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Contract questions

This is actually a question asked in the comment threads at The Whatever, John Scalzi's excellent, although very snarky, blog.

Isn't there a negotiation process with publishers? Big advance, less maneuvering room with rights and such? Royalty percentages? Accounting schedules? Other contract particulars? I truly think there's more to a publishing contract than the cash up front.

And what about a book with a "meh" advance that actually gets decent marketing? Building a career with legs? Looking long term instead of just gimme the money now!

Maybe I'm a naïve git, but it's not so simple. Is it?


For the purpose of this discussion -- or monologue, as the case may more accurately be -- I'm going to assume that First Time Novelist (hereafter referred to as FTN) has submitted a novel to Large Publisher, and after waiting what seems an interminable length of time for the submission to be processed, said Large Publisher (hereafter referred to as LP), or rather, its representative, Harried Editor (hereafter referred to as HE), has picked up the phone, and made The Call.

"We love your First Book, FTN," HE will say. "And we'd like to make an offer for it."

There is very little that's as much fun as being able to call a FTN and give them this news. The FTN has an excitement and a screaming enthusiasm (and a voice to match) that no other novelist will rival.

Now, much of what I've said in this Journal has involved either a publisher perspective or a bookstore perspective. I've done this because I think that the writer perspective is something we all develop; it's the other stuff that we have less access to. I remember once, at a convention, one of the Del Rey editors came to work at our table. And every single time someone picked up a book from the table, she'd ask them what had drawn them to that particular book. It was almost excruciating, but it was a clear lesson: they don't know. Yes, I'm digressing.

Let's go back to HE and the offer. At this stage, FTN can do one of two things. She can say yes, or she can say a qualified yes, as in "My agent will call you." In my example, there is no agent involved, because if there were, HE would lose the joy of talking to FTN, and call the agent instead.

At this point, let's assume that FTN has no agent, and isn't ready to find one. She's happy, and she says yes before the offer comes out. And yes and yes and yes. But the HE waits patiently, and after a while, when English once again becomes the dominant mode of speech, the HE will offer a couple of things. The first, the money. "We'll pay an advance of 5,000.00, for a paperback publication" HE says. "For World rights. We'll pay half on signing and half on acceptance, with royalties of 6% for the first 150K sold, and 8% thereafter." (A bastard HE would offer half on signing and half on publication.)

The author can either say yes or no at this point. Most FTNs are just so jittery about possibly jinxing the deal, they say yes. But again, let's pretend that you've done all your homework. On the phone, at this stage, it's fine to say, "If you want World rights, I want 10,000." This is not, btw, a figure that will fly. But the HE will then either hang up politely and say they have to think about it, or, prepared for this, will say, "What about 6,500?" Alternately, FTN can say, "5K for North American rights only." Almost all houses will say yes to this, because most houses don't cling to foreign sales. The foreign market, while lucrative, isn't always easy to crack. Some companies will move a little on royalty rates. Some won't budge at all, agent involvement notwithstanding. For the FTN, there's no movement. The HE has your number.

In the end, FTN and HE will agree on a sum for NA sales, of 5,500, at 6% royalties, as discussed. This is the royalty rate, because pretty much no one is going to crack that 150K barrier.

And then the contracts take three months (if FTN is lucky) in their slow march through contracts, and eventually they do get sent.

You will note that marketing budgets have not been discussed. For FTN, they're not on the table. Nor have covers. Or placement. I've yet to meet an editor who will discuss the latter without someone producing a drill press first.

Okay. Now FTN is looking at contracts. Is there room for negotiation there? Well, yes. In the case of an agent, the HE will send the agent the agent's niggled down boilerplate. In the case of FTN, the HE has sent the standard boilerplate. What does this mean? It means they've sent the contract as is, the very standard, unchanged contract, with the appropriate sums of money, how they'll be paid out, what the royalty rates are as discussed, and what rights have been bought.

Except wait… some of the rights, such as e-rights, weren't mentioned in the phone call. The indemnity clause (which you can't change, and which is strengthened by some LPs with an additional piece of paper you have to sign as well), which makes you responsible for the cost of any legal defense your book requires. The reversion of rights clause, if they publisher fails to keep the book in print. There are more.

One question: Most contracts are VERY VERY long. And boring. Let me stress that. Very boring. I am however, willing to go and dig up an old first book contract and type it all in, discussing those clauses, if everyone here thinks they can take the boredom of having to read it. Vote below.

I haven't answered the questions, directly, that started this particular ramble. Let me now do that.

