Does the author of a book foreword get a contract?
November 23, 2017 6:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to make arrangements for someone to write a 3–7 pages to begin an edited anthology. It's for an academic publication. What are standard practices here?

Is it standard practice to give a contract to such a person?

Do they retain copyright?

Do they get paid?
posted by Dr and Mrs Eaves to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
I have a friend who has written a couple of these (for academic works), and he has talked about getting a stipend each time -- I think on the order of about $1500, but it probably depends on a lot of factors. I don't know about contracts or copyright.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:07 AM on November 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Paid? For a foreword to an academic anthology? Certainly not in any discipline with which I'm familiar. (I'm in history.) I suppose you might negotiate a contract that gives them a percentage of the royalties if the book's sales meet the publisher's reserve, but given that the typical academic anthology at best breaks even, that's likely to be a hypothetical.

An exception might be for a textbook that's likely to sell tens or hundreds of thousands of copies; in that case a contributor might be paid a fee or a percentage of royalties. I wrote a 7,000-word chapter for a handbook for which I got paid $175 plus a copy of the book.

Publishers' contracts are usually with the editor(s), not the contributors, but many will want every contributor to sign a publication agreement. Whether that includes assigning copyright to the publisher will depend on the publisher's standard practices. In some disciplines, funding agencies are now requiring that a version of the work be made available to the public for free after a brief embargo period, and some universities are now requiring that their faculty do the same. Some publishers are OK if only the editor signs an agreement; it depends on where the book is published. I've had 16 chapters published in various edited collections, and I have publication agreements for maybe half of them (but I'm not necessarily the best record keeper).

The answers will depend on the subject, discipline, and publisher, though, so it would help if we knew (at least in general terms) what those are.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:29 AM on November 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

In trade publishing, the writer would get a short assignment of rights agreement (or “work for hire” in some states) issued by the publisher, in which the writer assigns copyright to the publisher or sometimes the author of the book. The agreement would address what’s due when, the fee, how the publisher can use the piece, any other requirements like credits and promo obligations, and legal reps.

Sometimes the writer can retain copyright and use the piece elsewhere, but that’s rarer and a business decision.

No idea if it’s the same in academic publishing.
posted by kapers at 10:37 AM on November 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

In the books I’ve worked on (as a project manager, aka the person who is responsible for chasing down these details) everyone who contributes ANY number of words has been required to sign a contract. And it always explicitly stated what’s up with the copyright, whether or not they receive any money. I believe this is standard practice with publishing whether it’s thru a publishing house or a university or just self-publishing on Amazon.
posted by 100kb at 3:34 PM on November 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

My understanding is:
a) Contracts are standard
b) Author retains copyright
c) Payment varies - small flat fee amounts, as detailed above, with complimentary copy of book; much larger initial payment and possibly token royalty arrangements, if the contributor is some sort of superstar (example: "with a foreword by... Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson" on the cover of an astrophysics anthology) likely to affect sales
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:50 PM on November 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

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