Yes! Journal publishers are often open to negotiation. The publisher can and likely will push for a contract that works in their favor, but they have already invested significant effort in reviewing your article and want to move forward with publication.
To initiate negotiations, indicate that you are reviewing the agreement and wish to discuss it further. Although negotiating face-to-face or over the telephone often allows for greater flexibility, be sure to document any oral conversations in writing to avoid subsequent misunderstandings.
If the publisher agrees with your proposed changes, carefully review the modified version of the agreement to ensure that it matches your requests or that you approve of any alternate language used. If changes have been made my hand, both parties should initial all handwritten changes when signing the agreement. Keep a copy of the signed agreement and of correspondence that reflects your and the publisher's understanding of any modifications.
In the event that the publisher pushes back on your proposals, you can continue to engage in discussion. The publisher may agree with some but not all of your modifications, or suggest additional changes to your modifications, causing you to cycle through the negotiation process until a consensus is reached. If the publisher is unwilling to make the changes you want, explain or reiterate why these modifications are important to you and how plan to use the work in future. Asking the publisher for an explanation as to why they cannot not publish your article under the terms you proposed may shed light on their position or suggest a compromise that will satisfy both parties.
Incorporate an Addendum
Attaching an addendum is a straightforward way to propose changes to a publishing contract. An addendum is a document that, when signed by both parties, modifies an agreement without either party editing the original text.
To use an addendum to propose changes, fill in and sign the addendum. Sign the original agreement offered by the publisher, noting "Subject to Attached Addendum" next to your signature, and return it to the publisher for their review.
There are pre-fabricated addenda created specifically to assist scholarly authors in retaining key rights to their work:
Directly Request Changes
Changes can also be proposed by simply asking that specific contract language be modified or by marking up the proposed agreement with your desired changes. Both addenda and sample publishing agreements can provide examples of author-friendly language that will accomplish your goals. Ask advisors and experienced peers for suggestions if you have trouble locating helpful examples, or reach out to a librarian for guidance in reviewing and negotiating your contract.
This guide and the accompanying workshop materials were created by Rochelle Lundy and Julia Hon, University of Washington iSchool class of 2018.