First books do not get a big advance 99.9% of the time. If they do, it's noteworthy, and becomes a marketing tool, something to garner both interest and buzz. A sale of 125K isn't huge by commercial standards -- but for a first book, it's out of the ballpark. The context defines the buzz. Because I'm dealing with the 99.9% of the case FTN, there won't be that big advance. In the case of FTN, there will be a small advance, with very little wiggle room, as seen above, in what rights the advance covers.

There will be no point in saying, "I'll take a lower advance if you give me marketing guarantees" because, face it, there is no lower advance. Ditto cover approval. You've got a "meh" deal. There just isn't room to negotiate much in the confines of that deal. Marketing budgets can be very high, as they often involve placement dollars, and those dollars? They're not going to go to your book unless there are highly unusual circumstances, again, the .1% of published authors first books.

Am I saying this is a living wage? Hell no. I'm saying it is what it is.

You can negotiate things like reversion clauses. Some houses don't care much, and some cling desperately, and you'll need to figure out by tone which case is true for the house you're working with. Boilerplate reversion is usually 7 years, with a one year or 6 month window after the out of print period in which you can demand that the book be reprinted or reverted. You can, at many houses, cut that down to a year, which is much more reasonable, and you can also make sure that "out of print" means something. This is wiggle room that you will have.

But while it's worth doing -- look at Daniel Keyes Moran -- in case of future need, it's something that many agents don't consider significant because if the book is out of print in that short a time, it wasn't selling anyway.

Yes, there is more to the contract than cash up front. There are editorial clauses that some authors don't like (they usually give LP free reign in the boilerplate). You can get them to ship you more authors copies than the number they usually offer (frequently 10). But all of those don't really mean all that much in the grand scheme of things.

What about books that are given small advances and a big push? It does happen. It has happened. It just doesn't happen bloody often, and there's no way to negotiate this for FTN. If the book develops legs, as they're called, if it gets a lot of reorders in the first few weeks, then you have some room to talk -- but at that point FTN will have already sold a second novel, often at the same contract terms because there's no leverage to negotiate anything different.

Yes, you could wait. But why? It would mean a delay of at least a year in publication, which means you'd have a two year gap between books. And if, for some reason, your first book develop legs, that gap can cut the legs right out from beneath you.

Wanting as much money as the publisher is willing to pay up front for FTN is not a bad thing. Because the money is small. Building a career will not be hurt by the up front money; you won't get them to go from 5K to 50K.

When you've got some leverage, this is different. But at the point where you do, you'll probably want an agent who has seen so many of these contracts, he has a good idea of how much he can then get up front.

So, for FTN, the answer is sort of: Yes, it is that simple.

As for the shitty deals mentioned, the 0K-3K deals, I just want to say one thing; I've already mentioned it on The Whatever, but if for some reason you're not reading it -- and why not? -- I'll mention it again here.

Short story collections are often handled as well by small presses as they are by large ones. The numbers that you can get out, for a collection, will be much smaller than the ones you can get out for a novel. Most authors don't have a huge fan base that is willing to spend the money on hardcover or trade for short stories, and if you want a short story collection, the small presses are the best way to go. Small presses have much more of a cash flow issue, and they'll of necessity offer as little as possible, because they just don't expect to do huge numbers. 2K are good numbers.

My attitude toward short story collections is this: I've been paid for those already. Reprints often pay a penny a word for most of us, and at 100K words, that's 1,000. So if the small press is offering more than that, and you've already gotten your 6-8K for the original stories, it's found money, and you often get a very nice book in the process. In this case, I'd say go for it.

Comments

( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
melinda_goodin
Sep. 15th, 2004 12:18 am (UTC)
vontract vote - yes please
Hi Michelle,

I've recently friended you and am learning a lot from reading your posts. Thanks for taking the time and effort to educate me. It can be hard to get good insider info when I live so far away from the publishing heart of our field.

I would love to see an old contract dissected, if the votes warrant it.

Melinda from Australia
msagara
Sep. 15th, 2004 02:45 pm (UTC)
Re: vontract vote - yes please
It can be hard to get good insider info when I live so far away from the publishing heart of our field.

I would love to see an old contract dissected, if the votes warrant it.

Melinda from Australia


This is interesting because many of the authors being published at the moment are Australian; Australia has -- to my mind -- an astonishingly healthy Fantasy genre of its own, considering the size of its population (Canada can't claim anything like the same, more's the pity) -- something I only really grew to understand when I was serving as a jurist for the World Fantasy Award. There were a lot of HarperCollins Australian publications (as in, only in Australia).

