Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Ideal Option Clause

Wouldn't it be great to sign a contract without an option clause? So that every time you go to a new contract you could go anywhere you wanted? Well, to a certain degree you can . . . and you can't.

***An aside for those who might not be entirely clear on what an option clause is. An option clause is the clause in your publisher's contract that gives them the first right of refusal on your next book. This means that you cannot submit your next book to any other publisher until your current publisher has either let the option period lapse, made an offer, or passed on the book. An option clause is standard in nearly every publishing contract you will ever see.***

Option clauses are a pain in the butt, but they are also something you're going to have to deal with in every publishing contract you sign. It's pretty rare that you are going to get a publisher to agree to eliminate it entirely, although that can happen.

So, what can you do to make sure that you get a fair option? Limit it as much as possible.

Publisher: Wants the option on your next works
You: Want to make sure the option is specific to one next book and specific to what that book should be—the next work in the series, or in that very specific genre—next paranormal erotic romance, or next Civil War–era historical novel.

Publisher: Wants you to submit a full manuscript for option considering
You: Want to make sure that you only need to submit a proposal. At the most that should be a synopsis and three chapters.

Publisher: Wants the option period to begin after the publication of the last book in the contract and last for 90 days
You: Want to make sure it begins no later (and earlier if possible) than at the time you submit the last book in the contract and lasts for 30 days, or even less if possible.

Obviously you won't always get exactly what you want, but if you can narrow the option clause to as least come close to some of these points, you'll be in pretty good shape.

—Jessica

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

So what if there is no "option period" specified in a contract? Author is, ah, screwed, right? And has to sub a work, any work, in order to get out of the option?


Am I understanding that correctly, that after a set period of time most option clauses expire?

Maria said...

Helpful posts! Thanks!

Kimber An said...

I don't see option clauses as evil, but I do see how they should be as limited as possible.

elysabeth said...

I've not had to deal with contracts and option clauses but I'll have to tuck this away fur future reference. I'll have to make sure I know someone who can help me deal with the ins and outs of the contract so I get the best deal possible - E :)

Anonymous said...

How would an agent go about getting out of an existing option clause in a contract? Is such a thing possible?

I just switched agents and have an option on my next book and, no, former agent did not negotiate said option clause in my favor. Current agent said they would see if they could negate the clause. interested to know how this would be done.

Meanwhile, I do like my publisher, and although they have until 90 days after acceptance of the last work on my current contract to accept or reject my next book, I don't believe they would string me along like that. But, of course, I am naiive...

Thanks for demystifying this stuff!

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