After receiving the offer to publish, I talked to my mini critique club members and our SCBWI regional advisor. They advised me to compare my contract with the sample contract on the SCBWI website. The sample contract is a standard industry contract with explanatory notes by a lawyer on how to modify it to protect the authors and/or illustrators. You can find the sample contract in “The Book, the Essential Guide to Publishing for Children” on the SCBWI website. It contains over 300 pages of resources and is free to members. My SCBWI regional advisor told me to treat the offer as a business negotiation and to ask for what I think is fair.
My publisher is also a member of SCBWI and prefers to work with someone who’s a member. I spent a few days studying the contracts and asking questions. I think one of the first things to do if you want to become an author/illustrator is to join SCBWI and meet the members in your local area. There’s also a super helpful group called KIDLIT411 on Facebook that you can join for free. I find the people in the kid lit industry friendly and willing to help. It’s reassuring for a newbie like me to be able to ask experienced people questions and find answers.
In my mini critique club, someone was represented by an agent and she said her agent spent six months negotiating with the publisher on her behalf. Also, agents usually negotiate a higher pay for the author/illustrator because they take a cut from the pay. Another option is to hire a lawyer to go over the contract with you.
On the financial side of things, there is an advance payment and then the royalty. Advance is usually paid in instalments and you must earn out your advance before receiving any royalties. For example, if you are paid $2000 in advance, you must earn back the $2000 before receiving any royalties.
Check out this survey of 174 published picture book authors in 2017 about their advances and how long it took to earn out their advances.
Check out this post about the finer points of how royalties are calculated:
This page on SCBWI website answers some of the most frequently asked questions from how to get your children’s book published to how much you can expect to make on your first book:
Around the time I was signing my publishing offer, #publishingpaidme was trending on Twitter. It was interesting to see how much some people are getting paid!