Clark’s Publishing Agreements: A book of precedents

Edited by Lynette Owen (11th edn, Bloomsbury, 2022), 952pp, £170 (hardback)
ISBN 978 1526 516 94 7

Reviewed by Jane Moody

Buy this book

There comes a point in the life of a long-running publication when someone might say ‘Do you think this book is a bit too big now?’ Having reached an 11th edition, one might wonder if the 922 pages (plus 30 pages of prelims) of this volume are about as much as anyone wants to put between two covers. What might a publisher do instead?

Well, the text is as invaluable as ever, and includes just about every kind of agreement any publisher might want. Currently, all the printed precedents (agreements) are available to download from a Bloomsbury site. However, I am not sure that many people will want to read the text of all the precedents in print, unless they actually want to use one. Perhaps one option might be to pull out the text of the precedents and retain them as electronic downloadable files? Maybe this would enable the publisher to reduce the not inconsiderable retail price of £170 to something slightly more manageable.

Having said that, the book is worth every penny of that price. All the hard work of creating an agreement has been done for you, and the background and notes to the text of the precedents is equally useful. The introduction is a concise and clear explanation of recent developments in UK, EU and international copyright. Following that, the first precedent covers a general book author–publisher agreement. This extends to 74 pages of the 11th edition (66 pages in the previous edition), reflecting recent changes to data protection legislation among other updates and amendments.

Other precedents cover agreements for book authors and editors (including a new precedent covering open access publishing), journal authors and editors, translators, illustrators and artwork, packaging rights, international co-editions, film, TV and merchandising rights, reuse rights, and several precedents covering electronic and digital media, app development, text and data mining. The rise of social media and streaming, even since publication of the 10th edition in 2017, sees an expansion of the introduction to the section on electronic precedents. This introduction highlights the developments in the field and describes how they have affected licensing and agreements in this area. This introduction is a must-read for anyone working in this field. Also included is a new precedent on arrangements with a social influencer – not something that many publishers will have thought about even just a few years ago.

The appendices to the book deal with areas of licensing that don’t easily fit into a precedent, such as the US market, licensing permission rights, people with disabilities, creative commons licensing (new for this edition), among others. Again, these appendices are clearly written and up-to-date explanations of recent developments.

As with previous editions, all the royalties from sales of the book are donated to the Book Trade Charity, which might make you feel better about spending so much on one book. I do wonder, though, how long it can go on being produced as a printed volume. Perhaps the next edition might see an online subscription database instead? Who knows what developments in publishing the next five years might see!

Reviews of other business titles All book reviews