Key contract clause: scope of work

by Stephanie Golden

Copyright © 2009 Stephanie Golden

Writing partnerships come in so many shapes and sizes that each collaboration agreement needs to be custom tailored to fit. Not being a lawyer, I can’t provide a comprehensive account of what this type of contract should include. But based on my own experience, this and future articles will give pointers about some critical clauses. I learned the hard way that if you don’t think them through at the beginning, you may rue it later.

This article addresses the scope of work, which lays out how the tasks of producing the book will be divided up, specifying who is responsible for what. This clause may seem obvious, but the devil is in the details. Be explicit! Settling the following questions in advance tells the writer how much time the project will require and how large a fee s/he needs to cover it, while it saves the expert an unpleasant surprise should the writer require additional payment. Plus, drawing the lines of responsibility clearly at the outset saves wrangling, hurt feelings, and worse further along.

Writing a contract can be tough, tedious, and distasteful at times. But remember that it isn’t just something to appeal to on the off chance that something may go wrong. The very act of putting it together—which requires the two of you to discuss the terms—forces you to think your collaboration through in advance. That’s the best way to forestall potential disagreements and possible disasters.