There's been an ongoing discussion on one of my lists about an author's disappointment in discovering the true meaning of her contract - after she'd signed it.
I thought this would be a good opportunity to give a bit of advice about book contracts.
Do NOT sign a book contract unless:
1. You have read the entire contract.
2. You understand the entire contract.
If you and the editor discussed anything that is NOT in the contract, then no matter what the editor promised, it doesn't count. Only what is in the contract is legal. If there's something you've been promised, then don't sign until the contract has been revised to represent that.
It goes without saying, but I'll say it any way, an agent is the ideal person to handle contracts. However, many of you do not have an agent as of yet, so you have to educate yourself about contract terms.
Romance Writers of America has published excellent articles about the different publishing house boilerplate contracts. Join RWA and look these up.
If you have already published, then you may be eligible for membership in Authors Guild Inc. They offer a contract review service for a relatively inexpensive fee.
As a last resort, ask your friends who are published if they will go over the contract with you or even go on your lists and ask for help.
Yes, there are individuals like attorneys and some agents who will review contracts, but they usually charge a couple hundred bucks minimum. If you're thinking of signing an E publishing or small press contract, chances are you won't be getting an advance or will receive only a nominal advance so that fee has to come out of your personal pocket. Use some common sense. Don't pay $500.00 to someone to interpret your contract when you are getting $-0- advance and the publisher has a track record of only producing a hundred dollars or less in earn out on its projects.
There are many books out there (check Writers Digest Books) on understanding contracts. Educate yourself even if you eventually plan to get an agent. An informed writer is a writer who is less likely to be taken advantage of.