Pub Rants

Category: Publishing Deals & Contracts

On Thursday I’m flying to New York City to give a presentation at the Writers Digest Conference on Friday morning. My topic is why a successful indie self-publishing author might want to partner with an agent.

If you are an indie author that doesn’t see the value in having an agent, I’m not really going to change your mind so there really is no purpose in reading my next several blog posts where I share my thoughts. However, if you are curious, I’m happy to share several reasons on why they do. Now of course I can only speak to why several indie authors have decided to partner with me. It’s going to vary depending on the author and the agent.  But I represent several and they find our relationship invaluable.

Thought 1: People are complaining about the archaic nature of publishing and why doesn’t it change.

Okey dokey. Let’s quit complaining and start having conversations to instigate change because how do you think change happens?

In May of 2012, I had Hugh Howey fly out to New York to sit-down with publishers. I thought it was important for them to meet him in-person just so they could see for themselves what a reasonable, personable, and forward-thinking author he was. He was not, and has never been, anti-traditional publisher. In fact, he’s fairly pro-publisher. But a partnership has to make sense and there is a lot of stuff from traditional publishing that doesn’t make sense.

Before Hugh got on the plane, we both knew that it was very unlikely that the meetings would result in an offer that we’d be willing to take.  Yet, WE DID IT ANYWAY. Why? And this might be kind of silly but both of us felt kind of strongly that having in-person conversations with publishers about our sticking points (ebook royalty rate, sales thresholds in out of print clauses, and non-compete clauses) was necessary in order to facilitate possible change in the future. In other words, we weren’t going to see the benefit of it but maybe a future indie publishing author would because we had started the conversation.

And these conversations could only occur via a reasonable author partnering with a reasonable agent who were meeting with affable and reasonable publishers and editors and having frank, smart, and intelligent conversations with them about current contractual sticking points.

For Hugh, it resulted in a very unexpected print-rights only offer five months later (much to our surprise). That was way sooner than either of us had ever thought to hope.

I imagine that in the not-so-distant-future other indie authors (and who might be unagented) might be thanking Hugh for having partnered with an agent (way) back in 2012 so as to have these meetings. Just as they might be thanking Bella Andre and her agent for pulling off one of the first print-rights only deals (that was publicly announced -there might be others I’m unaware of).

 

 

Because The First Thing That Comes To Mind Is The Size Of The Advance – Not.

STATUS: With New York Publishing shut down, I’m working on a UK contract and catching up on email. I think it’s going to be this way for most of the week.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  HOPE I DON’T FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU by Tom Waits

Obviously the Random House – Penguin merger is all the news in the publishing world right now. It’s a big deal. But I read this article in Publishers Weekly and pretty much snorted my tea.

PW makes it sound like an agent’s biggest concern might be the reduction in advance amounts paid for books.

I’m concerned about MANY things that might come about because of the merger but smaller advances is not one of them. It’s not even on my top 10 list of things to be concerned about.

Publishing saw the consolidation of publishing houses into smaller and smaller numbers in the early 90s. That evolved into what had been known as the “Big 6” of the last decade.

It’s now down to the “Big 5” and quite honestly, I don’t see NewsCorp (which owns HarperCollins) settling for the status quo. Wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the “Big 5” become “4” with two more houses merging in the not-so-distant-future.

Of course this all has to pass anti-trust rulings, etc.

What does fewer publishing houses mean for authors?

That answer is pretty simple. Fewer choices. Less competition. More uniformity of royalty rates (like that hasn’t happened already because houses are already more interested in status quo among themselves rather than actual competition). Narrowed vision of what is the market and what should sell (and they already have tunnel vision as any number of digitally self-published successes have recently proven). More emphasis on commercial blockbusters and less building authors from the mid list.

Getting the picture? Smaller advances? Not a main issue on my radar.

(Just a note, this post is from our archives. Some references and links may be from past years.)

STATUS: I feel like I need to flex my brain muscles to get back into shape for daily blogging.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  DANCE HALL DAYS by Wang Chung

I recently talked to a writer who had signed a small publisher’s boilerplate contract.

Shudders.

Let me start by saying that the signed contract was with an established and reputable small publisher. Still I shudder.

Let me highlight here that I wouldn’t want a writer to sign the boilerplate contract with any publisher -be it a small one or a big six publisher. All boilerplates are terrible. That’s why agents negotiate the heck out of them.

Pitfalls of Boilerplate Contracts

1) Every publishing boilerplate I’ve seen grants the publisher all rights. Oh boy. Honestly folks, you never want to grant rights to a publisher for things they won’t exploit effectively such as dramatic rights (film/tv), merchandizing, theme park rights etc. The rights will just sit there. And you can’t earn money unless those rights are sold.