In fact, Australia is becoming a foreign market in its own right, as opposed to an adjunct UK market. Errr, at least from a North American perspective <wry g>. Were I currently writing in Australia, and writing Fantasy, I'd probably submit to Australian markets because at the moment, what's being published in the Australian market is being looked at carefully by the NA market.
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
msagara
Sep. 15th, 2004 07:51 pm (UTC)
I really liked the SFWA sample contracts when I joined; I really wanted them to reflect what I, as a first time author (FTN) could actually get, though. It's hard to say "this is what you should be getting" because leverage counts. And most of us won't have much leverage (I imagine that someone like Ted Chiang would, for a first novel, because of the strength of his reputation on the shorts he has published).

And time? No, of course not <rueful g>. But this is my social life. Yes, I know it's sad -- this is my recreational blathering <wry g>.
msagara
Sep. 15th, 2004 02:46 pm (UTC)
Hmmm... a long contract *and* your discussion of it, + the obvious digressions.. do you have time for that? *g*

Just keep smiling, buddy. I see you in real life. Just a, you know, Health alert.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 15th, 2004 03:40 am (UTC)
contract copy
Michelle, if you're going to be typing in a contract with commentary, we'd love to post a copy on the SLF site (www.speclit.org) in the writers' section, for general edification. Let me know if you're willing.

I find this sort of thing incredibly helpful -- at my Clarion, Nicola Griffith went through both a standard TOR contract, in detail, and an old P&L statement (Profit & Loss), to show us where the money went. So illuminating!

- Mary Anne (director@speclit.org)
syntaxhorror
Sep. 15th, 2004 05:16 am (UTC)
Contract
If you have the time it would be very interesting to see what contract looks like. Interesting article as always!
havocthecat
Sep. 15th, 2004 06:43 am (UTC)
Re: Contract
Ditto. I'd be very interested. Thanks!
(Anonymous)
Sep. 15th, 2004 05:35 am (UTC)
Contract commentary
Count me as another vote for seeing the contract with analysis & commentary. Thanks!
rajankhanna
Sep. 15th, 2004 05:57 am (UTC)
I'm all for the contract thing as well, assuming you have the time to do it.

Thanks for all of this, again. I'm finding it really helpful.
sleigh
Sep. 15th, 2004 06:01 am (UTC)
My advice to the FTN: if you get an offer, get an agent to negotiate the contract, unless you're a) comfortable with contract negotiation, and b) familiar with publishing contract terminology.

If you have a definite offer, it won't be hard to land a decent agent (though best to have done your research first, so you know who the reputable agents are...)
msagara
Sep. 15th, 2004 07:53 pm (UTC)
If you have a definite offer, it won't be hard to land a decent agent (though best to have done your research first, so you know who the reputable agents are...)

My old advice was always to sell a book first, and then find the agent -- because that way, you could almost be guaranteed to find the agent of your choice; very few agents will say "no" to a contract in hand.

But... if the work and the agent don't mesh, it's problematic from the start (unless you take off), so part of me is easing off of this; I'm more ambivalent.
alfreda89
Sep. 16th, 2004 10:21 pm (UTC)
I found my first agent by selling my first SF novel, then going after an agent I thought I wanted. Nice person, good agent for friends, but ultimately did not go anywhere for me. (Probably should have kept the agent and dumped the spouse, but in hindsight, I think they both would have gone.)

Today, as a FTN, I think I'd research those agents I wanted while the book was being considered. Then, when HE called, I'd say "I've been working on getting an agent, can I get back to you later on this week?" HE will probably say yes, because this means dealing with a pro, not a neo--

THEN you call agent #1 and leave a message saying "I've just been offered a contract by ABD Publishers, it's my first SF novel, and would you be interested in representing me on this contract and talking about an extended relationship?"

If you catch someone at the right time, prepared to fax them your history, and a diskette--I think you might at least get someone in the agency to negotiate the contract for you (they can save you what the 15% will cost) and possibly get someone in that agency excited about your work.

For many reasons, I like an agent. I still think they're worth seeking out--a GOOD agent. A bad agent is worse than no agent....
msagara
Sep. 16th, 2004 11:14 pm (UTC)
I found my first agent by selling my first SF novel, then going after an agent I thought I wanted. Nice person, good agent for friends, but ultimately did not go anywhere for me. (Probably should have kept the agent and dumped the spouse, but in hindsight, I think they both would have gone.)

I think this is why I have a growing ambivalence about getting an agent via a first sale. For me, the most important component of my relationship with the current agent is his confidence in my work -- and that's something that I couldn't have known he would have going in blind.

Today, as a FTN, I think I'd research those agents I wanted while the book was being considered. Then, when HE called, I'd say "I've been working on getting an agent, can I get back to you later on this week?" HE will probably say yes, because this means dealing with a pro, not a neo--

THEN you call agent #1 and leave a message saying "I've just been offered a contract by ABD Publishers, it's my first SF novel, and would you be interested in representing me on this contract and talking about an extended relationship?"


