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Question round-up first

I'd like to take a brief break to answer a couple of questions. Why? Because I'm tired of the strict character limit response to threaded comments.

From zhaneel69:

10.c. One-half (1/2) of the prevailing royalty rate with respect to hardcover copies and with respect to softcover copies of the amount received by Publisher for copies sold directly to the consumer through the medium of mail order, coupon, radio, television, or space advertising, or through Publisher's own book clubs.

So... if they can show the sale is a direct response to a radio/television/apce advertising they can cut your rate in half?

The use of the word "directly" in this context means that the person who ordered the book -- say, you -- bought it from the publisher. Not from a bookstore, not from a grocery store, etc., but from the publisher.

If you pick up a mass market paperback, many of them will have "back of book ads" at which an address (a P.O. Box) or a phone number, or both, are listed, at which you can order either other books by the author of the book you're holding, or other "similar" books from the publisher. These would be considered direct sales.

At this point, they really don't amount to much. If publishers start marketing on-line directly, they amount to more (or could), and there might be some marked change in the way that clause is fought about. At the time, it wasn't going to be huge numbers, and it wasn't something worth arguing about; I don't know if it could have been changed or not, because it seemed, to me, that so few people bought books that way. Or, rather, bought the books that I was writing that way.

If the Publisher runs a TV ad (this would be in an alternate reality, like, say, Jeffrey Fforde's) and people run out to the bookstore to buy the book, it's not a direct sale. Direct sales are orders that come from the consumer to the publisher. As opposed to from the retailer to the publisher, or the distributor to the publisher.

d. One-half (1/2) of the prevailing royalty rate with respect to hardcover copies and with respect to softcover copies of the amount received by Publisher for copies sold by Publisher (i) as premiums to commercial purchasers for use in connection with other goods or services, (ii) to governmental agencies, (iii) to book clubs, (iv) outside usual wholesale and retail trade channels, or for more than manufacturing cost but at less than the regular wholesale price, or at a discount of more than 60% from the United States invoice price (see Paragraph 28) and (v) for use of plates or film by a governmental agency. All sales subject to this sub-paragraph 10(d) are herein referred to as "special sales".

So (i) references to trade between the Publisher and some other Publisher?

Actually, I think this clause comes into play for things like non-fiction more frequently than it does for fiction. For instance, if you have a huge conference on Diabetes, and you invite a lot of guest speakers, etc., and there are relevant cookbooks and reference books published, you might want to order those at a special discount directly from the Publisher; it's not bad PR, it's topical, and if given out at the door, makes the books seem more authoritative in the context of the convention. (Yes, this is pulled out of my hat, why do you ask?).

If the author of The Joy of Stress is giving one of his very expensive seminars, he'll want copies of his book on hand as a tangible giveaway to the attendees. Etc.

I can't off-hand think of fiction that would be useful in this particular way. ETA: Yes I can. If you throw in a Diablo II novelization into a special edition of that game, you'd want a lot of books -- and those would be ordered from the publisher, and not at retail/wholesale rates. Hell, given the numbers of those games sold, it wouldn't matter...

(iv)Huh? Like Costco?

I don't believe Costco is outside of the usual wholesale/retail trade, no. I'm trying, and failing, to come up with a situation in which this would apply. (ETA: see previous example as well)

papersky writes:

On your e above, I have both overseas sales and Canadian sales, listed separately, and for which I get only 5% -- this is on hardcovers, where I'm getting 10% or 12.5% for US sales.

Is that really something one can argue about? Because that's cost me quite a bit over the last few years. Too late for this new contract, but I shall press my agent to argue on that one next time if it's arguable.

It is negotiable, but not really for a first time author, which, on the other hand, you aren't. I do know people who have successfully changed that, but only rarely; otoh, failing to change it, they've gotten a larger increase in advance. If you ascribe to the theory that books don't earn out, the higher advance is de facto payment for the loss. Reps used to expect that on average, a book would do 6-8% of the US sales in Canada, because of the smaller population and the French reading parts of the country. If you're doing much more than that -- and you can compare them on your royalty statements -- then yes, it's something to negotiate. Some people sell less than that 6% in Canada, and for them, I'd say they are other things to fight over.

