Clark’s Publishing Agreements: A book of precedents

L Owen, general editor (10th edn, Bloomsbury Professional, 2017), 704pp, £154.00 (hbk)
ISBN 978 17 84519 46 9

Reviewed by Jane Moody

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When I first started in publishing, Clark’s was a relatively slender volume. Every word was priceless, as is still the case, but what I have on my desk now is a weighty tome of 700pp. So much has changed in publishing since the first edition.

Once upon a time we only had to worry about print on paper; this edition covers everything you would expect from a thoroughly modern text – book and journal agreements, film and television rights, translation rights, merchandising. There are agreements for licensing digital media, electronic supply, online databases, ebook distribution and apps – even data mining is covered.

One of the best aspects of this book is the weblink that accompanies it, which includes Word versions of all the precedents for you to copy and customise. This takes all the hard work out of creating any kind of publishing agreement.

The book starts with a really useful introduction to legal developments since the previous edition, published in 2013. This is followed by precedents for author–publisher agreements for different sectors, along with contracts for a book editor, book contributor and series editor. Next come precedents for journal editors and contributors, including one for the open-access model, new for this edition, and serial rights. The publisher–translator contract has been updated in line with recommendations from the Translators Association. Low-price reprints, illustrations and artwork, packaging, international editions, film and TV rights, and merchandising follow, and then we are into the digital world. An introduction to the electronic precedents charts the rapid change that has occurred in this area and the big questions that still need to be answered around competition with traditional publishing and the balance of investment versus returns. Digital rights management and self-publishing are touched on, together with data ownership. Precedents for ebook distribution, online access to databases, app development, text and data mining follow.

Throughout these agreements, which form the rectos of the book, there are useful and interesting notes on specific clauses, which are set out on the versos, so that you can read the appropriate note for each clause. Along the way, you can glean interesting background to the changes and trends in the publishing world, and suggestions are offered where a clear preference has not emerged. Not every clause has an accompanying note, so you are paying for a good deal of white space, but it does make it easy to quickly find the background information that you need.

Another useful aspect of this book is the appendices. These cover the US market, paperback and hardback rights, licensing permission rights, collective licensing of reproduction rights, accessibility (the appendix is entitled ‘People with disabilities’ but access and discrimination are what is discussed), academic library aggregators (a new appendix for this edition), Creative Commons licences (also new), moral rights and the Publishers Association code of practice on author contracts. Finally, lists are included of nations and territories, including a table listing all the members of the international copyright conventions. It would be remiss of me not to also mention the 28pp index, which is definitely the easiest way of finding what you need.

At £154 it is not going to find its way onto all freelances’ bookshelves, but it’s certainly worth recommending to your clients and, especially, independent authors. And a final comment: all the royalties from this book go to the Book Trade Charity.

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