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Authors Guild Releases Model Book Contract to the General Public to Guide Writers When Negotiating with Trade Publishers


The Guild also releases model translation contract for those hired to translate a foreign-language book into English

New York (April 15, 2021): The Authors Guild today announced that for the first time in at least 70 years, it is making its Model Trade Book Contract available to the public. Previously, the Model Trade Book Contract was available only as a benefit to Authors Guild members, including at-large members such as agents and lawyers, to use as a guide when negotiating book contracts with trade publishers.

The Authors Guild released a new version of the Model Trade Book Contract in early March 2020. In drafting the 2020 edition, the Guild solicited feedback from the Association of American Literary Agents (formerly the Association of Authors’ Representatives) and several other independent agents and lawyers who provided valuable input and assistance to help create a model that focused more on the practical aspects of book contract negotiations, offering a fair deal for all. The 2020 model is intended to serve as an advocacy initiative, as well as to provide practical advice, but compared to earlier versions, it more clearly distinguishes between its advocacy and negotiating advice. The Guild hopes that publishers will also find the 2020 model useful and will adopt its plain English terms meant to increase transparency.

An Educational Tool for Writers and Publishers Alike
“We updated the Model Trade Book Contract last year right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We never could have predicted just how deleterious the crisis would be on working writers, with 71.4 percent of authors reporting losing, on average, 49 percent of their regular pre-pandemic income, based on our latest member survey,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “Given this situation, we have been exploring various ways to help ease the lives and careers of professional writers, which is why the Authors Guild Council recently voted to remove the Model Trade Book Contract from behind our member paywall and make it freely accessible for all writers, publishers and anyone interested in book contracts. We hope that publishers will look to its terms in creating their own or adopt it, and we want authors around the globe to have access to it so they can understand what terms and issues they should be aware of before signing any book deal.”

Setting the Gold Standard
The Guild’s Model Trade Book Contract has set the gold standard in the industry for decades, showing what a publishing agreement might look like in an ideal author/publisher relationship to ensure all parties involved get a fair deal and maximize their earnings potential. The latest revision of the Model Trade Book Contract also addresses emerging concerns in the book publishing marketplace that authors should watch out for, including new provisions that would:

  • Allow authors to receive copies of sub-licenses executed by the publisher.
  • Require publishers to clearly mark copies for export, remainder, overstock and review to prevent resellers from selling them as “new” in online marketplaces like Amazon.
  • Protect authors against overbroad morality clauses.
  • Require publishers to render detailed royalty statements.
  • Provide for de-escalating royalties, rather than a sudden jump for deeply discounted sales, given the increasing use and amounts of discounts provided to retailers.

“For most authors, writing books is as much a labor of love as it is a commercial venture. Nonetheless, authors must receive fair compensation for their work and feel secure about the protection of their intellectual property to ensure the continuation of a vibrant literary culture that entertains, educates and inspires millions of readers,” said Rasenberger.

Interested writers, agents and publishers can access a copy of the Model Trade Book Contract here.

Book Translators Have Unique Contract Needs
The Guild further announced the release of its Literary Translation Model Contract and Commentary to serve as a guide for U.S. translators and literary agents when negotiating book contracts for translations of literary prose. It too will be available to the public.

“Translators play an irreplaceable role in creating a vibrant world literature and introducing new readers to important works by authors across the globe. The Literary Translation Model Contract and Commentary represents a synthesis of current publishing practices and fair contract advocacy by the Authors Guild that will help translators obtain the best achievable outcomes in their negotiations and ensure that translators receive the rights granted them under current U.S. copyright and contract law,” said Rasenberger.

The Literary Translation Model Contract and Commentary covers every aspect of rights, licensing, payment, editorial authority and publication of a book in translation. For each contract clause, it offers recommended language, as well as explaining why the provision is worded the way it is and, where possible, makes suggestions on how to negotiate the inclusion of that wording.

“Translators are often overlooked when it comes to the U.S. publishing industry, viewed as neither authors nor editors. Yet without the creative and thoughtful translations they provide, English-language readers would be deprived access to some of the most beloved literature of the 20th century by authors such as Gabriel García Márquez, Naguib Mahfouz and Natalia Ginzburg, who came to us thanks to Edith Grossman, Humphrey Davis and Jenny McPhee, and 21st-century prose masters like Elena Ferrante, Yōko Tawada and Han Kang, whose translators include Ann Goldstein, Margaret Mitsutani, Susan Bernofsky, Deborah Smith and many more,” said Julia Sanches, translator, Authors Guild Council member and leader of the Guild’s newly formed Translators Group. “It is imperative that translators’ rights be protected when negotiating book contracts, which is why we encourage all publishers to review and adopt the Literary Translation Model Contract.”

Translators, publishers and literary agents can review the Literary Translation Model Contract and Commentary here.

About the Authors Guild
The Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for writers. Its mission is to empower working writers by advocating for the rights of authors and journalists. The Guild protects free speech and authors’ copyrights, fights for fair contracts and a living wage and provides an engaged and welcoming community for all published authors. For more, visit