The number one rule for contract negotiations: Don't be afraid to walk away!
We as authors dream of those illusive publishing contracts, but contracts are universal and you must remember that you as the author must benefit from the signing. Believe me it's one of the hardest things in the world to get up and leave a contract behind, but better to do that than regret the decision that doesn't benefit you and will not further your career.
It's important to know how to read a contract in the first place. If you don't know terms, research them online or in your local library. Research is crucial to making a sound decision. Everything can be found online and don't forget your fellow authors if you get stuck.
Next, remember to check a publisher's reputation. Reputation matter, especially in this business. Now, like most businesses there will be those few author's who are never satisfied or happy with their publisher/editor etc., but learn to separate the gripes from the legitimate concerns.
Finally, remember that you can walk away anytime before signing the contract. It's difficult to refuse a contract. You fear the book will never sell elsewhere or you'll be blackballed. Don't worry about that. So long as you've maintained your professional demeanor through all negotiation processes, it'll all be fine.
Not all publishers will negotiate a contract, but if you have simple concerns about wording or such, bring it up to the publisher to get the dialogue rolling. If they become defensive and abusive in their reply, it might be a reason for concern. Good publisher will address your concerns without hostility. Do remember their emails are very short and to the point. Don't take this as abrupt; the editors are simply usually shorter on time than most.
Remember, walking away is your right. Do so with confidence in yourself and your book, if that is the route you must take. Otherwise, ask questions and don't be afaid to try and get them to negotiate if you have a contract term preference and the like.
I hope when you get your acceptance for a book that you feel excited. More so, I hope you feel empowered when you receive your contract and read through it. Remember, this is your life and career, so do what's best for it.
I've lucked out with excellent publishers in Siren Bookstrand and Breathless Press. I wish all of you the same success with your chosen publisher.
Romance Author Lifestyle Blog
Mary is a multi-published author of erotic romance in several genres including paranormal, contemporary suspense, fantasy and dystopian. Find her at her blog or website. Follow and Chat with her on Twitter.