Pub Rants

Category: Agents/Agenting

Agenting 101: Part Three: Grant of Rights

STATUS: I have to admit. I’m pretty much taking the day off but I have managed to drag myself to the computer to do this blog.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? LADY by the Little River Band

I have to say that explaining elements of publishing is the least creative writing I can think of. Why? Because it’s really not ranting—polite or otherwise—but y’all seem pretty excited so I’ll see how creative I can get with my explanation but I tend to like bullet points. Quick, easy, and to the point.

Now remember, this is a broad overview and not to meant to cover EVERY aspect. It’s just enough to give you some light working knowledge.

Isn’t it Alexander Pope who says, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”?

Please keep that in mind. Here we go. The grant of rights has two parts: 1) territory for print rights granted, and 2) other mediums where print rights can be exploited—otherwise known as subsidiary rights.


When a publisher calls to offer, basically, they need to explain where they want the right to print your work. There are several possibilities.

1. World Rights

This means that they have the right in all English-speaking territories (US, Canada, UK etc.) and that they also have the right to sell the work in translation (which means to sell the work to foreign publishers to be translated into another language).

If you are working without an agent, more than likely, the publisher will ask for World rights. This is not a bad thing—after all, they do have subsidiary rights people who can sell the work on your behalf and then you split the monies (and splits can be as good as 75/25 [75% to author and 25% to publisher] or 80/20 for UK but some publishers do 50/50 and I have seen 60/40 splits for translation).

2. World English

Publisher has the right to publish the English version throughout the world (and the main markets are US, Canada, UK, Australia)

3. North American Only

Publisher has the right to publish an English version in the US and Canada (and territories) only.

4. U.S. Only

Publisher only has the right to publish the work in the US. Author reserves rights to Canada and may sell that separately.

Subsidiary Rights

Print rights are valuable. There are many other mediums in which to exploit them. These venues are called Subsidiary rights and they can include the following:

1. Motion Picture/TV
2. Dramatic (which is plays or theater but sometimes we say Dramatic to include Movies and TV just to lump it all together)
3. radio
4. Commerical Merchandising (that’s products—like a doll or a cup holder)
4. audio
5. video
6. Calendar
7. Electronic rights (e-book)
8. Multi-media and/or interactive electronic rights (not the same thing as an e-book—and are almost always sold in conjunction with Motion Picture/TV because studios are evil and want to rule the world. Interactive e-rights could be a game made for a gameboy from your print work.)
9. US-Only Spanish Language

That’s the general explanation. Now, what most authors don’t realize is that these elements are your bargaining chips. What you will and will not give to the publisher really depends on the money being offered.

Always note that the first offer a publisher gives is never the final offer that they are willing to do. Never.

If they want all these rights, they should pay for it and increase the advance offer or the royalty percentages or something.

Now, they aren’t always open to changing the advance monies but if they aren’t, then you need to restrict the territory grant of rights and then of course, no subsidiary rights. (Hint: this is where an agent, and our years of expertise, really helps. We know what a project is worth, what publishers will pay what for it, what to hold, what to allow, where we can push).

I prefer not to give World rights (because I have a terrific foreign rights co-agent and I think we can earn the author more money selling them individually) but if the money is right, everything is negotiable in terms of territory. And if you are without an agent and want those rights exploited (and you, personally, don’t have the means), then it’s better to let the Publisher handle it.

For subsidiary rights, as a general rule, for me personally (and remember, I don’t rep all agents in the universe here), I never grant dramatic rights, merchandising, multimedia, radio, or Calendar.

E-book and Audio is all I’ll ever play with and once again, it depends on the money being offered.

Why? Most publishing houses are not equipped to really sell dramatic rights (although lately, many partnerships are being created to make this more viable), Either way, I would rather control this on behalf of the author.

As an author going forward without an agent, my recommendation to you is to never grant dramatic rights. If Hollywood comes a-calling, it’s easy enough to get an entertainment lawyer on board to help you through it. You want control over this medium and if you grant to the publisher, you’ll have no say (and trust me, it’s not like you have a lot of say to begin).

See my previous rants on Hollywood and dramatic rights.

Well, this post was as exciting as a root canal. Big grin here. If I forgot something, I’ll address it later. Onwards to tomorrow.

