Pub Rants

Category: Publishing Deals & Contracts

Big In Slovenia!

STATUS: What craziness. Sara just got her wallet stolen and since of course she’s got the company credit card, we had to do some quick phone calling. Lucky for us, the thief was not able to act quickly enough to use the card.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IF NOT NOW by Tracy Chapman

Okay, this is terribly embarrassing story. Yesterday, we sold one of our client books to be translated into Slovene.

Yeah, I had to look up Slovenia on google maps.

I had guessed former Yugoslavia but the fact that I couldn’t say for sure, well, that shows a bit of shortcoming on my part. Bad agent! If I’m going to sell a translation right, I really ought to know to which country and where it is on the globe…

But hey, maybe we’ll be big in Slovenia! May this be the first of many.

Big In Russia Actually

STATUS: Almost finished with all my Book Expo follow up stuff.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHEN IT’S OVER by Loverboy
(Bring on the red leather hot pants!)

I’m almost embarrassed to admit I have Loverboy on my iPod. Almost. They are still actually quite a lot of fun to work out to.

I’m not sure why but Russian publishers are buying a lot of projects as of late—and in all types of genres—but they are. Recently I’ve sold two debut fantasy and romance authors in that territory. They love historicals and I just sold a client’s recent book and her entire back list to a Russian publisher. They’ve also bought a young adult urban fantasy in that territory (but traditionally I haven’t sold a lot of YA there).

The hardest country to place right now is the UK. I recently did a deal for my middle grade project in that country but I think it was helped by the fact that the England is also the setting for the novel.

The UK has been notoriously tough for the past 2 years. If a manuscript doesn’t have international appeal (read: if it’s too American), they won’t touch it. They’ve become very tough for Historicals as well (which have traditionally worked well over there but the market has grown tighter in the last couple of years).

But here’s a first. Just recently I sold a YA project in Finland. Finnish! How fun and exciting is that? I also sold a YA in Turkey! Not two countries that immediately pop to mind when selling young adult titles but there you have it. I’ve also recently sold a new romance author in France as well as another young adult title there. Those are some firsts in the French language. Romance in general does tend to sell well in Denmark and Germany, but the latter has cut back as of late on its buys. Publishing has been hit hard in that country and I’ve noticed that offered advances are lower than they have been in the past.

I really love seeing the cover art and getting the foreign copies of books sold. If you go to our website, we actually post a lot of the foreign editions of our books. I must admit that Sara and I haven’t updated it recently but we’ll get around to it when we are a bit less swamped.

So from my limited perspective, that’s what is currently selling abroad as of late.

Book Expo

STATUS: Getting to this blog entry late tonight. It’s Friday night and Kristin is not out and about on the town. I’m actually working… I want to finish things up before I leave for LA on Tuesday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I PUT A SPELL ON YOU by Bryan Ferry

BEA. BEA. You keep hearing the acronym but what is BEA? It stands for Book Expo America. It happens every spring and it’s basically the publishing industry’s way of launching the fall list with a big bang.

The fair itself is really geared more towards booksellers and librarians who come out in droves to get free ARCs [advanced reading copies] of all the big books for the fall. Each publisher hosts a “booth,” which can be half the length of the convention floor so some booths are big. In their booths, they spotlight authors, titles, have posters up and free ARCs. Lots of attendees come with suitcases so as to ship books back.

By the way, a couple of years ago they banned anything on wheels from the convention floor. However, you can have a “storage” space on the lower floor to store your books and UPS has ground shipping there and available for easy delivery.

Big authors host talks, breakfasts, big signings, etc. There are industry panels for education on publishing-related topics. I’m looking forward to hearing Jeff Bezos talk on Friday afternoon. (For those of you who don’t know, he is the current CEO of Amazon.com.)

So what is there for an agent to do? Lots actually. Last year I had 5 authors spotlighted at BEA so I made sure everything went smoothly for them. This year I don’t have any (talk about feast or famine…) so my time will be spent attending some panels, checking in with a few editors who will be at the booths, and my main focus is on Hollywood co-agents who handle book-to-film type deals on the behalf of literary agents.

I’m touching base with the folks I already work with (on a variety of projects) and then I’m meeting some new co-agents for the first time whom I might enjoy working with on future projects. BEA is all about the networking.

There is also the Rights Center. Literary Agents will often take a table in the rights center in order to hold meetings with editors there as well as with reps from foreign publishers for foreign rights etc. Last year I met with a lot of Audio publishers just to get to know those editors a bit better.

