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Negotiating a Book Contract: A Guide for Authors, Agents and Lawyers Revised Edition

13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1559213837
ISBN-10: 1559213833
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Editorial Reviews


"A valuable addition to any writer's professional library." -- Carl D. Brandt, Brandt & Brandt Literary Agents

About the Author

Mark Levine is a lawyer by profession, but has been a publisher as well. He was a partner at Sullivan & Wooster (NYC) and lives in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Asphodel Press; Revised edition (July 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559213833
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559213837
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #967,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark L. Levine, one of the country's leading authorities on book contracts, is a former partner of Boston's Sullivan & Worcester LLP and has also been a publisher and book packager. He writes the Contracts Q&A column for the Authors Guild Bulletin and is the founder of He also conducts seminars for non-lawyers on negotiating and on contract law.

Levine has spent virtually his entire legal career drafting and negotiating a broad range of contracts. He has represented major domestic and foreign financial institutions and Fortune 500 corporations in sophisticated corporate and financial transactions in addition to representing authors and agents in publishing matters. He is a former vice president and member of the Board of Directors of the American Book Producers Association.

He is the author of three books, with total sales of more than 200,000 copies. Negotiating a Book Contract: A Guide for Authors, Agents and Lawyers is Levine's third book. He is co-editor of The Tales of Hoffman (Bantam Books 1970), a documentary of courtroom confrontations from the "Chicago 7" conspiracy trial (four printings), and The Complete Book of Bible Quotations (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster 1986; eight printings).

He has also successfully published Picture Stories from the Bible ... in Full-Color Comic-Strip Form (over 100,000 copies sold), hardcover reprints of paperback books that were originally published in the 1940s by M.C. Gaines, one of the founders of DC comics and the father of William M. Gaines, founder of Mad Magazine.

Levine is a graduate of Columbia College, NYU School of Law (where he was a member of Law Review) and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (where he was the recipient of the Louis and Pauline Cowan Award for Excellence in Media Management).

Levine is also an experienced voter protection attorney who has worked for progressive political candidates in New York, New Hampshire, Ohio, Maryland, Missouri, Wisconsin, South Carolina, West Virginia, Florida and Mississippi.

A native of Bath, Maine, he lives in a suburb of New York City.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Holly Ingraham on February 28, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the author of 'People's Names':
I didn't know how much my library needed this. It may at first seem a relatively brief book, but you more than get your money's worth.
The prose is clear and simple, but the information is densely packed. No marshmallow padding to let your brain relax. Plan on reading no more than a chapter a night to absorb this, or you'll start getting foggy from information overload.
If you have not faced a contract, this will prepare you for most of what you are likely to be offered, and what you might ask for or change. If you have signed contracts, you may want to kick yourself for not reading this sooner. (I did. One or two light kicks, not bad.) The next contract I go over, with a new agent or not, is going to give me a lot more than the last one. It will also help me double-check my new agent.
O wishful beginners, agents are not only not omniscient, they are often looking out more for their interests than for yours. This means that some will try to keep the publishers real happy with them and not push anything you don't demand. If you don't know what to push for or adjust, the agent won't necessarily rock the boat by making suggestions. Some day I'll get one of those agents who is a writer's best friend, but until then this book helps me be my own best friend in the business.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Cranky Franky on January 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is THE book to have on book contracts.
As a contracts attorney myself, I used it to analyze the contract submitted to me by a mainstream publisher, only to discover that they were trying to "fleece" me.
This book is indispensable for any author interested in getting a fair deal. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is well written, easily accessible and virtually timeless in content. Mark is very attuned to the industry and his advice amply demonstrates this.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 21, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book should be on every author's bookshelf. Clearly and concisely written, it explains, in plain English, the essential deal points contained in the standard author-publisher agreement. Read this book before you sign on the dotted line. -- Lloyd J. Jassin, Attorney at La
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ingrid M. Miller on August 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is straightforward and seems complete comparing it to the vast information currently available online. The only problem is that it was published in 1988 and it is difficult to have confidence that you have "covered all the bases" with respect to negotiating a current book contract. It is a fine starting point and will help give a grasp of the terminology and major issues involved.

For lawyers I recommend supplementing this book with some online continuing education courses. For lay people with a book deal pending, it is worth reading but should not be your only resource.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Laura Cross on February 23, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're an author seeking a traditional publishing deal you should be aware that publishing contracts are negotiable. Negotiating a Book Contract is the best book I've read on the subject. Writer Mark Levine provides a comprehensive, clear and concise overview of every element found in a publishing contract, including royalties, advances, subsidiary rights, manuscript delivery obligations, termination rights, and options. Levine highlights the most important clauses and identifies which points are easy to negotiate and which are more difficult.

The detailed `Sample Letter of Comments' is invaluable for authors to follow when requesting changes to their own contracts. The new revised 2009 edition of the book adds a section on Internet works and electronic rights. Even if you have a lawyer or literary agent representing you in your publishing negotiations, it's well worth having a copy of Negotiating A Book Contract on hand while reviewing your own contract.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kate McMurry TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 10, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mark Levine is a lawyer with many years of experience representing authors, small publishers and book packagers in book contract negotiations, and all that experience definitely shows in this book. But what is even more evident is that he's a fantastic writer and teacher. He takes very complex, boring legal information and makes it totally accessible.

As I read this book, line by line, page by page, I found it an absolute gold mine of information. It covers virtually any situation that could possibly come up in a publishing contract. If you could find an attorney who was willing to give you this much information in person, which is highly unlikely, it would cost you a fortune. That makes this book an incredible bargain that no author can afford to be without, whether contracting your first book or your fiftieth.

Even if you have an agent or can afford to hire a top literary attorney to help you look over your publishing contract, you still need to understand what's in that contract yourself. Knowledge is power--and money--when it comes to contracts. Agents and lawyers aren't infallible. And they can't know, if you the client don't know yourself, what sorts of rights that you as a unique individual absolutely would not want to sign away. For example, the rights to your pen name, ownership of your characters if you are writing a series, or making sure it is spelled out in your contract what "out of print" means for purposes of getting back your rights to a book that a publisher is no longer making any effort to sell.

If you only buy one book on literary contracts, make it this one. It's an essential addition to your reference shelf.
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