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Jim Hines - The Gospels of Publishing

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by A. E. Lowan, Feb 11, 2014.

  1. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    Actually, I've seen a ton of contracts, and if you are talking about the big-five....there isn't a single one that I would call "good." Just some that are worse than others. That's not to say that they are "unsignable." Traditional publishing has some great advantages and you have to take some trade-offs to get them. But they are worth it under the right circumstances.

    Now there are some "good" contracts from small publishers. I think the contract I have with Tachyon Publications is AMAZING, and I even dedicated my book to them as they are "doing publishing right." So from a small press...yeah I think there are decent contracts, but if you are going to swim with the big guys...they are the ones calling the stroke.

    Indeed. The one thing I will say, however, is what is required of you to "find people to read it" is about the same whether you self or traditionally publish.

    I think the fundamentals are write a really good book that a good number of people will want to read and tell others to do so as well. If you aren't doing that...then you will have a hard time finding success in either path (imho).
     
  2. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    I agree 100%. It is the "assuming you can get one." that is the problem. Contracts are weighted toward the publisher...it's just a fact of life. But you have to decide if you can live with what is put before you. I always felt empowered because I knew I could walk away if the contract wasn't "adequate." It's up to you to determine what you can live with and what you can't.

    Great points...all very true. It's the toughest thing about this business right now. In some respect, it's almost good to submit and get an offer if for no other reason than to give you the confidence that it is good enough for self ;-)

    Very true...and very well said.
     
  3. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    I'm going to have to give this one to Kevin. He is correct in saying "EVERYTHING is wrong with taking a bad one. - I think there are many authors that have had a traditional contract be their dream for so long that they're willing to put pen to paper to anything presented to them. Ask L.J. Smith who invented "Vampire Diaries" and was fired from her own intellectual property because she didn't understand what "work for hire meant." Or the woman who had to give back her advance because she self-published some short stories and her publsiher sued it for violating a non-compete.

    Big-five contracts are weighted toward the publishers...this is a fact...not just opinion of disgruntle authors. Now I'm not saying you shouldn't sign them. I've signed at least 18 myself. The issue is I KNEW what I was giving up and I was "okay" with it. There were some aspects of the contract when first submitted that I couldn't sign - there were clauses that were "career killers." So I worked to get them defanged....but they never got "good" just "good enough to sign." So yes, I agree with Kevin that authors who sign bad contracts are doing themselves a disservice.
     
  4. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    Actually I'm pretty sure it will be fifty. I had an IP lawyer pull contracts from every major publisher and they all had them in one form or the other. The sad thing is...from everything I've learned. The way most of these are written are illegal - and yet they are in there...because who wants to mount the lawsuit after the fact? A non-compete that is short in duration, I can live with. But they are so vague and so long in most contracts that if the publisher tried to enforce them...they could ruin a career.
     
  5. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    It makes logical sense, and I must admit that I felt this way. But nowadays I'm not so sure. The issue is one of supply and demand. There are so many really good prospects waiting in the wings that if a traditional publisher loses a book, or author to self, there is plenty more to take its place.

    Two things brought me to this decision.

    1. When I submitted my second series, I was offered a lower advance than my first, even though I earned out in less than a year and proved to be a really good income producer. Why would they do such a thing? Because there was a chance I make take it. Business is always going to try to maximize profits so instead of saying, "Hey, Michael, you did really well for us and we want to keep you, here is a better contract than last time." They instead through out a low-ball offer to see if when they said jump I would ask how high. I was, quite frankly, insulted. They would have been much better off making a "reasonable" offer as all it ended up doing was making me angry. In the end, they had to pay more than I would have originally taken because I wanted some extra for the insult.

    2. I've seen too many contracts that authors have signed and I shake my head in disgust and amazement. I think there is a general impression that "if my agent said it was okay then it must be." But in many respects, agents aren't much different than real-estate agents. It's better for them to get the deal signed and move on to the next deal then to spend excessive amounts of time trying to negotiate one more clause to a slightly better position. I think there is too much "blind faith" going on and authors need to take the reins of their career in hand more than they have in the past.
     
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  6. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    You'll find no bigger advocate of self-publishing then myself, but I can say without question that signing my traditional deal was the right thing for my career. All you have to do is look at my goodreads account and the increase in "added to shelf", reviews, ratings, and unique readers. I went into the endeavor with the expectation of losing $200,000 - $250,000. As it turned out, I probably made more...now of course we would need an alternate reality to fork at the point of decision to tell for sure - but I think I have a pretty good feel for the data. Now a lot of that was foreign translations and audio sales. I would have had much fewer of the first when self...and probably wouldn't have attempted doing the second on my own.

    For my second series, I had intended to release it as self...and would have with the original contract offered. But I ended up signing because, again I thought it would be better for me...and I'm very well informed...then self - given where I was in my career.

    My next book - is a hybrid. I kept the ebook rights and sold off the print rights and audio rights. I turned down a nice five-figure advance because I think ultimately I'll earn more.

    It's really hard to say which way will do best. So much depends on the production value of the book as self-published...not to mention how much of an overseas demand there might be, or movie interest, or any number of other factors. I see a good number of vocal hybrids that really do a half-baked job with their self-publishing (Jim Hines and Chuck Wendig included), and then say "I really don't make much from it." -- Well of course you don't...you don't treat those books the same way you do your traditional works.

    What you say about self-publishing having a better potential for income is true...but there are a lot of things that have to align.

    1. The book has to be professionally produced: Attractive cover, compelling marketing blurb, flawless editing, professional layout

    2. The author has to get the word out

    3. There has to be enough people highly recommending the book - even to the point of saying things like, "For a self-published book this is really good!"

    If you can get all of those things - then yes - it will earn more. But if you fail at any of the above...then your chances go down significantly...and in some cases you'd be much better off with traditional because of a good advance -- even it you don't earn it out. D.B. Henson was one of the early self-published authors to go traditional. Her book, "Deed to Death" was signed by one of the biggest agents who took it to auction. It was fast-tracked and she was scheduled for a book tour - the real "A-treatment." From what I an tell from Bookscan data and Amazon rankings it was an utter failure. But I'm sure she got a huge advance so she probably made out pretty good on that.

    I guess this is my way of saying...IF you do self right - you CAN earn more. The problem is most don't do it right, and for them...I'm not so sure their efforts are going to pay off.

    There is a lot....

    * Access to a much larger audience (there are still many who won't even try self-published works)

    * Distribution in bookstores

    * Distribution in libraries

    * Validity - that makes readers think of you differently. When I responded to a reader when self-published I was sometimes met with hostility - as if they thought I was "spamming" them just for thanking them for posting a review. After self-publishing, the same comment is met with, "Oh my God, I'm amazed that an author would take time out of their day to write to me...I love how engaged you are with your readership."

    * Other formats - audio book for instance

    * More foreign deals

    * Bookclub sales

    * More time to write as I don't have to handle all the co-ordination of running a team

    * Award eligibility

    * Co-op dollars for better in store placement

    * Goodreads Ads (starting price $5,000)

    * Print Ads (several thousand dollars)

    * Signings at BEA and NYCC

    * Speaking engagements at Cons and shows like NYCC

    * Kindle Daily Deal - not once but twice

    * Emails to their subscription list

    * Participation in Amazon special promotions

    I could go on and on.


    This really isn't true...no publishers is lacking material to put out. We are still at a place where demand out distances supply by a large margin...which is why so many good books are turned down. Now if these authors were smart...they would take those rejected books and put them out themselves.

    There is a lot of good validation in that data...but it does make some jumps and people are rightly calling them on it. Such as the ranking to sales conversion. The good news is they provide the raw data so you can plug in your own data. It would be nice if Amazon published these ratios...but they change constantly and the ratios in 2010 are not the same as 2014...just as the ratios in December aren't the same as March. The other problem was the extrapolation of one day's snapshot into a yearly income. Those books won't stay there. More research needs to be done to see how quickly they fall from their rankings. But I agree it is a good start..and does help to support something I've been saying for a long time...that there are far more self-published authors earning well then people know about.

    That's really not so...check out my list above.

    The validation isn't nebulous. There are some real benefits to it...not the least of which is a larger readership (since some people simply won't try self-published works).

    I agree the playing field is more level now than it ever has been - but you are taking it too far. There is a lot they can do for you that you can't do alone. You won't get nationwide bookstore placement on your own - not even if you had plenty of money to pay for placement.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2014
  7. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    It has worked for me...and so has self-publishing. I do think that hybrid offers the best of both worlds. But the important thing is, I use both as a means to an end.

    Traditional provides me a larger audience, more opportunities, and validation I can't buy no matter how much money I have. It comes with the cost of lower per book income, the frustration of not being able to do some things I would want to do if I had control, but the advantages of a large team working on my behalf.

    Self provides me the ability to get my book "EXACTLY" the way I want it. I control everything from the title to the price and I can run specials, or do innovative things such as giving away free ebooks with print and audio purchases. I get ALL the profit, but I will make it harder for my library readers and bookstore buyers to get my books. I also don't have spend months fighting over contract clauses...and I don't have to worry about rights reversion.

    As for the big names...It's easier to traditional publish than self. Yes they earn less money... but when you're making millions do you really need more? When all the bills are paid, and you have disposable income...then any money above that is just numbers in a bank account that might go to your children someday.

    For me, I earn well, but not so well that I don't have to constantly produce more books to keep the income at a level required to keep the bills paid. I would always prefer to traditionally publish, as there is less work I have to do...but not if that means I'll have to get a day job to supplement my income. It is nearly impossible to say whether any book will earn more from path A or Path B. You would need to have an alternate reality to say for sure. But having the flexibility to do either - and to try different things at different times seems to be a reasonable way to approach this tough nut to crack....and that's what I'm planning on doing.
     
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  8. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Thanks for sharing so much info, Michael! I've found both Kevin and your posts to be helpful for someone looking to make that step pretty soon on what path to take. I find it harder to get on board with the opinions that "traditional is the only true way" or "self-publishing is the better way" arguments that keep cropping up. I'm trying to balance the benefits of both before I decide what I want to attempt. It's nerve-wracking and worrisome because you only get one shot at a first impression. I just want to make sure for my debut novel to be presented the best way possible.

    On a side note, I keep hearing a lot about building a writer's platform before publishing. Do you think this is needed for both traditional and self-published authors? I mean, did you already have a big social media presence or had your name out there in some capacity before you started publishing?

    Also, ideally I'd imagine you take money from your advances and traditional book sales to make your self-published work match in quality (cover art, editing, etc.) I'm not sure if you do that, but I would imagine that would be a way for writers who self-publish to make sure it's hard to tell what is self-published and what is put out by a major publisher because everything is of professional quality.
     
  9. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    You are very welcome...and I wouldn't get to wrapped around the axle as I'm a perfect case of someone who didn't end up where I started. My Riyria books ran the whole gamut. Started out with a small press, then went self, and now they are with a big-five. The important thing is to be informed, and don't sign any contract that could kill a career (for instance with a bad non-compete).

    I think this is one of those....do as I say not as I did, because I had no social media presence before publishing - zero, zilch. But when I was writing Riyria, I had no intention on publishing so building an audience wasn't something that made any sense. If I were to do it over again, I would have done things differently and I do think authors should start that as early as possible...especially with regards to collecting emails and establishing yourself on social sites like goodreads. And yes I think the activities you do when self are exactly the same as traditional so you can do this even if you are still deciding your path.

    Yes you have to spend money to ensure quality. When I started in self-publishing I did a lot of hunting around for good, yet affordable editors. On the cover front -I was able to do my own (and have training in design) so I was able to save some money on those fronts. Some books had a initial cost of $350...other $700.

    When I returned to self-publishing for Hollow World. I actually ran a Kickstarter to raise funds for really high end cover design and editing. I planned (and ended up using) the same people who work on my traditional books. Here I set a much higher budget - $6,000. Which I don't recommend for people starting out - but for me at the level I was at - I knew I would earn it back. I ran the Kickstrater for $3,000 (figuring I'd pay for 1/2 and ask the readers to support 1/2 - I ended up getting $32,000 rather than $3,000 - so that helped out as well.
     