It occurs to me that I've never seen a UK contract, so I don't know what the UK pays in "export" royalties to Canada. If the UK publishers were offering on par royalties for Canadian sales, I'd try selling BNA rights (British North American) and offering the US publisher US rights only.

And Mary Anne writes:

As someone who recently signed a two-book "good deal" mainstream publisher contract (with HarperCollins), I'll add that I would love to discuss the details of my recent payments and contract, and in fact wrote up a long post about them, explaining escalator clauses and the like, which my agent asked me to please take down, because having those specifics out there would potentially make it harder for him to negotiate for me in future. (With mythical movie people, for example :-)

I didn't really want to take it down, but I could see his point. We came up with a compromise, where I took it down but e-mailed the piece to anyone who asked to see it within two weeks. (Sorry, I don't have it anymore -- this was a few months ago, and I am ruthless about deleting things.)

My point being, that it can apparently be against an author's best interests to be detailed and explicit about these things, especially early in their careers. With any luck, in a few years I will be more established and able to discuss my early contracts in detail with no potential financial repercussions. Fingers crossed.

I wouldn't argue with my agent about this, in your position. Otoh, if he told me not to post this contract, I probably would <wry g>. This is done as much to give people a glimpse into the exciting language of contracts, as it is to show a typical first book contract in the genre.

Yours isn't a typical first SF/F contract, and I don't know how the mainstream works in that regard, so it may be more typical for mainstream; it makes me think of Jane Doe's comments on salon.com a while back.

Otoh, if you got a PL "good" deal for an SF/F novel and it's a first novel/second novel, I can't imagine why it would be something you'd want to hide -- because in that context, the advance -- as I said of Terry Goodkind's 125K first book advance, which is "low good deal", is one very terrific way of getting buzz going for the book well in advance of its appearance. I think it was probably worth it as marketing budget to make that payout because everyone wanted to know what about the book made it work that advance for a new writer.

ETA: And one more:

syntaxhorror asked:

So unless the publisher is really marketing your book abroad you are better off trying to sell it yourself, or at least let your agent do it for you, or? But trying to sell foreign rights must be like trying to get your book published all over again. Only the competition is even more fierce.

Yes. Exactly. If your split is 50/50, which is boilerplate, you're better off for obvious reasons. You get the money, rather than the publisher; if the publisher gets the money, the 50% that's yours will be applied to your unearned advance.

If you sell through your agent, you get 80% of whatever comes in, and you get it as it comes in, rather than having that also applied to the balance of your unearned advance.

In both of these cases, the publisher and the agent will be using foreign agents and sub-agents (often the same ones) who will have a list of available books they're trying to sell into other markets. Buzz helps, with foreign sales; awards help; print articles in well known English rags help. I think excellent reviews help as well, again from known sources. But NUMBERS help, so if you got a huge or large advance, that's one of the selling tools your foreign agent could use to pique interest. No guarantees -- but for most writers, the foreign sales -- if they come -- feel like "found" money; they've already been paid for the book.

Once you have a foothold and an established audience in the foreign markets, that changes, though; many authors make more than half of their total income from foreign sales.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 19th, 2004 05:15 am (UTC)
Mainstream vs. sf
My understanding of typical first novel advances is that in sf/f, they're generally around $8-12K right now, and that in mainstream, they're generally around $25-$50K. I think I got those numbers from Tim Pratt, who works for Locus. (You should not all abandon your genre novels and run off to try to write mainstream, btw -- among other things, the submission pool is much larger, so the competition is fiercer. And in any case, write what you love. The money will come, eventually.)

So for two mainstream books (and keeping in mind that it did take a few escalator clauses to get my deal up to 'good deal' status), I'd say that my contract was a good one for a new mainstream author, but not a surprisingly good one. Which explains why my agent would rather publicize a slightly fuzzy 'good deal' status, rather than have me out there talking about specifics which might sound a lot less impressive, especially to the unitiated.