So that’s where I’m headed on Tuesday and I look forward to reporting from the floor. If I remember (knock on wood), I’ll take the camera (although I can use my trusty iPhone) and share pics etc. Expect blog entries to come late as my day is packed with meetings so there won’t be time to blog until the late evening.

Have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day Weekend.

I’m out!

Brenda Novak’s Diabetes Auction on May 1!

STATUS: Today I analyzed specifically how I spend my time (mainly because I believe I’m not quite getting enough done during the day). I realized that this morning alone, I spent over 2 hours simply answering emails, handling questions, issues, etc. It might have been closer to three. I wonder if I should start in on my first task in the early morning and then wait until noon to start in on the emails. It will still take me 2 hours but maybe I’ll feel like I accomplished more if I reverse the order.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BELIEVE by Cher

Today I promised to tackle character elements but I’m actually going to grapple with that tomorrow. I also have a task for you readers. In the next day or so, I want you to read some of your favorite back-cover copy from already published books in a variety of genres. Recently published preferred. I think it would be fun to analyze them together. So, if the copy is available online (such as at Amazon or B&N.com), provide the link and I’ll go give them a look and choose some examples for possible discussion on the blog.

Here’s why I’ve pre-empted today’s entry. You readers need to get ready. Why? Because Brenda Novak is just about to open her yearly auction for Diabetes research. There are some amazing items to bid on—including a “respond in 24 hours” read and critique of sample pages by yours truly.

Ack. It’s probably going to kill me to meet that deadline but I am determined because it’s all about raising lots of dollars for this charity event.

Bids begin May 1, 2008 (only a day and a half away) so bookmark the page and mark you calendars.

Just to give you a sampling of some of the great items that are available.

A weekend getaway with Susan Wiggs

An Amazon Kindle (squeak!) plus $100.00 gift certificate

If you are interested in agent evaluation stuff, here are just a few agents who have contributed read & critiques that you could bid on.

Lois Winston
Donald Maass
Robin Rue
Meredith Bernstein
Susannah Taylor
Elaine Spencer
Annelise Robey
Elaine English
Ethan Ellenberg
Steven Axelrod
Eileen Cope
Paige Wheeler
Rachel Vater

And the list goes on…

There is even a breakfast with Deidre Knight. I haven’t even mentioned the editor evaluations that are available.

I, myself, might go after the “Day of Bridge with a World Class Player.” I’m a bridge fanatic but alas, not a master level player. Not even close actually. I might be too scared to actually play with this person in a tournament but I wouldn’t mind spending a couple hours in a tutorial!

So get ready…

The Email That Started It All

STATUS: Blogging late. No particular reason other than it has been a rather busy day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THICK A** STOUT by Skankin’ Pickle

It never gets old. When Wednesday comes and the NYT bestseller list for the next week is released and Ally Carter is still on it, holy cow. You’d think the thrill would die down but it really doesn’t.


And this is what gets me. Three years ago, I didn’t even represent young adult or anything in the children’s world. In a sense, Ally has my author Jennifer O’Connell to thank for starting me down the children’s world road (which I absolutely love, is totally a natural fit, and I can’t imagine why I didn’t rep it to begin with).

Jennifer was the person who started it all when she wanted to write for the YA market and asked me if I could sell it. Of course I said sure (even though I didn’t know any children’s editors at the time), and got on the phone immediately with a good agent friend who only reps children’s books to get the scoop. Then I went to New York to meet the people I needed to for Jennifer’s submission. And that’s how my repping YA began.

Her first young adult, PLAN B, sold at auction in less than a week. Thrilled, all I could think of was that I love YA and where could I get more to sell.

That inspired an email to all my current clients asking if any of them had ever thought of writing for the young adult market.

Ally immediately emailed me back with a list of ideas—which I promptly shot down (Ally tells a more colorful story on her website if you want to check it out). But it inspired her to come up with 3 more ideas and I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILLYOU was the second on the list. It hit me immediately that that was the novel she had to write so I called her to tell her so.

She did. And here we are on the NYT bestseller list for 14 weeks running.

So thank you Jennifer! I think it’s her turn to hit the list so mark your calendars for June as LOCAL GIRLS and RICH BOYS hit the shelves and these two books seriously rock. It’s her best stuff yet (and I want that girl’s abs…).