  10. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Sorry to ask so many questions, but I hear a lot about bad contracts, however I have no idea what a bad contract would look like. I'm not familiar with a lot of publishing jargon (so I guess I need to read up on it.) Just from what I suspect, I'd say a non-complete clause could prevent you from signing with other major publishers with your work or even self-publishing. What are some other "red flags" in contracts to watch out for?

    From your experience, what would you say has helped you the most when building your platform nowadays? You said that Goodreads is a good place to meet folks, but I've had trouble navigating it myself in the past. I guess I should dive back in again. Any suggestions where to start?

    As far as other methods, how much would you say personally sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and forums factor in?

    I'm just curious because I find myself getting more interaction on Google+ while some authors say Twitter is best once you get the hang of it.

    Anyway, thanks again for giving a lot of insight into the publishing world. It's a strange and mysterious place for many of us, so it's good to hear from someone who's tried every path there is.
     
  11. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

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    Regarding contracts, I would add that much of them can be negotiated. You just have to ask. In my experience, publishers want to close the deal and make the author comfortable so they can create a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship, not lock a person into one they'll want to escape. Publishers aren't out to get you. They probably have language for most any situation to address an author's concern, and if they don't have the language they'll create it. Even parts of a contract that can't be changed, such as the warranty clause (because it's written with the publisher's insurer), can be added to such as with a clause on author's insurance. Non-compete clauses aren't written in stone either. You can add day to day business language. And you can excempt other works from it, just as you can limit or delete an option clause. You likely won't be able to change how royalties are calculated (because that's baked into the sales system) or the assignment clause, but you can certainly keep some subrights if you'd like. That said, if you don't have an agent actively marketing rights, then the quality of publishers' rights team is worth analyzing if you're choosing between two offers. You can also add stuff that may not be addressed in a contract, such as audits.

    I wouldn't try to rewrite the contract sentence by sentence. Pick your shots and ask for what you need, not to assuage your fears. And don't quibble over the small stuff that's highly unlikely to ever come into play. For instance, force majeure language. If the publisher's office is hit by an asteroid, the last thing they're going to be thinking about is getting your book out within 18 months of d&a as contractually agreed to.

    Regarding platform, something I'm struggling with, I would ask yourself: How will you get your first 3500 buyers? You might even break that down into more manageable chunks: first 100/500/1000/2500. Then build a social media platform to hit these milestones in terms of followers, that is, adherents who want to read what you write. Publishers look for this when assessing whether a book will sell. That said, you could ask a publisher, once they've offered, how they'll get the first 3500 buyers too.

    Regarding an advance, theoretically, that indicates how many copies the publisher thinks they can sell, and here's where I get those 3500 buyers. Let's say you're offered $5000 for a book they'll put out as an $8 mass market and ebook. If they figure a 50/50 p/e sales split with 10%/25% list p/e royalties, that projects about 3500 copies sold.

    That's a year one projection. But here's a depressing thought: At B&N books are not given 3-6 months to work. They're given as little as 6-12 weeks.
     
  12. The sad thing is, even at the highest end, publishers really don't as a rule have much of an idea how to get those first 3500 readers. They're very good at selling books to bookstores. They're mediocre at best at selling books to readers. *shrug* Think about it - it's not their fault, really. It's not a role they've ever had to fill, before. Selling to readers was the bookstore's job.

    Here's an interesting essay by H.M. Ward, about her results on the topic. She posted about turning down $1.5 million in trad pub contracts offered in the past year - and why. A lot of the "why" is focused around their lack of experience in connecting with readers and selling books.
    http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,178537.0.html
     
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  13. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

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    Her story is so typical, and it leaves out two details someone outside publishing wouldn't see.

    One, the publisher wasn't buying her books. There are a ton of books exactly like hers around, however compelling. The was offering to buy her marketing plans and that 30K-person list. That's the rare commodity.

