A young philosopher in Europe writes:
I’m soon about to receive a book contract proposal from a prestigious university press. I was wondering if you or the readers of Leiter Reports might be able to offer any advice on this: what to watch out for; what might I regret in the future; are the terms actually negotiable in the case of a junior academic etc.
I'll open this for comments, though please post them only once, comment moderation may be slow today given my other obligations.
A few comments of my own. First, many book contracts include a clause that gives the press the right of first refusal on your next book. That might be great if it's a great press, that you'd love to work with again, but otherwise, you should ask that clause be stricken. You aren't signing up for a lifetime contract just because a good press is publishing your first book. Second, you ought to be clear going in about whether a paperback edition will appear: as a junior scholar, you don't have much leverage, but it may depend on your topic. Simultaneous publication in cloth and paper is more common for established scholars, but sometimes a press will commit to a paperback edition after one or two years, perhaps if certain sales goals are met. It's fair to raise the issue but don't be surprised if the press says no to including that in the contract. Third, junior scholars can't really negotiate about royalty rates, at least not in my experience. I wouldn't worry about it, since this is an academic philosophy book! Fourth, and this is more idiosyncratic to me since as a lawyer I actually read these contracts carefully, the contracts usually ask you to warranty that there is no libel or copyright violation and to agree to indemnify the press otherwise. That's not unreasonable if it means that the author must indemnify the press against a successful claim of libel or copyright violation, but not if it means the author must indemnify the press against frivolous lawsuits. Whether that's a significant distinction may depend on your topic!
Those with experience in these matters are invited to comment. I would prefer real names, but at least include a valid e-mail address (which wont' appear).