A Story of Three Authors (A Cautionary Tale)

This post by Karen Dionne originally appeared on Pub Rants on 5/8/15.

In a perfect world, every literary agent would be a fearless negotiator, working tirelessly to get the best possible book deals for his or her clients. But the world isn’t perfect. And sometimes an author’s career goes off the rails because their agent doesn’t have the knowledge, skills, or tenacity necessary to negotiate well on the author’s behalf.

Author #1 had a six-figure offer from a major publisher for the first three books of his self-published middle-grade series. He also had no agent. The publisher recommended several, and the author signed with one. Sadly, the agent did not negotiate better contract terms. This meant the author now had to give the agent 15% of the exact same six-figure deal he’d set up himself.

The author hoped the agent would earn his commission going forward by advocating for the book during the publishing process. But in time, the author realized his agent wasn’t doing anything he wasn’t already doing himself. He terminated the relationship and negotiated the next three-book deal without an agent.

As the time neared for the next contract, this author still felt he could get a better deal if a savvy agent negotiated on his behalf. He interviewed carefully and signed with an agent with an excellent reputation who was also a fan of the author’s work. The agent soon learned what the publisher hadn’t yet told the author: sales were soft, and there wasn’t going to be a third offer.


Read the full post on Pub Rants.


Welcome to the Shark Tank

This post by Rachelle Gardner originally appeared on Books & Such on 5/5/15.

If you’re a writer trying to wrap your mind around the business end of publishing, I hope you’re watching ABC’s Shark Tank.  The show has nothing to do with publishing. But it has everything to do with understanding exactly what you’re doing when you put your query or proposal in front of an agent, editor or publishing committee. You’re going into the shark tank.

The program features venture capitalists looking for businesses in which to invest. The contestants are entrepreneurs with small businesses needing capital. Each contestant stands before the “sharks,” pitches their business, specifies the amount of money they’re asking for, and what percentage of their business they’re offering for that investment. So a guy might ask for $65,000 in return for a 15% stake in in his business; or $150,000 in return for a 30% portion of the company. The sharks get to decide whether they want to invest in the business, and they’re free to negotiate any way they want.

I love this stuff! I’m constantly noticing all the ways the whole scenario resembles publishing. When you’re trying to take your writing out of the personal realm of art and into the public realm of commerce, you’re just like these entrepreneurs asking for others to invest in them.

You’re asking a publisher to invest in you.


Read the full post on Books & Such.


Keep Your Options Open

This post by Allan Leverone originally appeared on Kill Zone.

My first book was published a little over four years ago, in February 2011. You may remember that as the chaotic period when the self-publishing phenomenon really broke through and turned the traditional publishing model upside down.

Between December 2009, when I signed my first contract, and February 2011, those changes swept through the industry. One result of everything going on was that I suffered a unilateral modification in contract terms by my publisher—changing the agreed-upon format of my upcoming release from mass-market paperback to ebook-only—a change that forced me to reconsider signing in the first place.

My debut novel hadn’t even been released yet and I was already questioning my decision to sign that first contract.

Should I hire an attorney and attempt to force the publisher to abide by the original contract terms? Should I demand they return the rights to my book based on breach of contract? Or should I suck it up and accept the change?

Eventually I chose the third option and the book was released almost a year later, and I was left with the challenge faced by all authors not named King or Patterson or Grisham.

How the hell was I going to attract readers to a book offered for sale by a virtually unknown writer?


Read the full post on Kill Zone.


Indie & Trad Publishing & Flying Monkeys On The Yellow Brick Road!

This post by Bob Mayer originally appeared on his Write On The River site on 2/12/15.

As you negotiate your journey through the wonderful world of publishing, be careful of those flying monkeys as you gaze in the crystal ball of your career path.

Don’t take anyone else’s monkey as your own! We all are on our unique yellow brick roads to Oz, whatever Oz might be for each of us.

Lately I’ve run into some new writers at conferences who eventually whisper to me they’ve signed a traditional deal, but they’re afraid to mention it to anyone because they get castigated. The attitude seems to be that if the book is good enough to get a book deal, then self-publishing makes more sense.

What a change in just a few years when people would break open a bottle of champagne upon getting a book deal. Now one almost dares not mention it for fear of being ridiculed for not taking the indie route. There are some indie authors saying they will never go back to traditional publishing; the key phrase is “go back”. It’s curious that a lot of us who have been successful as indies actually started in traditional publishing, giving us a distinct leg up; along with a thing called backlist.


Read the full post on Write On The River.


MacAdam Cage Authors Look to Resolve E-book Dispute

This article by Calvin Reid originally appeared on Publishers Weekly on 4/23/14.

Despite complaints from former MacAdam Cage authors that they have not received e-book royalties or regular statements for years, Mark Pearce, publisher of MP Publishing, the publisher and e-book distributor that controls their e-book rights, claims all royalties have been paid and all statements are up to date. Pearce blames the legacy of problems at MacAdam Cage on its late publisher, David Poindexter, although he is urging former MacAdam Cage authors to contact him to resolve disputes over post-bankruptcy e-book rights to their titles.

At the same time, Jan Constantine, general counsel at the Authors Guild, who has examined the e-book agreement, told PW that the e-book rights agreement negotiated between Poindexter and Pearce in 2009—Pearce purchased the e-book rights to the bulk of the MC list for the life of copyright—is legitimate and survives the MacAdam Cage bankruptcy. All print rights reverted to former MC authors in March of this year, 60 days after MC filed for bankruptcy.

However, she also emphasized that Pearce must “comply with the agreements in the contract. If he doesn’t then he’s in breach and the authors can reclaim the rights to their books.” Constantine urged former MacAdam Cage authors to immediately demand “back dated and current royalty statements” from Pearce and to “make sure he is in compliance.” The Authors Guild is also circulating copies of the original MC/MP Publishing e-book agreement and amendment to authors and urging them to examine the licensing agreements. The Authors Guild will monitor the situation.


Click here to read the full article on Publishers Weekly.


Just A Standard Contract…

This post, by Alex Adsett, originally appeared on Writers Victoria on 12/13/13. Note that while the author is Australian and what she covers here are standard publishing contract terms from Australian publishers, much of what’s there matches the standard boilerplate in an American commercial publishing contract as well.  It’s a particularly noteworthy read for anyone who intends to sell foreign publishing rights.

I often have authors approach me for publishing contract advice with the almost sheepish disclaimer “this looks pretty standard”, with the usual follow up, “so it will probably be alright”.

I always want to ask, “how do you know?”, and unless you are an author who has done their research or published before, do not just trust that every publisher will send a contract that complies with industry norms. Even if the publisher tells you it is a standard contract, they (a) might be fibbing, but also (b) might be wrong. Just because it is perhaps that publisher’s everyday contract, does not mean it is in accordance with the broad industry standards that authors should expect to receive.

I am not blaming the publishers (except the fibbing ones) as many operate within their own bubble, and even if they wanted to, government regulations frown on any commercial competitors getting together to set commercial terms. So here are some of the key “standards” that are broadly accepted as the base commercial terms across the Australian publishing industry, and what every author should know before negotiating their publishing contract:

– 10% RRP print royalty. It is standard for the publisher to pay 10% royalty based on recommended retail price (Note: RRP is very different to net receipts) on all print editions (including the subsequent paperback edition that will go on to backlist for decades).


Click here to read the rest of the post on Writers Victoria.