genres and authors decide that it would be fun to promote books and work on ARC teams…
And then continue to run their mouths on social media while also representing authors.
You need to pick who you work with carefully, and have an understanding of your expectations with them. And you need the clause, because, if it turns out that a person on the social media management team is actually an -ist or an -obe…
Both of which has happened on booktok in the past thirty days…
You need to have a way to separate yourself from them. Immediately.
Unless, of course, you agree with them, in which case, get the fuck out and get off my blog.
Seriously. Get the fuck out.
But, I digress.
A clear understanding of expectations and requirements and understandings. Lay it all out there. Leave nothing to chance.
HOW TO WRITE A CONTRACT
Alright, I’ve spent far too long convincing you on why you need a contract, so let’s talk about writing one up.
I got good news… you can easily find them online!
Google Service Contract Template or General Service Agreement or something similar. Find something that looks pretty. Put your logo on it. And then start reading it. Seriously. Read it.
( Have I, multiple times now, already said that you should read the contract? Yes. Do you know why I keep saying this? It’s because for a group of people who work with reading and writing… guys… I’m speaking from past experience here… Yeah. )
And then, start editing it to include what you want and need. Change it based on who you’re working with. Etc. Look at a few different ones. Figure out what matters.
Some sections of note that you should definitely include:
Scope of Work – Meaning what exact duties are expected
Date of Work – Meaning how long, until the project is completed, project completion date expected, etc
Termination – Meaning how do you go about separating in the event of a separation needed, both for general separation or in the event of a problem.
Compensation – How are you going about paying, how much, and when.
Signatures – Yes, you both need to sign it, and you both need to have a copy of the signed contract. Also dated. Seriously.
And finally… the clause.
You can call this what you want, but in the contract I have, which has shamelessly been stolen from N. Cáceres, it is called The Morality Clause.
Again, call it what you want, but this damn thing is going to save your ass if someone else show’s theirs.
Again. Ists and Obes are out here roaming our fair bookish platforms. PROTECT YOURSELF.
So what does the clause say?
Service Provider and Customer agree to refrain from any behavior that falls under the discrimination acts as defined by the United States, during the length of this contract. Participation in these behaviors will be grounds for immediate termination of this contract as stated under the Termination Clause.
And what does it mean?
It means that if either party acts in a way that is discriminatory against others, the contract can immediately be severed, ending your work agreement, the terms of payment, the expectations, the protections… all of it. Everything is immediately stopped. There’s no second chances. There’s no 30 days notice. Nothing. It ends.
Why is this important?
Because the last thing you need is to find out that someone you are working with is an -ist or an -obe, but you’ve already started working with them and agreed to pay them for something, and can’t get out of it. And don’t try to say, oh, I just wouldn’t pay them, or something, or, well, this is why I shouldn’t have a contract. No, if you agreed to do something with someone, to pay them for their work, even without a contract, you could still be sued for payment.
Which is why you have a contract outlining the details, and, you have THE CLAUSE.
TO WRAP THIS ALL UP…
You need to have a contract when working with others. You need to outline your expectations within the contract. You need to have a clause in case they turn out to be problematic. You need to protect your brand. And you need to treat this like a business.
And for the love of God, read things before you agree to them.