Over the past few weeks I've started a series of posts helping to demystify the jargon of publishing. Sometimes it doesn't seem like jargon to me, but when you're starting out who's there to explain what an MS or MSS is, or even what PLR is all about (actually, that one definitely is worth knowing about as it could earn you precious pounds in years to come).
Anyway, next up is MTA, which stands for Minimum Terms Agreement.
Publishers' agreements are usually complex with lots of clauses. Agreements vary from publisher to publisher, author to author, and book to book.
Lots of authors rely on their agents to check and go through the legal nitty-gritty with them, while members of the Society of Authors or the Writers' Guild of Great Britain will use those organisations to vet it on their behalf.
But what if you're starting out, and on your own? If this sounds like you, it's a good idea to compare the contract, clause by clause, with an MTA (you'll find some essential clauses listed in the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook).
An MTA is a royalty agreement, laying down the minimum acceptable royalties on sales of a book. It also covers the size of an advance and recommends the split between the publisher and the author of money from the sale of subsidiary rights.
Developed jointly between the Society of Authors and the Writers' Guild back in 1980, an MTA is signed by these two organisations and a publisher (not between an author and a publisher). It commits the publisher to offering the author terms which are at least as good as those in an MTA.
However, signing an MTA is not compulsory for a publisher; there is no 'standard' MTA; and most publishers have insisted on particular variations in the agreement.
In practice, not that many publishers have signed up, but nonetheless MTA has been a success. Why? Because almost all non-signatory publishers have adopted some or all of its provisions, and overall terms for authors have improved.
Authors are now in a stronger position to argue their case that their contracts should meet certain standards, and when to a lot of first time authors every penny counts, then it's good to know that there is help at hand.
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