Pub Rants

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

The UK Contract – Now Equally As Important As the U.S. Contract

Status:

Lots of good phone calls today but sometimes that makes it hard to complete the To Do List.

Listening To:

THE DOLPHIN by Stan Getz (I’m in a Jazz kind of mood!)

In today’s global digital publishing environment, negotiating a UK contract has now become equally as important as the home-court US contract. So if you want to think like an agent, spend as much time reviewing your UK contract as you do your US one.

Now that used to be easy. UK contracts traditionally have topped out at twelve or thirteen pages. A veritable reading breeze in comparison to the 25+ page marathons you get from US Publishers.

Not so any longer, from what I can tell. I’ve negotiated several UK contracts that are giving the US a run for its money in terms of length.

In fact, one UK contract’s out-of-print clause (a.k.a. the OOP) recently made me burst out laughing. The clause stated that a book would not be deemed out of print until earnings for that title, in all formats, added up to less than 75 pounds in two accounting periods.

Seventy-five pounds during a one-year period.

That is laughable, but I don’t think this publisher’s intent was to be funny.

Depending on the price point of the title (and let’s just say the average price in the UK is ten pounds), that would be the equivalent of selling something like eight copies, in any format (which would include high discount, special sales, premiums, book club, audio etc.) in one year.

Sheesh. I think a publisher would really be messing something up if they can’t sell eight copies of a particular book in a twelve-month period. Typical UK contracts set an out-of-print threshold of several hundred copies, so if you were going to do an earnings equivalent instead, it would need to be around fifteen-hundred pounds to be reasonable.

Definitely not a number you want to overlook!


3 Responses

    1. Kristin Nelson Post authoron

      Aline – The answer is “it depends.” If you have approval or consultation over UK contract, then your agent can negotiate the high discount upfront before the sublicense goes through. If you are a new author, it’s unlikely you would get approval over the license so yes, it would be too late.

      Reply
  1. Tam Francis on

    I find this very interesting. Are there novels that you would sell to the UK first and the US as a secondary market? I ask because so many of my blog followers are from the UK. It’s something I’ve been wondering about as I query and approach the ideas of self-publishing or hybrid publishing.

    Thanks.

    Reply

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