HarperCollins New Imprint

STATUS: I can see the glass of my desktop. This is the first time in about a month that I’ve reduced the piles enough to have a clear surface. Now I’m off to do client reading like mad because I’m a little behind.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHEN LOVE COMES TO TOWN by U2 and B.B. King

When I first read the news, I immediately thought of Vanguard and the new imprint model Roger Cooper is exploring over there at The Perseus Books Group.

This, too, is an advance-less imprint with some big differences. Basically Vanguard focuses mostly on fiction and working with PR-savvy authors who already have an established name and fan base. Instead of an advance, Roger allocates a budget of 50 to 100k (or an agreed upon amount) for marketing and promotion and then there is a 50/50 split with the author in profits.

It’s an alternative for name authors looking for a different publishing model.

For the new HarperCollins imprint, it’s not clear where the focus will be but I hear the emphasis is on nonfiction. So far I haven’t heard mention whether the monies will be used instead on marketing/promotion as in the Vanguard model. The press release only mentioned a focus on the internet marketing and not buying-in co-op space in the stores.

So my thoughts (off the cuff and will probably evolve as I hear and read about how those first authors do with this imprint):

1. I can see this working for established authors with clear name recognition. Not sure I can see the advantage for a debut writer unless he/she has a large platform.

2. One of the biggest issues in publishing is how long it takes to publish. Since most books take 12 months to hit the shelves (and sometimes 18 or 24), this is a huge concern. I’d like to see an advantage in speed for this imprint—to forgo the advance to get books out in a timely manner (which can be a huge leg-up for nonfiction titles).

3. Connected to this is accounting periods. With this new publishing model, I’d like to see a revamping in the accounting/royalty statement period. Currently, publishers release statements twice a year and thus hold author monies/earnings for that time span. Since there is no advance paid, I’d like to see more regular royalty statements so authors do not have to wait unduly for their earnings from this imprint (as they haven’t had any other book monies to live off of in the meantime). Otherwise an author could be waiting up to a year, a year and 6 months, or whatever before seeing any return on their investment in writing/publishing the book. Since we are shifting the publishing paradigm…

4. Will there be monies allocated to marketing/promotion? Will there be a dedicated marketing person or publicist?

I’m sure tomorrow I’ll think of five other things to add here…

Royalty Statement Time

STATUS: A new company has moved into the office suite next door and they are holding a wine & cheese party in about 10 minutes (who could resist?). I have to say I’m intrigued by the company. They work with corporations and architects to purchase art for lobbies, office decoration, etc. Sounds a bit cool I must say.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WAR OF MAN by Neil Young

Statements come in Feb/Aug, March/Sept, April/Oct, May/Nov, June/December. We can pretty much count on at least one statement to arrive for just about every month of the year. Feb/Aug and April/Oct being the most common royalty periods.

I spent today reviewing royalty statements—which can make you cross-eyed by the end of the day as publishing houses like to cram a lot of information onto one sheet.

So what exactly does this entail?

Several steps to be exact. We have a large excel spreadsheet that tracks each project and when we can expect statements. A reminder in our Time & Chaos program also pops up with links to our cheat sheets (which is the royalty structure of a publishing contract at a glance).

If it’s a first time statement, one just needs to verify that everything is correct on the sheet. The advanced paid, the royalty structure, and whether the sales match approximately to what we have down for the initial print run and any sales numbers gathered throughout the year.

If there has been a previous statement, then we do a comparison, track the sales we have listed in our notes to what is on the statements, as well as following up to make sure that if a subsidiary right has been sold or a book club sold into, then the advance and record of that is on the statement as well. The cheat sheets are invaluable for this.

Then there are the issues that might arise and so would need conversations with the royalty department. For example, one of our statements (before the book was released) had a deduction of $2 on it so now the author owes more than the advance against royalties.

Obviously that’s not right and needs to be corrected and a new statement generated.

If there are real discrepancies, then a closer, more intense review is in order. Many agents (if they don’t have an in-house person) will work with a royalty review service that has expertise in doing a closer audit of the statements (for a percentage fee of the recoverable—which the agent pays—not the author).

And yes, incorrect royalty statements can happen frequently so an agent needs to be diligent with the record keeping about each project.

Here’s the fun part of the week. Several authors have just earned out beyond their advances so they get “surprise” money in the mail and smiles all around.

Payment Schedules

STATUS: All six contracts are almost complete. I’ll so drink to that!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ELENORE by The Turtles

Over the weekend I realized my whole Friday entry was a bit cryptic if one didn’t know anything about payment schedules in publishing contracts. I’m pretty certain I’ve covered this in one of my prior entries (check out the Agenting 101 blogs) but what the heck, it doesn’t hurt to repeat it.