    Two, after 50 Shades of Gray got so huge, calls surely rained down from every executive suite in publishing to the editors: "Where's our 50 Shades of Gray? Spare no expense. Find it. We have to get into this game." As if its success could be replicated.
     
  14. Excellent points, Stephen. No disagreement there. Interesting, though - the publisher is trying to pay for HER marketing expertise, and she's seeing marketing as really the only advantage the publisher can still offer her. But of course, they can't.
     
  15. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    No need to apologize. I like doing what I can to help others - so by all means keep them coming. Also, if/when you do get one - you can send it me and I'll give it a look over. I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on T.V. but I've spent a lot of time reading on them and looking at both mine (more than 20+ at this time) and others to see the danger spots.

    My original contract had a non-compete that looked something like this:

    “During the term of this Agreement, the Author shall not, without written permission of the Publisher, publish or permit to be published any material based upon or incorporating material from the Work or which would compete with its sale or impair the rights granted hereunder.”

    The contract (as all big-five are) was for "life of copyright" - which means until you die + 70 years. That being the case, contracts usually do expire before that due to "out of print language" - in the old days out of print was easy as there were books in a warehouse and when they were gone, and if the publisher decided not to print new ones- you were out of print. Nowadays with POD and ebooks a publisher can keep a book "in print" for the whole length of the contract. What they usually do is pick some ridiculously low number (in my case it is $500 a year which is $9.61 a week) and as long as the books are bringing in more than that it is in print.

    Anyway back to the clause. The problem is it is too broad "any work that may compete with its sale"? In the strictest interpretation that would mean any fiction book I write. It could also be "any fantasy" or "any medieval fantasy. And it certainly would be any sequel or prequel (since that is "material based upon the work")

    When you see a clause like this you have to interpret it in the worst possible case. So I could easily envision a scenario like this.

    "Hey publisher, here is my next book - I'm letting you see it because of our option clause (which gives you first look)." Publisher reads it, says we like it we'll give you $xx.xx (which is ridiculously low). You say, "no thanks...I'm going to go to publisher B (or self-publish it). The publisher says, "I'm sorry but you can't do that. We consider publishing this work could take readers from our books - so it would be a competing work. So about our offer...are you going to accept it now?"

    I've often stated that I've had the clause "de-fanged." I did this by (a) making the definition of what a "competing work is" and (b) limiting the term of the period of competition. Asking for a non compete for life+70 years is totally illegal in New York (and 42 other states) and the contracts are bounded by the laws of New York. If you took them to court - you would win in a blink of an eye. But who wants the hassle and expense of taking them to court? The reason it is illegal is the law doesn't like a company telling an individual that they can't earn. They will allow such for a "small amount of time" but life of copyright is certainly WAY to long. What makes me crazy is that all their lawyers know it is illegal and yet they keep them in there, hoping no one will be smart enough to (a) recognize the fact that it is illegal and (b) challenge it. I've had some authors tell me, well I'll just go and submit to others and let them try to stop me. Which sounds semi-reasonable -- putting the burden on them not you. But...when signing with a publisher they want proof that this work is "free and clear" (because they don't want to be in any entanglement. So they'll either ask for a letter from your publisher indicating that all is well, or they'll call and ask them if the work is free and clear...and of course they will say no.

    The defanging I did was to declare a competing work as any work that contained xx% of the current work and prequels and sequels, or any works with the same characters or setting are specifically excluded. This is actually ridiculous because the "whole contract" gives them 100% to all of the work of that contract so to have that in there is stupid - but it is a definition that I'm really pleased about because it makes the non-compete pretty much null. The second component is that I couldn't publish ANY WORK within xx months (2 or 3) of their release date. Which seems like a reasonable request so they have "exclusive" time on the market for their works. I have no problem delaying my "new book" for a few months - but forever...yeah I have a problem with that ;-)


    Bloggers and goodreads was most certainly the things I focused on and what benefited me the most. You are not the first author I've heard from that seem befuddled by Goodreads. I've written some stuff to help people out. Check out: An Author's Guide to Goodreads.

    My Facebook presence is terrible, but there are authors that do it well and have been very successful with it. Kristen Lamb has a really good book, "We are not alone: An authors Guide to Social Media" (or something like that - I highly recommend it. I do tweet from time to time - mainly just to thank people who say nice things about my books or to announce a special promotion of some kind. I have a linked in account but do absolutely nothing with it.


    Google+ is another area I've done nothing with - and probably could do a lot more.


    You are most welcome - feel free to ask me stuff anytime.
     
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  16. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    This post was too long so I"ll split it into two parts

    Just to clarify - are you speaking about small-presses or the big-five here? Because if the former - I agree 100% if the later - I'd say, not so much. Technically everything is negotiable but it's a matter of how much power you have and as a debut author the answer is "not much." I had a little more juice when negotiating my contract because I was already earning well through self-publishing - but if you have no prior experience, then unless your book is really knocking their socks off, it's just not going to happen. Here is my take on what they will and will not work with.

    * Term - life of copyright is the term for 99.9% of big-five contracts - Hugh Howey got his print-only deal to 7 years but that is rare, rare, rare - and it was a seven figure contract.

    * Out of print clause - most will have a ridiculously low threshold for determining a book is still in print. Mine is $500 a year ($9 and change per week). I tried and tried to get this upped to something semi-reasonable ($1500 a year). My agent said she might be able to get them to go $600 or $700. But she had a million $ contract with another author who she could only get them to move from $300 a year to $500 a year. She said the publisher would walk over it. I'm not sure I believe them - but I do believe her in that it was something that she worked on for months and was seeing no appreciable movement.

    * Keeping ebook rights - virtually impossible. I know of 5 people who have done it (one of them me - but to do so I had to shift from a big-five to a small press). All the ones who have done it with a big publisher are 1M+ sellers: Belle Andre, Colleen Hoover, Brandon Sanderson (but also had to go to a small press), Hugh Howey

    * Keeping audio rights - I've tried on multiple occasions to get these held back - and failed. I've now adopted a policy of signing audio rights first - so they are off the table. Will it be a deal breaker? I don't know - I'll tell you come my next contract ;-)

    * Non competes - can't be removed - but can be defanged - and should be.

    * World Rights vs North American English or World English - yes totally negotiable.

    * Basket or Joint accounting - also something I tried and just couldn't get - but I do know other authors who have so it is possible. Usually it is because you are with an agency that has already established a "no basket clause" provision with publishers.

    * Royalties - you MIGHT get them to add an escalation but I've never heard of anyone getting the 25% of net changed. I have heard that there are some really really big authors that have higher - (or who have escalations) but again this is for the top .5% of authors)

    * Subrights -keeping movie/TV and merchandising is fairly easy. Audio, as I said seems to be a deal breaker for publishers and will be even worse now that audio is making some serious money. Graphic novels and bookclubs - they are still hanging on to these pretty tightly - I think you COULD probably fight these free - but to what end? You have to pick your battles and unless you already have someone lined up to do the graphic novel - it's not worth fighting over.

    Again if you are talking about a small press I totally agree. Big-five...they generally have already negotiated with a given agency "the best" contract that agency could get and all other contracts will follow suit. So for instance if you sign with Noah Lukeman who gets you a contract from Simon & Schuester they are going to start with the "standard Lukeman" contract and there won't be much wiggle from there as all that has been done previously.

    Agreed.

    I'm going to have to say this falls under the YMMV - because my experience is exactly the opposite of yours.
     
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  17. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    Part 2

    Usually this is pretty standard, so I've not been in a position to get it changed. One thing to look out for. Sometimes they slip into this section: "The author warrants that this will be the next book they publish." - which you definitely want to get out. Such a phrase has no right to be in an indemnification or warranty clause which sole purpose is to attest that the book is yours and you didn't steal it. Most contracts will have language that means it will be a very long time until the book is on the shelf. In my contracts it COULD take up to 2 years (although it never has). But if it DID then such language would prohibit me from releasing something while I wait - totally unacceptable.