This, up until recently, and my ruminations on agents, has been my advice -- but the research doesn't always give you enough tangible evidence of what the working relationship with the work itself -- as opposed to this particular contract -- is. So I'm wavering in ways I haven't for a while.

And chewing on it.
alfreda89
Sep. 17th, 2004 07:33 am (UTC)
I see your point. I've been out of circulation just long enough that the ways electronic publishing will start effecting things makes me wonder if traditional publishing will survive the decade. Will anyone need agents in future publishing? Will Hollywood bother to buy books, or just revamp ideas, like Glen Larson and Bellasarios (sp?) do?

And once again, information overload rears its head. How can you sift through hundreds of self-published books and figure out what you'd like, without NYC editors to sift the wheat from the chaff? I would become a library reader in self-defense, perhaps--or my grapevine would become even more important.
msagara
Sep. 17th, 2004 07:15 pm (UTC)
I see your point. I've been out of circulation just long enough that the ways electronic publishing will start effecting things makes me wonder if traditional publishing will survive the decade. Will anyone need agents in future publishing? Will Hollywood bother to buy books, or just revamp ideas, like Glen Larson and Bellasarios (sp?) do?

Traditional print publishing is doing fairly well; one of the areas in which electronic publishing seems to have done far better is erotica and porn. For obvious reasons. Those who are writing erotica for women can make a real living by writing for ebook markets.

But it's the same old story; more books, more books, more books, and at a faster rate than more buyers, which means each book sells fewer copies.

And yes, I think agents will always have a role to fill, for a variety of reasons.
alfreda89
Sep. 18th, 2004 07:10 am (UTC)
But it's the same old story; more books, more books, more books, and at a faster rate than more buyers, which means each book sells fewer copies.

A good reason to keep pushing books on kids you know...

I suspect the niche markets will do very well with ebooks, once people get used to them (people meaning the general public.) This may slightly tighten the overall market, but I'm not a "niche reader all the time" so I won't be disappearing from the general mystery or fantasy or SF market anytime soon.

I trust traditional publishing to figure out a way for everyone to make money--they don't want to lose the biggest names to self-publishing or small press. So they'll figure something out and make it work.
(Deleted comment)
msagara
Sep. 15th, 2004 07:58 pm (UTC)
I think this is incredibly useful stuff, and please do go on if you have time -- it's stuff I knew absolutely nothing about when I started and am still less informed about than I'd like. I was definitely your FTN saying yes to everything, I'd probably have thrown in zorinth if they'd asked. Patrick told me in that phone call "Get representation. Get an agent." And that's why I have an agent, so I have someone who understands all this contract stuff for me.

I laughed out loud at this -- really, Thomas came over to see what I thought was so funny -- particularly the zorinth comment <g>. And pnh was really honourable here. Not only that, but he did get to make the "I want this book" call for your first book, and then leave the horrible bits to whichever agent you wanted to call in after the fact <g>.

I kept British rights for Farthing, because I think it ought to sell in Britain. (None of my other books are published in Britain. I was pretty sure they wouldn't be. T&C is under negotiations with German and Chinese publishers, but not British. I just don't generally write to a British mass taste, and I knew this.) Anyway, in keeping British rights, I also got to keep rights to a hilarious selection of other countries, most of them tiny islands. If a St. Helena edition ever comes out, I'll let you know -- and as for Pitcairn Island, I think I could email it to everyone there in one cc...

That's funny; I would have said that your books would have done well in the UK, so it shows what I know. But yes, keeping World rights means that you do get a huge section of smaller markets -- apparently, the UK sale (for a North American book) seems to clinch the rest of the foreign markets; if it sells in the UK, it's much easier to sell elsewhere, and if it doesn't, it's more hit and miss. This from an agent, as I've no experience with any direct foreign sales at all.

Mine? They're almost all too long :/. John Jarrold loved OATH, but had a coronary when he saw how long DEATH was (1100 manuscript pages); it was the only time I really wished I'd broken that into two, or written it shorter, but it was a dense book as was.
sleary
Sep. 15th, 2004 07:02 am (UTC)
I also think the contract breakdown would be incredibly useful.

Laura Resnick did an article a while back on negotiating novel contracts that I sort of filed away for future use, despite all the disclaimers in it.
kate_nepveu
Sep. 15th, 2004 07:22 am (UTC)
What a great article! I'm linking it now on another board that's fighting against terrible contracts (including the dread Publish America.)
msagara
Sep. 15th, 2004 02:50 pm (UTC)
What a great article! I'm linking it now on another board that's fighting against terrible contracts (including the dread Publish America.)

Ears perking up here... which Board? (It's a weakness of mine).

And Laura Resnick is always really bright, very focused, and very professional. I would, otoh, hate to be the person that ticked her off <wry g>.
kate_nepveu
Sep. 15th, 2004 04:41 pm (UTC)
Absolute Write's Water Cooler, specifically their Bewares and Background Check board. The contract dissection starts on page 59 of 113 of the mega-PA thread.

James Macdonald and Victoria Strauss are active there.
msagara
Sep. 15th, 2004 05:07 pm (UTC)
Absolute Write's Water Cooler, specifically their Bewares and Background Check board. The contract dissection starts on page 59 of 113 of the mega-PA thread.

James Macdonald and Victoria Strauss are active there.


Thanks! It's a ... very long thread. Dave Kuminski is also there, and he's pretty good at catching idiocy (Yog stomps on it). I'll confess up front that I once checked into a board or two whose main purpose seemed to be to provide a home for unhappy former PA authors, and I found it really, really depressing; I think I read for about 5 straight hours, and haven't tried it again since.
kate_nepveu
Sep. 15th, 2004 05:32 pm (UTC)
It is depressing, yes. PA is a really nasty operation.
msagara
Sep. 15th, 2004 08:00 pm (UTC)
I think what gets to me -- and got to me -- isn't that PA is evil, because demonstrably it's a vulture of the worst sort; it's the very heartfelt pain and confusion, and the sense of betrayal, of those who honestly thought that it was a legitimate publisher.

Yes, it can be said they were naive -- but at some point, we all were. It can also be said that they did no homework, that they didn't go to see if PA books were available in stores before they sold their rights to PA -- but regardless, it was painful to read.

I hate stupidity as much as the next person (okay, andpuff, maybe a tad more than the next person), but this is different.
merriehaskell
Sep. 15th, 2004 07:07 am (UTC)
All of this is stuff I'm reading avidly and filing away for future reference--but I find your take on collections exceptionally pragmatic (pragmatic to the point of brilliance).

Ok, brain is buzzing. Must do other things now.
haikujaguar
Sep. 15th, 2004 07:37 am (UTC)
Kirsch already did a wonderful clause-by-clause dissection of a book contract (Kirsch's Guide to the Book Contract), and it's a reference I think every writer should have on their shelves. I have no doubt yours would be as interesting in a different way, but I'd encourage people to read the book and let you save your fingers for other things.

If you have personal stories about any of the stand-out clauses, I'd be curious to hear those, though. :)
msagara
Sep. 17th, 2004 07:22 pm (UTC)
Kirsch already did a wonderful clause-by-clause dissection of a book contract (Kirsch's Guide to the Book Contract), and it's a reference I think every writer should have on their shelves. I have no doubt yours would be as interesting in a different way, but I'd encourage people to read the book and let you save your fingers for other things.

If you have personal stories about any of the stand-out clauses, I'd be curious to hear those, though. :)


I think I read that one -- it was a great explanation of what most of the clauses in the contract meant, but again, I found the advice uneven because of what could reasonably be attained, as opposed to what should be attained, when it came to negotiations. He was very explicit about the pitfalls of many of these. I'll address (if I remember) some of this in the Post-Contract Round Up Post.
stakebait
Sep. 15th, 2004 07:55 am (UTC)
I vote yes please on the contract. I promise I will read every boring word. :)
kaitiana
Sep. 15th, 2004 08:12 am (UTC)
Please do go on!!!
I find just about everything you talk about relating to the publishing industry both relevant and interesting. I would love to see you post an old contract and comment on it. I would be most appreciative if you had the time! =)
zhaneel69
Sep. 15th, 2004 09:25 am (UTC)
Adding my voice. And adding my voice to letting Mary Anne put it up for SLF. Also, thanks for the book recommendation. Its now on my amazon wishlist

Zhaneel
msagara
Sep. 15th, 2004 08:04 pm (UTC)
And adding my voice to letting Mary Anne put it up for SLF. Also, thanks for the book recommendation. Its now on my amazon wishlist

I did talk to Mary Anne (well, sent email); at this point, I'd prefer to just have her link here, because I think people expect less authority in some respects from a LiveJournal post than they do from a post on a more formal repository. And -- I've mentioned this, I know I have -- I'm lazy enough to want to be able to just meander and ramble discursively, and if it felt as if I had to in any way be definitive, it would be like work.

I like LJ because of it's informality; I don't mind people linking to anything I post here because obviously it's not locked in any way -- but again, I think being under the LiveJournal banner implies a certain lack of formality, or a certain "personal" element that makes it seem less definitive.

