Robert Pimm, a lawyer and the Chief Learning Officer and Director of Legal Services for California Lawyers for the Arts (CLA), explained to Left Coast Writers that CLA provides lawyer referrals, dispute resolution services, educational programs, publications and a resource library to creative artists of all disciplines.

CLA is a good place to start if you have a specific legal question; they can match you up with an attorney who understands the issue and has experience with it.

What kinds of issues do lawyers work on with authors?

I wanted some specifics, so Bob gave me a list of the kinds of work he does, including:

  • Answering questions about copyright and trademark law.
  • Assisting in the formation of corporate entities for publishing ventures (C-Corporations, S-Corporations, LLCs, B-Corporations, etc.)
  • Negotiating agreements to engage literary agents (or getting out of those agreements when things go badly).
  • Negotiating book publishing agreements with all types of publishers, from those offering 7-figure advances to self-publishing service companies where authors pay for all the services (or getting out of those agreements when things go badly).
  • Negotiating collaboration agreements between the many parties to a publishing project, such as authors + editors, or authors + illustrators, or authors + cover designers, etc., (or getting out of those agreements when things go badly).

Get the picture? Left unplanned, things can go badly …

Sticky situations can arise during the process of writing, editing, publishing, distributing, promoting, and selling a book. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clearly written contract to refer to before these situations arise:

  • The author’s work is a huge (and somewhat unexpected) success … and the editor asserts that he actually did most the writing, and should therefore get half the royalties.
  • The publisher agrees to promote the book, but provides very little marketing support.
  • The agent promises to pay the author in a timely manner, but then refuses to provide either sales reports or royalty payments, even though the agent has already been paid by the publisher.

The best time to work with a lawyer might be before you think you need one.

Here are some resources Bob suggests: