Pub Rants

Category: Publishing Deals & Contracts

I know for a fact that some of my clients don’t actually read the final contract they sign. I also freely admit that this makes me nervous. No person should ever be so trusting, even though I know I do a heck of a job on every contract negotiation. I actually prefer that all my clients read their 25+ page contract from first page to last. In fact, I even welcome questions or any concerns a particular clause might raise.

Why? Because I’ve looked at that publisher’s contract a million times, and my familiarity with it might actually be a liability rather than an asset. It never hurts to have a fresh pair of eyes on a contract I’ve read three times before I send on to the client for signing.

Fresh eyes might be a fresh perspective, and a client’s questions based on his or her interpretation of the contract language might actually make me evaluate familiar clauses in a whole new way.

Not to mention, Publishers Weekly just ran a story called For Major Publishers, Will Print No Longer Be the Norm? In it, PW highlights that agents are concerned about publishers who no longer guarantee a publication format in their contracts. In short, publishers are becoming more hesitant to commit to printing a physical edition of your book–just in case they want to do eBook first or eBook only.

Well, a big reason a lot of writers are interested in partnering with publishers is because publishers offer the advantage of producing both print and electronic formats. And if a print edition is not guaranteed…well, that might change the author’s desire to sign a contract.

Luckily, we here at NLA have made it a standard to specify the production of a print edition in our authors’ contracts. It’s always a tough discussion, but we are sure to get publishers to guarantee that they will produce a print edition in the deal-points stage, before contracts are even drawn up. That way, the expectation is clear early on so the author can decide whether or not to accept the publisher’s offer. This has been our standard for years now, but I’m guessing that getting publishers to agree to it is only going to get tougher.

Thinking like an agent ensures that you read your entire contract. Word for word. And that you start thinking like a negotiator. What have you read about in the news lately that might need to be covered in a publishing contract? Maybe you’ve read about “subscription services,” which is quickly becoming a hot-button issue. If you see that, or anything else, in your contract that you don’t understand, have a conversation with your agent. It’s probably rare you’ll think of something that your agent hasn’t, but, honestly, you never know.

Fresh eyes can be a powerful tool.

Publishing contracts may not be my favorite part of the job, but I have to admit, they are never boring. Case in point, this past month I’ve been working on an Australian contract for one of my clients. All the requested changes had been handled; we were simply awaiting the final clean contract in PDF.

When a contract arrives, I always compare the signature copy to our master redline. Just in case. When a contract goes through five or more drafts, it’s likely something was accidentally added or omitted.

In reviewing this particular contract, I noticed one very small change in the Out of Print clause that hadn’t been present in any of the previous drafts. “The Work” had been changed to “The Works.” To make a long story short, and to diminish the narrative tension here, it was simply a drafting error on the publisher’s part. The final contract was corrected quickly but I highlight this error because the addition of an “s” radically changes the Out of Print clause.

Let me explain why. In OOP clauses, we include sales thresholds as one of the determiners of whether a title is out of print. For example, a contract may include a line that reads that if “The work” is has sold fewer than 250 copies in two accounting periods, then it is considered out of print.

This is a simplification of the whole clause, but it will give you the general gist of where I’m going.

If this contract happens to be for multiple books, then the addition of an “s” can have major consequences. If the line is changed to “The Works,” suddenly it’s not just one title that needs to sell fewer than 250 copies in two accounting periods, it’s ALL the works in the contract together that need to fall below the sales threshold.

As you can imagine, if the sales of more than one book are being counted in the total for the sales threshold, that will make it that much more difficult for the author to ever get his or her rights back. The definition for Out of Print has changed substantially.

To think like an agent, know that it’s not necessary for there to be a major word change in any given clause to radically change the contract. In this instance, one little “s” can change everything.

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!

In October, NLA implemented a new feature–a special News Alert eMail blast for subscribers of our newsletter. Today, a blast went out informing readers of how Harpercollins subscription service with Scribd will work and how authors will get paid.

Because my time is so limited these days (sadly!), regular or daily blog posts that alert readers about changes to publishing contracts and how that impacts authors just isn’t possible for me. But I am still doing great posts 2 or 3 times a months. Those columns can be found in NLA’s Monthly newsletter for our subscribers.

If you’ve been suffering from Pub Rants withdrawal, that would be the place to go to get your fix. Our eNewsletter is free. Just click on the Newsletter button at the bottom of our web page to sign up.

And for those of you who weren’t subscribers yet and missed that blast,  here’s the link to where you can see the news.

By the way, this is exactly the type of content I plan to tackle in tonight’s webinar:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

THE NITTY GRITTY – HOW DIGITAL IS TRANSFORMING THE PUBLISHING LANDSCAPE.

There’s still time to register.

The auction has concluded. Wowza. I’m completely humbled. And trust me, I’m going to spend hours on this critique! The winner deserves that and more.

I don’t think Dave and company are going to believe me when I tell them how much money we raised on their behalf.

THANK YOU! I’ve said it before but y’all are awesome. If you still want to make a donation, feel free to. I haven’t closed that portal yet.

http://www.gofundme.com/3sgzis

First off, let me just say how AWESOME every single one of my blog readers is. You guys have just blown me away.

Right now my 50 page Manuscript critique with 30 minute follow up Skype session is at $2500. That’s crazy! And just FYI that the auction closes today (August 7) at 5 pm Mountain Time. As soon as it ends and there is a winner, I’ll be sending out an email to set up the date and time.

And for folks not bidding but just wanting to make a donation, we’ve raised $3240.00!

That’s $5740.00 total!!!

Dave, Jen, Jason, Rebecca & Timothy are just going to be stunned.

Big Hugs. People in publishing are the best.

A police officer pounds on your door and when you open it, yells you’ve got 10 minutes to get out before the fire hits. What do you take?

Well, if you are Kristin’s good friend Dave Olsen, you take nothing. Sadly Dave was out of town when the alert came to evacuate because of the Colorado Springs Black Forest fire was raging out of control and just about to hit his street. Luckily, one tenant, Jen Stemen was home. Rebecca and Timothy (who had literally just moved into their bottom half apartment two weeks prior) were not there. Nor was Jason Sullivan who lived in the apartment above the workshop barn.

Jen has ten minutes. She grabs everyone’s laptop and throws it in her car. Then she runs to grab her dog Cosmo, Dave’s dog Shadow, Jason’s dog Switters (all big dogs). Then she dashes to load them into her tiny car only to realize that there isn’t going to be enough room.

She has to make a split decision: dogs or car?  She  doesn’t hesitate (even though she had no renter’s insurance). She abandons her car. Throws the laptops, the dogs, and her just-in-case suitcase into Dave’s old truck and hightails it out of there. The house, the entire property, is completely destroyed.

TV coverage captured the 100 foot flames that was their street. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see my posting on the day I learned that Dave had lost everything but was cheerfully moving on and even quipping about how he could now move to Boulder, Colorado to be closer to his daughter. Nothing to pack!

Every year I donate a 30-page manuscript critique with a follow up Skype session for the Brenda Novak Charity auction because my nephew has juvenile diabetes and this is a cause close to my heart. Well, this is very personal for me as well. My friend Dave is lucky. He is insured. It will cover a lot but probably not everything.

But this auction is for Jen and Jason–who had no renter’s insurance. And especially for Jen, who sacrificed to save the pets. (And please let me take a minute to say that if you are renting your place and don’t have insurance, please buy some. Today. You just never ever know. Usually it’s under $100 for a year. Well worth the cost for the absolute worst case scenario. And I hope you never have to use it!)

So if you’ve ever wanted a critique from me and you want the money to go to great cause, now is your chance. I’m really hoping to raise at least $1500.00. Deets below.

BLACK FOREST WILDFIRE AUCTION –

50-page Manuscript critique followed by a 30 minute Skype Session

Runs: August 2, 2013 thru August 7, 2013

Click on this link and bid.

And if money is tight and you really can’t participate in an auction but might like to donate a buck, you can do that too. Just click on this link. Even if you think $1.00 is not a lot, that’s $1.00 more than what they have right now and if 200 people donate a buck, that adds up.

And THANK YOU. Except for the small percentage that GoFundMe takes to process donations, ALL the money will go to Jen & Jason.

 

Pic 1: Me, Jen, and Dave on the day we were clearing the property

Pic 2:: the house before

Pic 3:  the house after

Kristin-Jen-Dave OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA z - hillside view of house - AFTER

I’m sure you’ve been dying to see a picture of Agent Kristin manning a wood chipper. Finally, your chance. My husband Brian and I spent a weekend with Dave helping him clear his property after the Black Forest Wildfire destroyed his home and everything there.

Pic 1: Dave chainsaws a tree

Pic 2: One tree down

Pic 3: That’s me picking up branches that have been cut so as to take to the wood chipper

Pic 4: I’m watching Dave cut so I can grab those branches

Pic 5: A very dirty Kristin & Brian

Pic 6: Dave & Me & a wood chipper

Pic 7: Me feeding the chipper. Fargo anyone?

Pic 8: The clean up crew. Jen, who saved the dogs, is sandwiched between me and my husband Brian. She, who had just lost everything, still came to help clean the property. Amazing gal!

Pic 9: My favorite picture! Dave had a stack of firewood for his fireplace. It was the ONLY thing that didn’t burn. LOL How ludicrous is that?

DaveChainsawsTree DaveWithFoundation Landscapeshot_me&branches KN&Dave-tree-down Brian&Kristin-dirty Dave-Kristin-Woodchipper KristinFeedsChipper TheCleanUpGang Firewood-didn'tburn

So last week when I was out in New York for the Writers Digest Conference, I gave a talk on why successful indie authors might want to partner with agents.

As I was putting together my talking points, I actually came to the conclusion that why they partner is the wrong question. The real question might be when should indie authors partner with an agent.

If  indie authors are becoming successful, an agent can accelerate their exposure in a big way. For example, I couple of weeks ago I took on self-publishing phenom Jasinda Wilder. On March 16, she released her 18th novel FALLING INTO YOU.

In less than one month, she sold 140,000 digital copies of this title.

Yes, you read that right.

That’s a crazy number of copies in a short period of time. She hit the NYT and USA Today list for several weeks in a row.

She decided to partner with me. My job is now to accelerate her exposure in any way possible. Within a week Publishers Weekly did a feature story on her and I imagine this won’t be the last coverage given her extraordinary success.

Would Jasinda get coverage without me? Sure. But there is no doubt I’m stomping on the gas. This can be incredibly beneficial in talking with publishers and for foreign deals.