    Again, I don't agree. When I first objected to the non-compete. My agent said, "This is boiler plate coming from Hachette, Orbit will not change it - they have no ability to all Orbit authors have signed with this clause." I did some research and sure enough all the Orbit authors I talked to did sign with that clause (although none of them even knew it was there until I asked them to read to me what there paragraph 16 says). My agent also hired a IP attorney who pulled me contracts from all the major publishers and he repeated what my agent said...they all have them...they won't change them. You are fighting a losing battle just sign. I refused. It took six-months and a threat to walk that wasn't a bluff to get mine defanged. (And also the leverage of the fact that they had already done all the editing, cover design and were even taking pre-orders on a book not yet signed)

    Yes, this was the one concession that my publisher said they would make. That if I had other works already written to be exempted they would add them. But that's silly I was worried about work I hadn't even dreamt of yet.

    Agreed, but to be honest - I have no objection with option clauses, a well written one just says, you show it to us first - which I would anyway so it's not a problem. Some early versions also had language such that if they matched another author they could "quick claim it back" which I objected to. Sometimes you are moving publishers because you have disagreements and having to sign up with someone you don't see eye to eye with anymore is not what you want to do.

    Agreed -although the "Baked in" has fields for royalty rate and for escalation levels - so it can accommodate a change, I just don't think they will.

    I've never tried - so have no data on this.

    Addressed above.

    Your contract most definitely should have language about audits. I don't think most will be in a position to have two simultaneous offers -but yes if you do, then I can certainly see where you would have leverage to ask your preferred publisher to match a clause of your secondary one. If it is an area they normally change (like basket accounting) I think they will. If it's a matter of changing from life of copyright to 5 years - I think they won't and if that is important to you - go with contract B.

    Agreed you have to pick your battles. For me non-compete was more important than retaining audio rights (which I didn't think would ever be produced). With 20/20 hindsight I should have fought harder for audio -because I'm giving up 50% of every audio sale to the publisher which will cost me more than $100,000.

    Agreed.

    Having a plan for you to get to such milestones is reasonable - but followers does not a buyer make. Have your goals set to buys not just collecting Facebook likes or Twitter followers. As for asking your publisher how they are going to get the first 3500 buyers...the answer will be vague and non-specific. They won't share marketing $ expenditures or make any promises on specific initiatives. As opportunities arise...such as "we're going to put a floor display in bookstores at Christmas - what titles shall we put in it" then they'll either add your book or exclude it - but that is more of "as it happens" then planning anything post release date activities.

    Agreed, although keep in mind Publishers get in the black - much faster than you earn out. Also there are some contracts designed to NEVER earn out - again these are the really big sellers where they offer xx Million with no chance of earning out but it is the publisher / author way of diving up the expected profits before release. The whole thing about royalty rates only matters to the authors not in this situation. For those at the top the royalty could be double what it is now - but they have already gotten all their expected income on the form of the advance.

    They are indeed. And what is worse is sales fall off at an alarming pace. Here is some bookscan number of a randomly picked hardcover fantasy release:

    * Week #1: 320
    * Week #2: 190
    * Week #3: 155
    * Week #4: 90
    * Week #5: 45

    Of course each book's sales history is going to be different but I've seen enough of these to know that it falls off much quicker than I would have suspected before getting bookscan access.
     
  18. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    I agree with this.


    Aye, I've been watching Ms. Ward for some time - it boggles me why someone hasn't offered her a print-only deal.
     
  19. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    I'm going to respectfully disagree. Holly was the top selling kindle author over Christmas, I don't care how many "other authors" you have or how many "similar books you have" that's a ton of profit that any smart publishers would want to take on. The really sad thing is that none of them offered print-only which is the only thing she would likely offer. They wouldn't have the "full pie" but they would make back their money and then some.

    I do think there was a lot of that going on.
     
  20. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    It was ironic, but also a good thing, that my publisher had several meetings and conversations with Robin to pick her brain on marketing. And they put that to work both for her an their other authors. I wasn't looking to them for marketing - as we already had that well in hand. I was looking for better distribution and to accelerate my career. I wanted those that "never would try a self-published book" to look at my stuff. That's what I wanted and what I got. I have no regrets.
     
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