Pub Rants

Kristin’s Cheat Sheet

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STATUS: I was a working machine today. I got a lot accomplished. Makes me wonder why I haven’t even made a dent in my To Do list for tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHY CAN’T I BE YOU? By The Cure

Three days into the new year and it’s already clear that I’ll be negotiating some deals in the very near future. Now remember I did that whole Agenting 101 series starting back in late June 2006. So search the archives if you want to see the whole run-down on how to negotiate a deal.

Today I thought it might be fun to share my Deal Points check list. It’s my quick and dirty reminder of all the points that need to be discussed in the initial negotiation. All agents have one. It helps to keep an electronic paper record of all the points—especially if there is a lot of back and forth during the negotiation with points changing.

Once the deal concludes, I email the editor a copy of my deal points memo for written confirmation that our negotiations match.

I tell you. It’s saved me once or twice when an editor has left a house after contracting for a book but the contracts hadn’t been generated yet or were generated but something’s missing. In general, I just like being anal and detailed-oriented.

Ask what editorial changes will be needed.
Ask for potential pub date.

1. Rights Granted (If World involved, ask for confirm of splits, reversion in 18-24 months. If audio is involved, ask for a reversion in one year if publisher hasn’t sold it)

2. Advance
3. Payout
4. Royalty structure

5. Bonus clauses (I have a whole separate notes section for kinds of bonuses I want to ask for etc.)

6. option clause (Limit option clause to one name/pseudonym/next in series/or type of work)

7. No US-only Spanish language (however, if must give, ask for 1 year reversion clause, same royalty percentage, and for it to be excluded from the option)

9. Publication time frame (as in 12 months, 18, or 24)

10. No Joint Accounting if multi-book deal

11. Discuss non-compete clause/second option for smaller work (see publication house specific notes below) –These I’m not sharing because it would take too long to include.

12. Add reserved rights clause: “All rights not specifically granted hereunder are reserved by the Author, including, but not limited to US-Only Spanish Language, translation, motion picture, television, radio, calendar, commercial merchandising, audio, video, electronic, multimedia and/or interactive electronic rights.” (This sentence changes depending on rights granted.)

13 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    “10. No Joint Accounting if multi-book deal.”

    I know you don’t answer question in the comments, but I’d love to maybe see this come up some day in the blog. I’m not really sure what Joint-Accounting even is, or why it is bad for a multi-book deal.

    The rest of you post was very interesting and enlightening.:) Thanks!


  2. Anonymous said:

    That is why I have an agent. I haven’t recieved my first book deal yet, but when I do I am going to want Jenny to lead me through all of that!

  3. Patrick McNamara said:

    I’m not quite sure of the term myself, but I believe that joint accounting simply refers to the accounting for the two books being combined, so that if book A makes a profit but book B makes a loss, the payout would be smaller since both books would have to cover their advance first before royalties would be paid.

  4. Patrick McNamara said:

    I also want to add that rights have become very important lately. Rowlings has made more money from commercial rights than she has made from book sales. (And it’s that commercialism that has played a part in her book sales.)

  5. Anonymous said:

    Joint accounting, also called basket accounting, puts all books of a multi-book deal into one “basket.”

    You get an advance on books 1 & 2, turn it 1, it gets published, and starts selling. Maybe even selling a lot. The book earns back the advance and then some. BUT … no royalties. Not until book 2 is turned in, published, starts selling (which, given publishing schedules, can be anywhere from a few months to a couple years) AND the combined sales for both books exceed the combined advances for both books. Book 2 tanks? Too bad! No royalties for #1, not until it earns back BOTH advances.

    On a 3-book deal (and if your agent even SUGGESTS you agree to this you need a new agent), that continues until all 3 advances are earned out – which could take years.

    If you have a series that starts slow and takes off on book 3, you’re still saddled with the unearned advances for books 1 & 2.

    IOW, not a good idea for the writer, though I can understand why the publishers like it. At the very least, they get to hold on to the money for a much longer time.

    Did I get that all right, Kristin?

  6. Anonymous said:

    Very interesting post, and follow up comments. but no one pointed out that you were listening to possibly the best Cure song ever! how do you keep from dancing (instead of typing) while that song is playing?!

  7. Marion Gropen said:

    Joint Accounting
    The comments above got the gist, as far as advances go. Not all joint accounting clauses allow for the advances on the not yet released books to be deducted from the first release’s royalties.

    The other thing that will occur in some joint accounting situations is that royalties on returns in excess of the return reserve and current earnings will be withheld from the positive earnings of the other books. Since almost all books have a period where returns exceed sales, and where royalties earned are negative, this can be an enormous reassurance to the publisher. It also can lead them to reduce the total amount of the return reserve on the earlier books, as they have a later safety net if they underestimate.

    For whatever it might be worth. (I’m not an agent, a writer or an editor, but one of those dreaded and nasty bean counting types, so this comes not from the deal side, but the royalty statement preparation side.)

  8. Anonymous said:

    Thank you Marion and Anonymous and Kristin for confirming. That makes sense.:)