Agenting 101: Part Two: The Deal Points

STATUS: It’s a quiet day. Most of publishing skipped out of the office at 1 p.m. Eastern time. And then I just heard the news, a moment of silence for Jim Baen: 1943-2006.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? MYSTERY by Anita Baker

Got your notebooks ready? Here we go.

Yesterday, I spent enough time highlighting the importance of getting an agent on board and when. That’s totally up to you and what you need for your career.

Let’s go back to yesterday’s scenario. You are a hard-working author who is building her career. You don’t currently have an agent and a call with an offer comes in from an editor at a large, NYC publisher. You plan to go it alone.

First off, this is great news! You’ve done an amazing job of getting your unagented manuscript noticed out of a slush pile. Congratulate yourself. This is a triumph. You’ve beat some tremendous odds.

But chances are good you weren’t expecting the editor’s call so it probably takes you completely by surprise—not to mention your heart is pounding with excitement.

My first recommendation to you is to be warm, gracious, and excited while talking to the editor but don’t commit to anything during that phone call. You need time to process, to analyze the deal points, to figure out the questions that you might have or to talk with your fellow authors to get help and advice (so many published writers are savvy because they belong to RWA, or SFWA, or Sisters In Crime and so have a lot of knowledge). And you can’t do that while on the phone with the editor.

So ask the editor to email you the terms of agreement so you can review them at your leisure (and ask for the time frame for when you need to respond by). This allows you a little breathing room, a little distance in which to start the negotiation. This also allows you to calm your frantically beating heart so you can be in a better space to do the actual negotiation.

Deal Points

Agents call the initial phone (and a lot of times by email) negotiation the hammering out of the deal points. What this means is that these are the main components and potentially the deal breakers. If we can’t agree on these terms, there’s no point in sending on the rest of the contract.

Now, what the deal points are can really vary depending on the authors and what level they are in their careers. That’s complicated so I’m just going to stick with the basic deal points.

By the way, what I’m sharing certainly isn’t top secret. In fact, Agent Richard Curtis even wrote a book entitled HOW TO BE YOUR OWN LITERARY AGENT.

I wouldn’t recommend being your own agent (as you well know) but this book is a great resource if you want to learn about the business of contracts and all the nitty-gritty.

When an editor offers, you want to get answers to these 6 elements of the deal.

1. Rights Granted
2. Advance
3. Payout
4. Royalty structure/format
5. Bonus clauses
6. option clause

There are also three other questions you should probably ask as well:

1. What editorial changes do you see as necessary?
2. Potential pub date?
3. If a two-book offer, make sure that they will be separately accounted.

You also want to include another clause in the deal point negotiation that will read (and this can vary depending on rights granted):

“All rights not specifically granted hereunder are reserved by the Author, including, but not limited to motion picture, television, radio, commercial merchandising, audio, video, multimedia and/or interactive electronic rights.”

Got that jotted down? On Monday, I’ll start breaking down each one of the deal points and talking about them.

Agenting 101: Part One: How To Handle An Editor’s Call With An Offer

STATUS: Don’t you love it when things happen out of the blue? For example, my author Ally Carter got an email from Carly Phillips (yes, that NYT Bestselling Carly). She was at the airport and needed a book. She grabbed CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE and loved it so much she had to email Ally. She even gave us a quote to use for LEARNING TO PLAY GIN promotional materials, “Fresh, fun and fabulous. Solitaire has never been so much fun!”

Now Carly is my new favorite person. Run out right now and buy Ally’s book and then buy one of Carly’s. Because such magnanimity should be rewarded. Most NYT bestselling authors are overwhelmed by blurb requests and make a policy of simply saying ‘no’ so as to be consistent and fair—so Carly’s generosity is much appreciated.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? I WILL NOT BE DENIED by Bonnie Raitt

Earlier this week, I got an email from an author who had gotten an offer from an established NYC publisher after having been at a small, independent for her first book.

Great I think. Send me the novel as an electronic file, and I’ll take a look and see if we can be a good fit.

(Side note explanation here. Most of you are probably thinking, wow, deal on the table, easy money. Truth is, I only take on clients whose work I love, which means if I read the novel and it’s not for me, I’m going to pass on representation—even with a deal on the table. And I’m not joking. I have passed on two projects where the deal was already there because when I take on a client, I need to believe I can rep you for your whole career—that I will love your future stuff. Not just rep you for one book and for the money.)

