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

Agenting 101: Sales Thresholds in OOP Clauses

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STATUS: Contracts and more contracts.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? VIVA LA VIDA by Coldplay

I know I’ve blogged about this before and the info is available under the tag Publishing Contracts but what the heck, it bears repeating. I can add the link under the Agenting 101 headings now for easy access.

OOP stands for Out of Print. Every publishing contract should have either a term of license for set period of years (7 being common) or the contract should have an out of print clause based on a sales threshold.

Sales threshold being the key term here if it’s not a set license period.

Sales threshold means that in order for a book to be in print, it has to sell a certain amount of copies, standard language is around 150 copies, in any accounting period. Most accounting periods are for 6-month periods in the publishing world.

This applies to ALL formats of the work—that would include eBooks.

In other words (and to repeat), the mere presence or the ability to do an eBook or a POD version will not keep a work in print UNLESS the publisher is selling 150 copies or more of any eBook or short run POD version in the 6-month period.

So even in the world of digital versions, the publisher still has to sell at least 300 copies a year to keep the work in print. If they don’t, rights revert to the author.

Remember the whole big snafu that S&S tried to pull last summer but eliminating those crucial last 4 lines of the S&S OOP clause that detailed the sales threshold? Yep, that’s why agents were in an uproar and refused to have clients sign those contracts.

Without that sales threshold, in this digital world, a work would never go out of print. However, with that sales threshold, publishers still have to sell 300+ copies to retain the rights.


19 Responses

  1. Madison L. Edgar said:

    I just have to know… do you actually call it “OOP” or “O.O.P.”?

    I read it as “OOP,” which I like better, by the way. But I would hate if it’s the other way around and I use the term “OOP”.

  2. Kelly Bryson said:

    I don’t understand- S&S wanted to retain rights work works they weren’t willing to spend advertising on/actually print copies of? Is this a ‘if you won’t do the job, we’ll find someone who does’ clause? Or am I missing something?

  3. Anonymous said:

    Is it true that the new boilerplate (and maybe the old one too) for some/all of Harlequin’s category lines has no digital sales threshold, meaning the book will never go out of print as long as they make it available on a website?

    If so, what can be done about it?

  4. Christine said:

    Thank you for this post. Now that HQN has a little sister, CARINA PRESS, I have been very curious about the contracts and years of commitment. Seems to me, that if a contract were offered, sales threshold is an important consideration.

  5. Kristin Laughtin said:

    Wow. I’ve been reading agent blogs for over a year now, and this is something I never knew was included in contracts. I suppose I figured it was something decided on a case-by-case basis for each book once sales started dropping off. Now I can see why it is really important to include! Thanks for the enlightenment.

  6. AM said:

    Thanks for repeating an old posting.

    This topic recently came up on an author’s blog, and I have been wondering about this subject ever since.

    I appreciate the detailed information you provide us about the industry.

    Thank you, Kristin

  7. Robin Miura said:

    This post has perfect timing for me–gives me some good background info on a digital rights question I’ve been looking into. Thanks!

  8. Anonymous said:

    I’m somewhat confused. Are you saying in some instances you ‘want’ a book to go out of print? I thought the point was to keep the book in print at all costs…or did I make an ‘oops’.

  9. Laer Carroll said:

    You would want one of your books to go out of print if it is at a publisher who is not giving it visibility. Once OOP and you’ve got the rights back you can then place it at a publisher who will push the book – assuming there is one, and that your book deserves the push.

  10. Jonathan Schiefer said:

    Wow! Awesome post. I’ve heard some horror stories about authors forever being locked into contracts because of the e-book clause. It’s nice to know that there’s a Sales Threshold clause that includes e-books!

  11. Cam Snow said:

    Anon (at 10:11), you want the rights to revert if copies stop moving, b/c it will give you the option of selling the book off in the future (for example if you wrote a big hit after book 1 went OOP, you could potentially sell it off again).

    By putting a threshold on the numbers as opposed to just having it sit on a POD website, you aren’t allowing them to maintain a perpetual “lease” on your work for 1 copy a year.

  12. Dal Jeanis said:

    Isn’t 25 copies a month a ridiculously low number for calling something “in print”? Especially with a “20% net received” type contract? Once per period, the publisher could bang out a special sale of $1 an ecopy, pay you nothing-ish, and retain the rights forever.

    You need a minimum income of some kind written into that as well.

    Anon 10:11 – as an author, you want your work out there and making money. If the publisher is getting it out there, then fine. Otherwise, you want your work back, so you can do something else with it. That’s why you DO want it to go OOP if it’s not getting any support and sales from the publisher.

    word verification – hipkin – very small cool people

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