Margie Lawson

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How to Speak Legalese: Deciphering Literary Contracts

In this course we will dive into the dizzying world of literary contracts. You’ll learn what is typically in a literary contract, such as an author-agent agreement or a publishing contract, and what the most common clauses really mean. You’ll learn what to watch out for, when to try to change things, and when to walk away. And you’ll be given plenty of resources to help you do more research on your own.   

Lesson Plan:

Lesson One: Welcome

  • Introduction
  • What is a contract?

Lesson Two: Types of Literary Contracts

Lesson Three: Key Provisions in Author-Agent Agreements, Part 1

  • Scope of Relationship
  • Subsidiary Rights
  • Commissions/Fees
  • Disbursements
  • Term
  • Termination

Lesson Four: Key Provisions in Author-Agent Agreements, Part 2

  • Best Efforts
  • Assignability
  • Expenses
  • Audit

Lesson Five: Key Provisions in Publishing Contracts, Part 1

  • Grant of Rights/Description of Work
  • Term/Termination
  • Delivery & Acceptance
  • Duty to Publish
  • Agent Clause

Lesson Six: Key Provisions in Publishing Contracts, Part 2

  • Options/Subsequent Works
  • Compensation/Royalties
  • Representations/Warranties/Indemnification
  • Copyright

Lesson Seven: Key Provisions in Publishing Contracts, Part 3

  • Artistic Control
  • Reversion
  • Author Copies
  • Accounting/Audit
  • Negotiation

Lesson Eight: A Quick and Dirty Overview of Copyright Law

Lesson Nine: Wrap Up

What you'll learn:

Some of the things you’ll take away from this class:  

  • What are the key terms and provisions of literary contracts, and what do they mean?  
  • What are subsidiary rights, and how do agents and publishers handle them?  
  • How do agents make money, and what does it cost you?  
  • How long are literary contracts valid, and how do you get out them if things aren’t working out? 
  • How are royalties calculated, and what do publishers mean about list price, wholesale price, ? 
  • What kinds of provisions should you try to negotiate, and which should make you walk you away? 
  • What’s so important about copyright?  

Teacher

Marin McGinnis

A lawyer by day, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing romance and mystery. She's spent more than half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She lives with her husband and two standard poodles.

Marin has dabbled in writing since she was in her 20s, but she didn’t finish anything until she hit her 40s. While her very first completed manuscript will forever languish under the bed, Marin subsequently published four Victorian-era romances. She is currently working on a stand-alone historical romance, a historical mystery series set in the English Lake District, and a contemporary cozy mystery series (because why write one thing when you can write three at once?). 

When she’s not writing, editing, teaching, networking, or lawyering, she’s cooking for family and friends, learning how (and how not) to bake bread, and spending far too much time watching superhero movies.

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Reviews

Must take Class!

Rated 5 out of 5
March 25, 2022

This class was amazing. Marin gives a good idea of what things you might see in a contract, things that can be negotiated and what you want to look for and when you might want to walk away.
I know enough to feel confident being able to understand contracts and if the terms put me at a disadvantage and how to make sure my agent and publisher are also using all their skills and to do what they stated in a time frame agreed upon.
Marin gives resources as well which are extremely helpful as well as examples and some real life stories.
This is a must take class!

Avatar for Megan Ganesh
Megan Ganesh

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