In other words, mine was good enough to indicate some confidence in the book on HarperCollins' part (and to make me very happy to buy the next round of drinks if you catch me at World Fantasy), but not an advance sufficiently larger than normal in mainstream to generate serious buzz on its own.

I hope all of this is making sense -- it's hard to discuss without discussing specifics!

- Mary Anne (http://www.mamohanraj.com)
Sep. 19th, 2004 06:46 am (UTC)
Re: Mainstream vs. sf
I've had a couple first-time sf/fantasy novelists tell me what their advance was in the last few years, and none of them were as high as $10K. My data pool's far too small to be statistically significant, but from what I've heard I'd say the typical first-time advances in the sf/fantasy field are still well below five figures. FWIW.
Sep. 19th, 2004 11:06 am (UTC)
Re: Mainstream vs. sf
I've had a couple first-time sf/fantasy novelists tell me what their advance was in the last few years, and none of them were as high as $10K. My data pool's far too small to be statistically significant, but from what I've heard I'd say the typical first-time advances in the sf/fantasy field are still well below five figures. FWIW.

The average of 5K was not reached for no reason <wry g>. I think 8K is high. But I've heard of 3K as well as 5K for a hardcover/mass market deal (which is very low, imho; for hardcover/mass I would think the minimum you'd be offered would be 10K, but I could be wrong.)

In fact, if I were offered less than 10K for a hardcover/soft deal, I'd probably ask for 10K, assuming that the hardcover wouldn't be selling less than 3,000 copies at the bare minimum (I'd assume 5,000 copies at a bare minimum, but that would be high for a variety of reasons for some of the hardcovers published in genre).

So. I continually hear that people don't expect to earn out their advances. If that's the case, than that 3,000 hardcovers at 24.95 should earn you 2.49 per book (10% being the lowest tier), or 7,470.00 for the hardcover portion. Which leaves you with 2,530.00 which you aren't supposed to earn out. The paperback should be either 5.99 or 6.99 US, with many coming in at 6.99; let's assume 5.99 because they won't buy a long book. So you have to sell a net 7,040 copies of that paperback in order to sell-through.

But since we're seeing shipping numbers in mass-markets of, oh, 10-15,000, this means that there's a very good chance that you'll just barely earn out, or possibly won't even earn out, again barely, at this level.

So, not less that 10K for a hard/soft deal.

Just because.

For a paperback deal? 5K could easily put you into the "not earning out" category :/.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 19th, 2004 01:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Mainstream vs. sf
Just touching on this bit. In the US? I haven't seen a new book come out in the last 18 months with a 5.99 price. $6.99 is the low end now. $7.99 is probably 80% of the market and $8.49 for the BFF books.

Thank you <g>!

Which would mean that 10K is probably an advance that you're going to earn out if your first book is published in hardcover/mass market, so 12K would be the better advance, because it means you'd have to have a net mass market sale of 10,500 before you earned out; the publisher is still likely to make money, and there's a better chance you won't earn out.

My tongue being firmly planted in my cheek, at this point. But having said that -- if I were negotiating with a company for a hard/soft deal, and it was clear that this was the case, I'd feel no compunction at all about asking for 12K, using those rudimentary numbers. Using numbers, good, and if you aren't nervous about not having an agent, I would do this.

Obviously, that's a bit more tricky for a straight mass market, where you can see numbers as slow as 9K shipping :/.

For paperback? It's often true in this market that a first book can ship 9-15K. With returns factored in, that's... not a lot of sold books. So there's obviously no leverage with the numbers there (and I wouldn't try using those numbers -- but on the other hand, there probably aren't many editors who want to say "we're only going to sell 4,000 of these after returns", so it's unlikely that the editor will use those numbers either).

But 5K is an advance that many authors fail to earn out. It's probably harder to fail to earn it out than it used to be -- but then again, the low end mass market shipment 15 years ago was probably a 35K laydown (well, for the companies I'm familiar with in that time frame). Now? That would be good.

So... to go right back to things... 5-7,500K for a paperback original is fairly standard first book.
Sep. 20th, 2004 10:33 am (UTC)
Thanks for the explanations.

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