Apples and Oranges: An Analysis and Comparison of Distribution Agreements

January 1997
by Ivan Hoffman, B.A., J.D

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Ivan HoffmanIvan Hoffman (photo right) is a publishing, copyright, Internet law, recording, and music attorney as well as a published writer and author. He practices in the Los Angeles area. You may reach him at or 818/342-1762.

I’ve had an opportunity to review the contracts of a number of the important distributors of books in the United States. Each contract contains many similarities and some important differences. The independent publisher is well-advised to review the agreement presented with great care for there are significant legal issues and costs involved in the process of having the publisher’s book or books distributed.

There is no simple way to present this data because each contract stands on its own. Comparing one company’s distribution fee with another is unproductive standing alone since there are often other costs that must be factored into the equation for the publisher, costs such as participation in advertising and marketing programs, fees for listing in catalogs or data banks, insurance costs and/or risk factors, and the like.

Therefore, rather than go through each provision in each contract and attempt to compare them (an approach I feel could be more confusing than productive), I have chosen to discuss the “key” issues that face the publisher, the so-called “money” issues, along with some of the other substantive points even if they do not directly involve money.

A Word about the Power to Change

What is or is not negotiable within the four corners of any agreement, whether it be for book distribution, publishing, or any other contract, depends entirely upon the relative bargaining positions of the parties. Italways comes down to who wants the other more? Or perhaps,…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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