So, I need to see the novel before I can offer representation. The author sends back an email saying she has already verbally accepted the offer from the NYC publisher (because the deal was not unlike the one she had for the small independent publisher so it looked fine to her) but would like an agent for future stuff and could she send the next project she has.

Kristin groans and raps forehead on desk.

This author expects an NYC publisher to offer the same terms as a small publisher? Oh, heavens.

And now I’m angry on behalf of this author I don’t even know because she’s just accepted a potentially silly offer (with the unchanged boilerplate contract—and I’m cringing while writing this) simply because she didn’t know any better. And you know I HATE when authors are taken advantage of. It really burns me. I think Miss Snark might call this the nitwit of the day.

But I’ll just call it excited, naïve author makes a mistake (and not an uncommon one at that).

So open your notebooks and grab a pen. Kristin is opening up the Pub Rants University and will now teach you Agenting 101 for the next week (except 4th of July). She’s going to teach you how to handle an NYC publisher offer without an agent on board.

First off, as they say when watching the Xtreme sports channel, don’t try this at home. There is a reason why authors pay us the big bucks (chortles) or to be exact, 15% for domestic.

We know what we are doing. You don’t. We aren’t excitable because somebody has just offered to publish our baby. You are. The editor knows that she’s dealing with a professional when working with an agent and that all aspects of the deal will be discussed in detail whereas with you, the editor knows she’s going to get a project cheap—that you’ll be so happy, you’ll verbally agree (without understanding all the deal points) and that you’ll probably sign an unchanged boilerplate (which basically is in the publishing houses favor—not yours).

Now is the NYC publishing house evil for doing so? No. If they can get what they can get and in their favor, why shouldn’t they?

Lesson #1: Editor calls to offer for your project.

What you do (possibility 1): You say, “I’m delighted that you are interested in this novel (or novels or whatever). I’m very open to considering XYZ publishing house. Here is my email address. Would you please email me the deal points or terms of the offer so I can sit down and take a close look at it?”

The editor is going to be more than fine with doing this. You aren’t jeopardizing the offer. The editor is not going to retract it with this request. In fact, you might have just leapt up a notch in her estimation. You are smart, professional, savvy.

Now, I recommend that once you have the deal points in hand, call your absolute favorite agents—the ones you’ve had your eye on. Call and say, I have an unaccepted offer in hand from XYZ publisher and I’m looking for an agent to negotiate this deal and potentially represent my future works.

Let me tell you. Your phone will be ringing—and promptly. Agents love the words “deal on the table from a big time, reputable, can-pay-real-money publisher.”

Obviously I’m biased here but an Agent works for you—to protect your interest. Why not get this expertise on board instead of going on your own (unless of course you are really savvy about publishing etc)—although I’ll tell you right now that agents and editors who write, hire another agent to rep them. We know the biz and we STILL hire another agent to represent our interests. Why? Because a layer is created. The agent gets to be the mean chick, fight for the deal points, be stubborn if she has to, and the author gets an untarnished, pristine relationship with her editor—full of good will and good cheer.

Your agent is the tiger so you can be the easy-to-work-with lamb.

What you do (possibility 2): “I’m delighted that you are interested in this novel (or novels or whatever). I’m very open to considering XYZ publishing house. Here is my email address. Would you please email me the deal points or terms of the offer so I can sit down and take a close look at it? Also, I would like to find an agent who might be able to work on my behalf. Do you have any recommendations of who I might contact or who you enjoy working with.”

Most editors prefer to work with us and they are usually happy to offer recommendations. Then do your research, see if these agents work for you, and contact them.

What you do (possibility 3): “I’m delighted that you are interested in this novel (or novels or whatever). I’m very open to considering XYZ publishing house. Here is my email address. Would you please email me the deal points or terms of the offer so I can sit down and take a close look at it.”

And you plan to go it alone. I don’t recommend it but if you are adamant, take your time. Nothing has to be done in one phone call or in one day even. Ask if there is a deadline by which to conclude (so you have the time frame), and now it’s time to learn what you need to negotiate the initial offer. As for the rest of the contract, it would take more than a week of blogging to teach you that and alas, I’m not up to that level of education—not to mention, it’s why I have a contracts manager.

Agenting 101 begins tomorrow.