Most companies have you sign an intellectual property agreement when you start, saying that anything you do under the auspices of the company that relates to the company’s business belongs to the company. Make sure that the publishing contract states explicitly that you, as the author, receive the author royalties and also make sure that you get something from the company that says that, notwithstanding your intellectual property agreement, you are the author of this book and that you are entitled to the royalties. If you don’t get this amendment, the company could legitimately come back to you and say that you owe them your royalties because of your standing agreement with them.
Speaking of intellectual property agreements, I should mention that I’ve always altered these when I am signing them. The line that says about how all intellectual property I develop that’s in any way connected to the company will belong to the company I make an insertion on and add the following:
This statement does not include, nor is it meant to include, books, magazine articles, training materials, or documents written for other companies.”
Depending on the company you’re dealing with, they may ask you to write down the names of the books and magazine articles you might be working on. Be as prolific and vague as possible because you just don’t know what you might find yourself doing in a year and a half.
It is easy to justify this by saying that you do all kinds of things for the STC, for writing students, and for other people. You also have a number of miscellaneous writing projects in the background that you work on occasionally, so it would be inappropriate to assign the rights to these, particularly if you’ve come up with these prior to coming to wherever it is that you are now. Only rarely have I ever had any kind of quibble; most people think it’s very cool that you’re an author and cut you a surprising amount of slack. (Hot tip: When discussing this, never use the word “moonlighting.”) The big thing about maintaining clear intellectual property rights is never to do anything outside the scope of your duties on company time or with company equipment: not only will that violate the agreement with the company, it’s just bad form.