Willing to be talked out of this, though, if points are raised in refutation of these concerns.
zhaneel69
Sep. 16th, 2004 09:10 am (UTC)
Well, I like your rambles so I wouldn't want to do anything to have you feel restricted.

I don't know if I agree on the "lack of formality" ideal. Yes, LJ is less formal than the New York Times or Writer's Digest. However, the content of a post lends a certain formality to it, in my mind. Basically, I would treat the first post as I would a resource linked off of SFF.net to a personal page or even reprinted article: That it is the author's personal opinion and experience. Maybe I'm just weird. I respect the desire to want to be perfectly clear that this is the opinion of one (well informed) woman.

I guess my thing is that LJ isn't always up and may die, taking this post with it. Small concern, I know, but there. If all the posts were rejoined into one long post on SLF with a huge: THIS IS JUST AN OPINION disclaimer, I'd feel safer that the info would be around.

Zhaneel
dancinghorse
Sep. 15th, 2004 12:19 pm (UTC)
Don't need to see contract, you don't want to know how many of those I have sitting in the files. Would be interested to see commentary though it may need to be on many rocks.

On payout schedules: There is a movement (Tor really pushes for it) to pay a third on signing, a third on delivery, and a third on publication. This really sucks from the viewpoint of making a living in this biz (and low "Shut UP!" level is still not enough for that--you need a couple of those a year; if you're dreaming of writing a book a year or every other year and making a living at this, now is a good time to get real). FTN probably will not budge the publisher who is insisting on this.

Then there is the Harlequin model, which is really interesting: half on signing, a quarter on approval of proposal, a quarter on delivery. If you can do outlines/proposals/synopses, it's a plum deal. If you can't, it's anguish city. They have an odd system in general and some very difficult contract clauses; there are dealbreakers in there that are not in other contracts. They will fight like fury to keep world rights.
zhaneel69
Sep. 15th, 2004 01:18 pm (UTC)
Expand? Does this include LUNA?

Could we maybe get MSW to do a comparison of the LUNA (general) contract and a FN contract?

Zhaneel
msagara
Sep. 15th, 2004 01:56 pm (UTC)
Could we maybe get MSW to do a comparison of the LUNA (general) contract and a FN contract?

The problem with that is that the LUNA contracts don't have the xxx-d out boilerplate, so I have no idea what the boilerplate actually is; they're also something like 23 pages long. Not legal pages, and actually, the type is larger than the Ballantine contract I was going to type in, so in all, they may be the same length.

The Harlequin LUNA contracts come from Switzerland. Head Office is in Toronto. Negotiations and my editor are in New York. Go figure.

I do know, though, that I got the payout for the second and third of three novels in thirds, as opposed to the half/quarter/quarter dancinghorse mentions; which is to say, the first book (which was written) half on signing, half on delivery (of accepted revisions); the other -- on signing, on acceptable proposal (which, umm, in my case I "bargained" up to half a book (first half, even) in order to Never Ever Have To Write Another Outline; most people would think this incredibly stupid), and on acceptance of completed novel.

I'd also like to mention that Tor has been pushing payments in four parts for a number of their authors (NOT first-time authors, for obvious reasons); Quarter on-signing, quarter on delivery (of finished book); quarter on hardcover publication; quarter on paperback publication.

(Anonymous)
Sep. 16th, 2004 03:39 am (UTC)
meh deals and rights negotiations
Hi Michelle!

Thanks for asking my question again. It's nice to see the additional responses.

You wrote - You will note that marketing budgets have not been discussed. For FTN, they're not on the table. Nor have covers. Or placement. I've yet to meet an editor who will discuss the latter without someone producing a drill press first.

um...

Hi Michelle! I'm Tammy. Nice to meetcha. :)

Actually, I am a bit of an oddity, and I know it. Got the agent first, he sold to Random House and he handled everything. I just told him to do his thing and he did. My advance was $5k, I'll admit that, but I kept dang near everything in rights (I think RH's best percentages in anything beyond first print were 20% to my 80 - most were 100% for me, including electronic and merchandising), my royalty rates are a great deal higher than 6%, I did have cover consult, my accounting (for three books) are separate and paid quarterly (plus I get bonuses), I've met my publicist in person to discuss marketing, and it's just been a gas.

No, my contract isn't "perfect", but the book has national advertising, it's a feature selection, and goes global in about 2 weeks. Every step in this process has been a joy and thanks to my agent fighting for all the rights, we're going Hollywood. That's where the money is.

It is scary out there, and writers do get screwed. I know that. That's why I got the agent first. He's handled lots bigger fish than me. When the offer first hit the table, he asked me what I wanted. I told him that I'm in this for the long haul and we decided to go for rights and marketing over upfront money, and I'm very happy.

