Wouldn’t it be great to sign a contract without an option clause? So that every time you go to a new contract you could go anywhere you wanted? Well, to a certain degree you can . . . and you can’t.
***An aside for those who might not be entirely clear on what an option clause is. An option clause is the clause in your publisher’s contract that gives them the first right of refusal on your next book. This means that you cannot submit your next book to any other publisher until your current publisher has either let the option period lapse, made an offer, or passed on the book. An option clause is standard in nearly every publishing contract you will ever see.***
Option clauses are a pain in the butt, but they are also something you’re going to have to deal with in every publishing contract you sign. It’s pretty rare that you are going to get a publisher to agree to eliminate it entirely, although that can happen.
So, what can you do to make sure that you get a fair option? Limit it as much as possible.
Publisher: Wants the option on your next works
You: Want to make sure the option is specific to one next book and specific to what that book should be—the next work in the series, or in that very specific genre—next paranormal erotic romance, or next Civil War–era historical novel.
Publisher: Wants you to submit a full manuscript for option considering
You: Want to make sure that you only need to submit a proposal. At the most that should be a synopsis and three chapters.
Publisher: Wants the option period to begin after the publication of the last book in the contract and last for 90 days
You: Want to make sure it begins no later (and earlier if possible) than at the time you submit the last book in the contract and lasts for 30 days, or even less if possible.
Obviously you won’t always get exactly what you want, but if you can narrow the option clause to as least come close to some of these points, you’ll be in pretty good shape.