NWU contract advice is confidential and available free to union members in good standing.
Contract advice can help you avoid exploitation and receive the rewards you deserve. It has rapidly become one of the most popular union services.
What Is a Contract?
A contract is any agreement between you and another party regarding the use or sale of your writing. It may be with a publisher, agent, work-for-hire client, website, or other party; it may concern a book, article, research report, short story, computer manual, screenplay, or what-have-you. But the key word is “agreement.” Contracts are not lists of terms that the other party wants. They represent agreement between you.
Publishing contracts are about giving someone the right to publish your work. Only you own the work, but you can give anyone the right to publish it—once or many times. Furthermore, you can give multiple companies the right to publish: one company to publish in hardcopy, one to publish on a website, one to publish an e-book, and one to produce a smartphone app. So while your publisher or client may send you a boilerplate contract with the comment that all its writers sign it, you need to examine it carefully to make sure that it gives you what you want. That’s where NWU contract advisors come in.
How Contract Advice Works
Contract advice is any review of an agreement before you give your final assent by signing it. Our purpose is to make sure that the terms are the best possible ones for you.
The union’s perspective on contracts is unique. We’re writers like you and we’re totally on your side. So when you’re negotiating an agreement with a publisher or work-for-hire client, have a union contract advisor review it with you before you sign. The advisor will go over the terms, explain the benefits and pitfalls, and suggest ways to negotiate improvements.
You may choose to have your entire contract reviewed, or to ask questions about specific provisions. The union has advisors for journalism, book, collaboration, work-for-hire, academic, agent, and other types of contracts.
Before you see a contract advisor, you may want to look for answers in the union’s model contracts and contract guides on the Contract Resources page in the members-only section.
You can often save yourself some time that way and you’ll have learned things that will advance your career.
Magazine, newspaper and website contracts are often short and simple, so you can probably have all of your questions answered in one or two emails. It’s a good idea to email your contract to your advisor so he or she can look it over and make suggestions.
Book contracts tend to be long and are often complicated. Please read the union’s Guide to Book Contracts. (If you have trouble downloading it, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send one out.) A book contract advisor will almost certainly want to look over your contract, so request one right away since it may take as long as a week to match you up with one. You can be reading the Guide, which will probably answer some of your questions and raise others, in the meantime.
Work-for-hire contracts vary in complexity. You can read the Guide to Work-For-Hire Contracts, Tips for a Better Work-for-Hire Contract, and the BizTech Contracts Glossary before requesting an advisor.
Other contract help includes union publications on such topics as agent and collaboration contracts. Contact the GCD and ask about those in your genres.
Contract advisors will ask you to report the results of your contract negotiations. Your name is always kept confidential, but we compile data to help us in other members’ negotiations.
Contract advisors are wonderful, but they don’t do everything:
- Contract advisors do not offer legal advice.
- Contract advisors don’t act as agents or make referrals to agents.
- Contract advisors don’t negotiate contracts on your behalf.
How to Obtain Contract Advice