I've met writers who have fallen for the "oh, you don't need an agent for your first book" trap. I wasn't one of them. Truly, if the FTN in question is informed and keeps their wits (and has a snarling, bad-dog agent to watch out for them) there is some room beyond advance money.

Least that's my opinion!

Thanks for hearing my side.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 16th, 2004 05:05 am (UTC)
Addendum
Sorry - I wrote the above post around 5:30 am, without the contract in front of me.

After rechecking, RH gets 50/50 on second serial and book club, my accounting is bi-annual instead of quarterly (errors on my part - sorry about that), and the book is out in 6 weeks. I don't know where the 2 weeks came from, wishful thinking perhaps? ;)

Otherwise it seems to be in order. Sorry about the mix-up.

tam
msagara
Sep. 16th, 2004 06:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Addendum
After rechecking, RH gets 50/50 on second serial and book club, my accounting is bi-annual instead of quarterly (errors on my part - sorry about that), and the book is out in 6 weeks. I don't know where the 2 weeks came from, wishful thinking perhaps? ;)

LOL!

50/50 is standard for book club. Everyone's accounting at Random House is bi-annual. (Everyone I currently publish with or have ever been published with has a bi-annual accounting period; I don't think I've heard of royalties being paid out on any other reporting schedule, but I've been wrong before, and frequently <wry g>.

I'd be interested, though, in knowing what kind of marketing clauses were in the contract; mine was a much more typical first book deal in my genre. I'll be posting the rest of the contract as we go, but if you want to pop in and say (without attribution if you prefer) where yours differed, or which clauses were added, I'm curious.

I assume by bonuses, you mean escalators?
msagara
Sep. 16th, 2004 06:38 pm (UTC)
Re: meh deals and rights negotiations
Actually, I am a bit of an oddity, and I know it. Got the agent first, he sold to Random House and he handled everything. I just told him to do his thing and he did. My advance was $5k, I'll admit that, but I kept dang near everything in rights (I think RH's best percentages in anything beyond first print were 20% to my 80 - most were 100% for me, including electronic and merchandising), my royalty rates are a great deal higher than 6%, I did have cover consult, my accounting (for three books) are separate and paid quarterly (plus I get bonuses), I've met my publicist in person to discuss marketing, and it's just been a gas.

Okay. I have one question:

Are your royalty rates for mass market paperback (which is what the 6% is) or for hardcover/trade?

If you got cover consultation, etc., written into your contract, I'm impressed with your agent <g>. But is this genre work? Adult SF or Fantasy?

Or YA fantasy (which is very hot at the moment)?

Because I cannot imagine that you could get this out of Ballantine for SF/Fantasy at the moment. I'd be happy to know different, but would even bet some of my own money against it <g>.

(Anonymous)
Sep. 16th, 2004 07:45 pm (UTC)
Re: meh deals and rights negotiations
Hi again.

It's Bantam, a fantasy mystery, 8% start for MM, 10/12.5/15 for HC.

The bonuses are based on sales. Once I break $25k, I get a 50% addition to my advance for the following books (it's a 3 book contract) cumulative. So, if - by some miracle - both 1 and 2 earn $25, I get a $25k bonus. It's a bonus on my advance, but still a pretty cool thing. I believe my agent referred to it as "cascading" but the contract negotiation was over a year ago. A lot has happened since then and my memory isn't perfect. Separate listings in the contract (also cumulative, I believe) for HC and paperback.

Yep. Cover consult is in the contract. Met with my editor to discuss ideas, had some back and forth. They hired Les Edwards for the art and although I was thinking something more "bluish" it's gorgeous.

The best part - to me - was that so many of the rights, especially electronic, other media, merchandising and performance are 100% mine. My literary agent has a remarkable history of co-agenting to film and he immediately found additional representation with APA. We officially hit Hollywood this fall, after reviews come in.

I have looked all through my contract for marketing specifics - most seem to have to do with me and how I'm supposed to be available, yadda, yadda, yadda - but I can't find much else concrete. I do know tho that I've had several back-and-forths with the marketing department, the book is the feature selection for November, they sent out thousands of bookmarks to sales reps a few months ago, I have national print advertising, and my editor just talked to me yesterday about the second printing and pre-sales from Britain.

I know it's not a perfect contract, but for a new writer who has never published a single thing before, I think it's pretty cool. They got print, I kept everything else, and it suits me just fine.

Tam
msagara
Sep. 16th, 2004 08:41 pm (UTC)
Re: meh deals and rights negotiations
Hi again.

It's Bantam, a fantasy mystery, 8% start for MM, 10/12.5/15 for HC.


