Option Clauses in Publishing Contracts – friend or foe to an author?

As mentioned, I’m going to talk about different aspects of publishing contracts in my blogs with the femmes. This month’s topic is option clauses.

We’ve all heard of option clauses in publishing contracts. But what exactly are they and how important are they to authors?

In simple terms, option clauses require an author to offer her next book to the publisher before anyone else. They’re also referred to as “a right of first refusal” clauses. It’s fair to assume that any clause in a contract is written in favor of the party who wrote it. In this case, the publisher.




Now I know of authors who like the option clause. They say it gives them a sense of comfort knowing the publisher wants their next book. But this could very well be a false sense of comfort. Remember what I just mentioned above? Any clause in a contract is written in favor the party who wrote it. What the option clause is doing is prohibiting the author from submitting to other publishers while the publisher has no related duty. Not entirely fair, right?

If you’re a new or even a midlist author, you may not be able to eliminate the option clause entirely, but you may be able to effectively and professionally negotiate some points. Here are some concrete examples.

Limit the terms

Try to limit the word count or genre or both. The more specific the language of the option, the better for the author. For example, if the contract says “for author’s next fiction novel,” you can attempt to limit the option to “for author’s next 50,000 to 60,000 word contemporary paranormal romance.”

Limit the time you are required to submit your next book

For example, limit the amount of time you have to submit another book under the option clause, for example, number of years (one or two years). Otherwise, an option clause may be construed as endless.

Limit the publisher’s time to respond

Try to limit the publisher’s time to respond to the option work offered. For example, thirty to ninety days.

Limit the option work to a specific proposal

For example, write a short paragraph of your next work that you want covered under the option clause.

So have you ever heard of another way to effectively negotiate any type of contract? What’s your best tip? I’d love hear your views, so please share!

And please look for my next blog on different contract clauses.

Tina Gabrielle

In The Barrister's Bed   In the Barrister's Chambers   Original Artwork A Perfect Scandal   LADYOFSCANDAL Cover

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Leave a comment


  1. JB Schroeder

     /  August 18, 2014

    Very helpful, Tina! I am sure we’ll all be referring to this post at some point in our careers!

  2. Jaye Marie Rome

     /  August 18, 2014

    Great advice, Tina! I’m so noriously bad at negotiating, especially when it’s for myself. This mini-tutorial is extremely helpful! Thanks!

    • Thank you Jaye! I’m glad you found it helpful. I wanted to make it short and easy. But I admit I don’t enjoy negotiating either and it can be very stressful. I hope the tips help others too!

  3. So important! Thank you for doing this. The time limit, IMO, is critical! So glad to have your lawerly expertise here…..

    • Thanks so much Joanna! I’ve heard contracts keep pushing the time limit longer and longer on option clauses. It’s so hard to negotiate as newer authors, but it’s an important clause to consider. I hope the tips help!

  4. Thanks for explaining the legalities of ROFR, Tina. This was very helpful. Once you’re signed with a publisher, it’s natural to expect they’re going to want first dibs on another MS. It’s important to understand what’s reasonable and what to be wary of.

  5. Thanks Maria! It’s always good to know what’s reasonabale in this business for authors. I hope it helps.

  6. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  August 25, 2014

    Thank you for this insight, Tina!

  7. Glad you found it useful RoseAnn!

  8. Elaine Fisher

     /  October 9, 2014

    do have to be careful whom you sign with … am finding that out right now


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