Academia is about accomplishment on three levels: teaching, grant capture and publications. All three provide their own set of challenges. Yet, there is something about publishing your first journal article or book – it often provides both exhilaration and relief. You feel you are on your way to becoming a true academic.

For people of color, but African descended women in particular, there we might feel there are many hurdles to clear. Not only do we have to contend with editors who might think they have already published the work of Black women, with the implication they do not want “too many,” but we may also be critiqued as publishing with the wrong publishers or journals.

What are the things you wish someone told you about your first book contract? Where was your greatest apprehension about signing and how have you grown in the way your approach contracts? Have you learned to negotiate a better advance or royalties? Do you approach publishing as something that is donated time to the Academy?

The following points are from Laura Portwood-Stacer, PhD complete with the links to her Twitter feed. We are listing her suggestions, not as an endorsement, but as a way to initiate the conversation about how academics should enter into their first book contracts.

If you are a published author, please read over the advice listed by Laura Portwood-Stacer and feel free to share comments. Please write in the comments.

The Misogynoir to Mishpat Research Network © 2023

Tweet to Assist First-Time Academics in Book Contract Signing

Laura Portwood-Stacer, PhD (@lportwoodstacer) tweeted at 7:17 PM on Tue, Feb 28, 2023:

Some tips for academics who are about to sign a book contract:

1. The first contract you receive is not final. Your press might act like they

expect you to sign it as is, and a lot of ppl probably do, but you absolutely have the right to read it, ask questions & request changes

2. If you’re not sure how to even read a book contract, go to the @AuthorsGuild website. They have sample contracts & explain what all the boilerplate clauses mean.  For a reasonable fee you can even have one of their lawyers read your contract for you & tell you what to ask for (

3. There probably won’t be wiggle room on some items, but there may be more wiggle room than you think. You won’t know until you ask and it’s your right to ask before you enter into a whole legal agreement. No one should make you feel bad for asking questions

4. My blog post covers some key items you may be able to ask for / negotiate on.

If you ask for nothing else, at least ask for some extra free author copies. You can give them to mentors & students as gifts

5. If you’re offered an advance contract—an agreement you sign before the final manuscript is completed and approved—treat it as the real, final contract, because it is. You won’t get to renegotiate the terms later. More on advance contracts here:

6. If there are things that are so important to you that they would be dealbreakers, try to bring them up with your editor before the press writes up the contract. Things like open access, available formats, approximate price point are all things you can discuss

7. The contract isn’t final until you sign it. If there’s something really important to you, even if you maybe should have raised it earlier, it’s not too late to bring it up if you haven’t signed the contract

8. Contract negotiation makes some authors uncomfortable. That’s understandable. But a publishing agreement is a business relationship & it’s smart to enter it w/ all the info so you don’t have regrets later

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