When a publisher buys a book, they don’t pay out the advance all at once (and probably none of you suffer from that assumption that they did, but I’ll state the basics just in case). No, when a publisher buys a book, they will stipulate a certain amount for the advance and then the payments are attached to what I call triggers—as in something contractually happens and a portion of the advance is paid.

Typical triggers can be these:

1. on signing of the contract

2. on d&a (delivery and acceptance) of a detailed outline
Side note: this happens often when a publisher is buying new books from one of their already established authors and they are buying on spec—as in nothing has been put on paper yet.

3. on d&a of the final manuscript

4. on publication of the work

5. on publication of a paperback edition

My favorite payouts are, of course, ½ on signing and ½ on d&a. Personally, when the monies are small, I really don’t see the sense in doing it otherwise. Now, I can understand when the advance pops into the six figures etc. but I don’t have to like it and I will certainly use all leverage possible to eliminate it. That’s my job after all—to get the best payout structure possible amongst other things.

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of emphasis from Publishers to have payment in thirds rather than halves.

Of course I don’t lean that way either but I’m okay with it for the most part—if I can avoid the upon publ pym.

I’m sure y’all are sensing a mantra here. I’m not always successful and I imagine as Publishers dig in on this topic, it will be harder and harder to get.

Now as to Friday’s entry, what I meant by weighting forward is this.

What if the advance is 30k for one book. Payouts can look any number of ways.

If it’s in halves, that’s easy:
15k on signing
15k on d&a

If in thirds:
10k on signing
10k on d&a of outline
10k on d&a of full manuscript

Now let’s say you have to have the pym on publication and I can’t budge the Publisher on it. My job is to weight the payments forward.

Instead of equal thirds like this:
10k on signing
10k on d&a of full manuscript
10k on pub

I’ll try to weight monies forward:
12.5k on signing
12.5k on d&a full manuscript
5k on publication

And this can have a myriad of variations. I just did what was easy math.

Clear as mud?

Payments on Pub

STATUS: TGIF! I’m going to be so happy when all these contracts complete. That’s my new definition of happiness. That way I can get back to reading—which is the more fun part of the job.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU LEARN by Alanis Morissette

I wish this issue would go the way of the dinosaur. I was talking with a few agent friends today and this topic came up—as it often does. Unfortunately, I’m convinced this one is stuck here for good so what to do about it.

Certain publishers are demanding payments on pub no matter what the advance is. (Cough—a publisher that begins with a “P” comes to mind). Other houses are more relaxed until the money gets into the six figures, then the upon pub payment rears its head.

Unless there is an auction going on. Then the agent can get the publisher off it because they want the book enough to be in an auction so will often be flexible where payout is concerned so as not to lose the auction.

If an author is big enough or established enough, well, anything is possible right? Not just no payments on pub.

But if you can’t get rid of it, what do you do? Well, we weight the money forward so as little money as possible will be paid on pub.

One agent did point out another factor I hadn’t really considered which is that an on pub payment allocates money in a different year as other monies in the contract (as publication more often than not happens in a year other than the contract). This can be better for authors in terms of paying taxes. This is true but it seems to me that taxes can be managed properly and most people would prefer the monies earlier.

I’m out.

Not Always At Once But Sometimes At Last

STATUS: I’ve got contracts on my mind.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ME AND MRS. JONES by Billy Paul

As y’all know, I’ve been working on contracts and quite a few foreign rights sales as of late. I’m particular fond of some of the recent deals because they were several years in the making.

See, we submitted the project back when we did the US sale but alas, didn’t have any takers. The US sale had been a strong one so we were quite flummoxed. We received quite a few rejections that the project felt “too American” for the foreign audience.

In a sense, I get that.

But now the deals are happening, so what has changed? Several things actually. The global market climate for that genre. The strength of the US sales can be a tipping point factor. General excitement created by readers with the US copy (or of an English-language copy that was imported into a particular country). There can be a number of reasons.

The door is never closed. It’s a good reminder that even if a foreign sale doesn’t happen at once, it can certainly happen at last (and the money, and the love, can be better the second time around). This happens in Hollywood as well.

Just last year I sold a project to Hollywood that I had been shopping for three years. I hadn’t given up hope but things did look a bit unpromising. Then a surprise summer hit made this type of project suddenly hot again and voila, interest, and then a sale.