You’ve finally decided to write that nonfiction book that you’ve been thinking about for years.  However, as you begin to plan the project, you realize that you might need some help to pull it off.  Specifically, you have concluded that having a well-known expert in the field review your manuscript and write a preface for the book may mean the difference between a publishing success story or a quick trip to the remainder table.  You have found an expert who is willing to participate in the project, but now you need to know what issues you should consider in arranging the deal.

The Structure

Under copyright law and industry practice, making suggestions for changes to a manuscript or writing a preface or other brief material to be added to a book will usually not be enough to make the contributor a joint author of the book.  However, in order to insure that the contributor has no claim to the book, you should obtain a signed work for hire agreement covering all of the contributor(s contributions.  The agreement should also provide for an assignment of all rights in those contributions in case any particular contribution does not meet the Copyright Act definition of a work made for hire.

Performance and Delivery

Your agreement with the contributor should describe the services that the contributor will perform, and should set a deadline for the completion of those services and the delivery of any written materials.  In addition, the agreement should give you the right to accept or reject any materials, and to require the contributor to make any necessary revisions. 


Assuming the contributor wants to be paid for his or her work, the parties will have to agree on the amount and form of payment.  From your perspective, the best way to compensate the contributor will usually be with a one-time flat fee.  However, if you do not have the money available up front, or if the contributor wants an ongoing participation in the book, you will have to consider giving the contributor a share of your royalties.  In most cases, it will be better to calculate the contributor(s share as a percentage of the gross rather than the net amounts received.  This will avoid disputes over what expenses should or should not be deducted to arrive at a "net" figure.  In determining the percentage that you are willing to offer the contributor, you should consider agent(s fees, marketing expenses and other costs that you are likely to incur in connection with the project.  You will want to make sure that the share of gross proceeds paid to the contributor is reasonable when compared to the net amount that you will receive after payment of all of your expenses.


In most cases, a substantial portion of the value of involving the contributor in the project will be tied to the use of the contributor(s name on the cover of the book and in any advertising for the book.  Accordingly, your agreement with the contributor should include permission to use the contributor(s name in this manner.  You should retain the right to determine the style and size of any credit given to the contributor, and you should also have the right to discontinue use of the contributor(s name at any time.  The latter can be important if the contributor(s reputation subsequently becomes diminished for any reason.


In conclusion, involving another person in your book project may substantially increase your chances for success.  However, you and your contributor will need to reach a mutual understanding on the terms of the relationship, and those terms should be spelled out in a written agreement.