Fair Contracts

Ensuring fair contract terms between authors and publishers has been a cornerstone of the Authors Guild’s mission since its inception in 1912 as the Authors League of America.

For many decades, the Authors Guild has offered the Model Book Contract to help authors understand and negotiate the terms of their publishing contracts. Our Model Trade Book Contract is updated at least once a decade to account for changes in the industry, with our most recent update released in early March 2020.

The Guild’s Model Trade Book Contract is a key resource for educating and empowering authors, and of laying down the best practices for publishers to follow in creating their own standard contracts or revising existing contracts to make them fairer. Foreign authors, publishers, and author organizations also use the Model Trade Book Contract as a template for their contracts and an advocacy aid.

We are also proud to unveil our first-ever Literary Translation Model Contract and Commentary, created as a guide for U.S. translators and literary agents when negotiating book contracts for translations of literary prose. It too is being made freely accessible online to anyone.

Model Trade Book Contract—2020 Update

We updated the Model Trade Book Contract in early 2020 to help ensure that writers receive all the rights granted them under current U.S. copyright and contract law and in response to marketplace and technological changes that have occurred over the past decade. For example, concerns about digital piracy as well as some of the questionable practices of third-party resellers led us to develop a new contract provision requiring publishers to mark printed review copies and overstock of their books so that online resellers cannot advertise and sell the books as “new.”

The Model Book Contract was also updated to more closely mirror publishers’ current standard contracts and discusses some of the new terms that have appeared in recent years, such as morals clauses. Authors should find the 2020 Model Trade Book Contract useful whether or not they are represented by a literary agent.

Literary Translation Model Contract and Commentary

Translators play an irreplaceable role in creating a vibrant world literature and introducing new readers to important works by authors across the globe. The Authors Guild’s Literary Translation Model Contract represents a synthesis of current publishing practices and fair contract advocacy that will help translators obtain the best achievable outcomes in their contract negotiations. Created with the guidance of experienced Authors Guild translators, the Literary Translation Model Contract covers the full range of contract clauses and issues translators commonly encounter during their negotiations as well as tips, strategies, and resources to help.

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