Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Agenting 101: Bonus Clarification

STATUS: I have to say that the next two weeks are going to be silly hectic—with my trip to New York and then RWA in Atlanta back to back, blogging might be sporadic or really late at night.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? LEVON by Elton John

I just realized (after reading the comments section a couple posts back) that I actually never defined what a bonus was. I just listed the types that are common in publishing contracts and explained the two points of view about them.

Yep, a good example of knowing my topic so well that I’ve forgotten that others probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

And yes, sad but true, I was a college teacher back in the mid-90s and should know better.

My excuse is that I’ve been out of the classroom (except for the workshops I give at conferences etc.) for a good ten-plus years.

So let me define what a bonus clause is for an author.

A bonus is an outlined stipulation for the Publisher to pay the author an advance sum beyond the original advance negotiated when certain parameters have been triggered.

A general world example: you’ve heard of athletes getting a “signing bonus” when the contract is signed and if Colorado is like other states, the nursing shortage often means that nurses get a “signing bonus” when coming aboard. Also, athletes can get a “performance bonus” if they throw X number of touchdowns in a year or reach a certain RBI level (and folks, I have no clue what the bonuses are in the sports world so I’m just making this up but you get the picture).

Well, authors don’t really get a signing bonus but a performance bonus is definitely a similar idea.

An author might have a $15,000 advance for one book, original trade paperback. Then there can be a clause in the contract that if the work ships more than 25,000 copies in a 12-month period, the publisher will pay the author an extra advance of $5000.00 (or whatever).

This is 5k above and beyond the original 15k that was negotiated (and before the account has “earned out” in royalties the $15,000 that the publisher has already paid).

It’s an extra advance that the author will now earn out but is likely to because if the bonus clause was triggered, the book is doing well.

Clear?

Probably not but I’ll keep muddling along. Have a great weekend.


11 Responses

  1. Eleora said:

    Interesting…So, does this raise the bar for future royalties? Meaning you would have to earn out over 20K before getting royalties, instead of 15K? Of course I see your point–if you are getting the bonus, you will probably earn out anyway.

  2. Jellybean said:

    “This is 5k above and beyond the original 15k that was negotiated (and before the account has “earned out” in royalties the $15,000 that the publisher has already paid).

    It’s an extra advance that the author will now earn out but is likely to because if the bonus clause was triggered, the book is doing well.”

    OK, now I’m confused. The author now has to earn out this extra money as though it were part of the original advance? As though the advance were actaully $20k, not $15k? How is that a good thing? It sounds like you are just getting some royalties sooner than you would have otherwise: ie., your total earnings aren’t actually higher as a result of the “bonus”.

    I would have thought a bonus is an independent extra payment, the way it is in the business world. I sure don’t get a bonus as early earnings against my future salary.

    Thanks; this was an eye-opener.

  3. Anonymous said:

    >>It’s an extra advance that the author will now earn out but is likely to because if the bonus clause was triggered, the book is doing well.
    I think she meant “but is UNLIKELY to”

    yeah, I can see why you think the whole thing is moot.

    not really my definition of a “bonus” either

  4. RyanBruner said:

    Okay. This is clearer now. And, yeah, I don’t see much benefit to it other than getting monies sooner.

    HOWEVER, one exception I see (potentially speaking) is that if your book sells enough to trigger the bonus, yet you haven’t earned out your advance, it might give the publisher reason to invest more in promoting the book after the fact. Because now they have more to make up, so they would want to ensure more sales to compensate.

    Then again, maybe not.

  5. a writer said:

    Okay, the key phrase here is “is likely to [earn out] because if the bonus clause was triggered, the book is doing well.”

    Basically, the publisher is not going to give a bonus clause that can be triggered unless the author is earning that money. S say you get a bonus once they ship some large number of copies, well, they figure you’re going to not only earn back the advance they’ve already paid you, but you will also be earning back that much more in the bonus. Same deal for bonus’s triggered by bestseller lists or films released.

    The money is your either way, but now you don’t have to wait for six-eight months for your royalty statement to get your hands on it. Can you imageine if you had a paltry advance then suddenly hit some huge bestseller list? They don’t want their NYT bestselling author on the Today show in her Walmart togs. 😉

    It’s the same theory that goes behind getting your advance weighted more towards signing and “advance” and less towards upon publication. YOU get the money sooner.

  6. Maprilynne said:

    So I’m probably little late on the uptake on this, but did you guys see the reference to Kristin on Ms. Snark on July 15th? I laughed so hard!! You should check it out.

  7. MTV said:

    Yes! I thought that was great PR for Kristin. Miss Snark was funny the way she stated the answer in that ‘Do you need a 212 agent?’ answer.

    Kristin was a perfect example of an agent that is not in NYC and finds gold.

    Oh, now Kristin’s inbox will over flow!

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