This is interesting to me -- when I sold my first novel, my then-agent was surprised that the royalty rate I was offered didn't budge, but he dealt a lot with Bantam at that time (and I believe editorial, etc., is still separate, although they're owned by the same people).

But I got no paperback royalty movement there, so good for you!

The book, as far as I can tell, is a mass market novel. So it won't be out in Hardcover, (unless the book club picks it up).

The bonuses are based on sales. Once I break $25k, I get a 50% addition to my advance for the following books (it's a 3 book contract) cumulative. So, if - by some miracle - both 1 and 2 earn $25, I get a $25k bonus. It's a bonus on my advance, but still a pretty cool thing. I believe my agent referred to it as "cascading" but the contract negotiation was over a year ago. A lot has happened since then and my memory isn't perfect. Separate listings in the contract (also cumulative, I believe) for HC and paperback.

25K in terms of royalty income? This means a net sale of just under 45,000 copies. In this market, that's a lot -- but if they're already talking about a second printing, before the first printing, that's a decent sign. They'll probably have to ship out about 80,000 copies in order to achieve that number.

For some reason I don't understand, all of the contracts I've seen have breakdowns for mass market, trade paperback and hardcover, even when neither a trade or a hardcover is planned.

Anyway, your book will be a mass market original.

Yep. Cover consult is in the contract. Met with my editor to discuss ideas, had some back and forth. They hired Les Edwards for the art and although I was thinking something more "bluish" it's gorgeous.

This is wonderful. I have some say in covers now, but it's all good will; it's not contractual. Cover consult isn't quite the same as cover approval -- but it's still nice to have.

The best part - to me - was that so many of the rights, especially electronic, other media, merchandising and performance are 100% mine. My literary agent has a remarkable history of co-agenting to film and he immediately found additional representation with APA. We officially hit Hollywood this fall, after reviews come in.

This would be exciting! It seems to me, though, that you've sold World rights to the book? You've kept the rights for non-print media of any sort (except e-book, as you mentioned in the previous email), but you mentioned that your editor was talking about pre-sales from Britain (and a second printing??); if they're doing that, they have British rights? Or non-exclusive British rights?

I have looked all through my contract for marketing specifics - most seem to have to do with me and how I'm supposed to be available, yadda, yadda, yadda - but I can't find much else concrete. I do know tho that I've had several back-and-forths with the marketing department, the book is the feature selection for November, they sent out thousands of bookmarks to sales reps a few months ago, I have national print advertising, and my editor just talked to me yesterday about the second printing and pre-sales from Britain.

Okay. This is the bookstore person in me -- not the writer, not even the published writer. "feature selection" is sort of nebulous.

Usually, feature selection is either a book-club term, or perhaps a B&N term? It's not a sales term. Lead would be a sales term, or SF lead, or Mystery lead. There's usually a LEAD, and that would lead the catalogue, and then each category has a lead title within its own genre.

I know it's not a perfect contract, but for a new writer who has never published a single thing before, I think it's pretty cool. They got print, I kept everything else, and it suits me just fine.

Good for you! You kept what's important to you, and you're happy with the deal. I kept half of the print rights, giving them NA, and kept almost everything else of value.
mistri
Sep. 17th, 2004 08:34 am (UTC)
Fascinating tales of publishing - I've been reading a lot of your lj entries today after recommendation from a friend.

I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to 'friend' your journal - I don't expect it back as your friend list must be huuuuge.

But in way of an introduction, I used to work in bookselling (year part-time, year fulltime). Then I worked for Harlequin (editorial assistant, so small fry) for two years (in the UK, and I was one of the few people involved in LUNA at the time). Then my husband got a new job and we moved across the country (i.e. I had to leave Harlequin). So now I'm trying to write fantasy myself.
msagara
Sep. 17th, 2004 07:27 pm (UTC)
Fascinating tales of publishing - I've been reading a lot of your lj entries today after recommendation from a friend.

I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to 'friend' your journal - I don't expect it back as your friend list must be huuuuge.


No, I don't mind being friended; if I had a strong need to fool myself into thinking that this was private control access, I would make it all friends only, or some subset there of, and then pretend that no one but the people on the friendslist can actually read any of it <wry g>.

But in way of an introduction, I used to work in bookselling (year part-time, year fulltime). Then I worked for Harlequin (editorial assistant, so small fry) for two years (in the UK, and I was one of the few people involved in LUNA at the time). Then my husband got a new job and we moved across the country (i.e. I had to leave Harlequin). So now I'm trying to write fantasy myself

That's a lot of book-related work! I've always wanted to work (for a few months, at any rate) as an editor or a non-sales related publishing person, because I've never done that part of the triangle.

Welcome aboard -- ask questions, make comments, throw in your own observations!
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