Plain and simple! I have no legal training. I never took a class in law, litigation, court proceeding, anything. So I know squat about contracts.
I do know they can be altered by either party before they are signed. Some publishers refused to change a word, some will be happy to change a phrase, wording made simpler, or spelled out in more detail. Even some agents now required contracts, and again, those can be changed before they are signed - but don't count on a lot of changes unless you have a huge backlist and even then, the second party may not want to change a thing.
I do know contracts are binding under the laws of the country in which they are written - usually. To break a contract can cost money. Way back when, breaking a contract could cost you a lot more even perhaps your life. Well, we are a bit more civilized today - I hope.
What I do know about a contract is simple. Read the thing. If you don't understand it, consult someone who will, that usually means a lawyer, or someone with some knowledge of the law. Even if it is something that looks simple to you, if you don't understand, then you need to.
No, I not promoting the legal profession, only that contracts can be binding and if you don't understand what you are signing, then you could, and I emphasis could, be heading for trouble.
I do know a bit about rights. So I'll explain what I know about them and call it a day, because as I said, I know squat about legal matters.
Rights are what you are selling. You are giving someone the right to publish you work. You still own the work. You are not selling what you have created, or you shouldn't. The length of time, and to whom, for what, are spelled out in the contract you sign. The right to publish is granted to someone else for a specific good (spell that money - or copies of say the magazine, if it's a short story for a mag, or even an article, picture, etc.) The time the publisher has to hang on to those rights, how much they are willing to pay, when and how, based on what and also with what, usually, naming the currency, should be spelled out in that contract.
The most important thing I can tell you about contracts. Read every word - before you sign! If you don't understand, ask someone who will understand. Last, but not least, make sure you keep a copy yourself. Put your contract in a safe place. I have each contract I signed with the finished copy of the book and all the work sheets for each work I wrote and published. That's a lot of paper, but at least I know where everything is. I can put my hands on the contract I signed for that book, years after it has faded from memory.
If you expect to sign a lot of contracts (grinning) then buy yourself a bunch of file folders and put them somewhere safe.
You won't be sorry.
Next week, we'll take a look at a promotional plan. Maybe you can give me some ideas.
Heart-warming Romance with a Sensual Touch.
Betrayed Bride coming in May, 2013 from Champagne Books
Lynbrook's Lady coming in August 2013 also from Champagne Books.