2) Boilerplates have no recourse if the publisher fails to publish. Then writers are stuck in limbo forever! They can’t contractually demand the rights back for failure to publish. Writer is stuck. Not good.

3) Boilerplates often have no out of print clauses. I recently derailed a deal because I could not get the small publisher to insert one. They would have had the rights into perpetuity with the author having no way to ever get the rights back unless the publisher felt like it. Uh, no.

4) I’ve seen boilerplates that have a never-ending option clauses. If the publisher doesn’t take the writer’s next book, they still get to see the one after that and the one after that….. Yep, that author will never successfully be placed at a new home if that is the case as the new publisher would want an option for next work at the very least. That can’t be granted if the above is the case.

5) Boilerplate contracts don’t allow the author to see copies of sublicense deals. If that is the case, how can an author know what was sold and on what terms to verify the royalty statements? Good point, right?

And I could go on and on.

Creative Commons Photo Credit: Best Picko

Why Bring An Author to Bologna?

STATUS: Still time to sign up to learn how to craft the perfect pitch paragraph for your query letter. The video webinar is tomorrow, Thursday, March 28 at 6 pm MST. It should be a blast to give.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ONLY A MEMORY by Smithereens

In general, the whole purpose of Bologna Children’s Book Fair is to pitch your rights list to scouts and foreign publishers in order to generate interest in upcoming titles so as to promote foreign sales. And I certainly did a lot of that while there but for the most part, I have a foreign co-agent who handles that on our agency’s behalf.

So what’s Frankfurt or Bologna all about when I visit a Fair with a client in tow? It’s about face-time. It’s about making the foreign publisher feel like an important part of an author’s career. It’s about marketing dollars and inspiring the foreign editor to choose our clients’ books if it’s a choice between two.

1) Foreign editors rarely get to meet the authors for whom they are translating. It may or may not translate into more sales but I know from experience that a foreign publisher who has met an author in person is more likely to do a promotional push for that title in translation.

2) Those meetings give us valuable information that we might not hear otherwise (or not hear in a timely fashion). Marie Lu’s German publisher is making LEGEND their big lead title for fall and sponsoring a German tour! Would this have happened without a Bologna visit? Certainly (as we would have been looped in eventually) but now we are in the know months earlier and can actively help them. Also, they are 10 times more excited to have this big push after we had a lovely sit-down dinner with them and relayed all the latest promo news while in Bologna. We’ve confirmed they are making the right decision.

3) Targeting a Fair allows an author client to make stops in other nearby countries. When Simone decided to come to Bologna with me this year, she was invited by her French publisher to stop in Paris to participate in a book festival there. Her publisher warned her that maybe 25 or 35 people might show for the signing. Imagine everyone’s surprise when more than 200 people came and Simone had a signing line more than 2 hours long! You think her French publisher is going to be paying closer attention to her next release? You betcha. Nothing inspires publishers more than seeing first hand fan enthusiasm for an author.

4) Finding out early that an author is selling like mad in a territory. (ie. The Perfect Chemistry Series is going gangbusters in Germany).

Other benefits of Fair participation include getting the latest gossip about what has sold recently. About what might be hot next. And simply connecting with the UK editors whom I don’t see as often. It gives an agent a global perspective of what works–not only in the US but around the world. Or maybe even more importantly, what doesn’t work in other territories.

Does that shade what I might take on next in the US? To some extent but it’s certainly not the end all be all in making a decision to offer representation but it is part of the big picture.

More pics from 2012 Bologna!

Marie Lu and me in Agent Centre

Simone with her editor Katrin (on left) and her Publisher Suzanne (Random House Germany)

Marie’s Bologna dinner with her US, German, and UK publishers!

Simone & Kristin in Venice! Rumor has it that if you kiss under a bridge while riding in a gondola, you’ll have good luck all year. I told Simone that even though I was a full service agent, that’s where I draw the line. *grin*

2012 Bologna Children’s Book Fair – Next Hot Thing?

STATUS: Meetings every half hour and running on 6 hours of sleep a night on average. Yep, that’s Bologna!

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

Three days at Bologna and here’s what I can tell you.

On the plane over, people were talking about the next hot trend being about geeks in young adult fiction. Geeks transforming. Geeks not transforming but still winning the girl or the day. Geeks in love.

Do I think it’s the next hot trend? I haven’t got the faintest idea.

It’s definitely clear that foreign editors are feeling the drain of paranormal romance in YA being hot for so long but even with that, they say it’s still selling well in Germany, UK, and France. Editors don’t seem to be buying a lot of it at the moment though.

Since I’m here with Marie Lu to meet with her very excited foreign publishers (the trilogy has been sold in to 22 territories and counting), we are, of course, asking if dystopian is hot abroad.

The verdict is undecided. HUNGER GAMES fever is definitely sweeping the world but whether that will translate into other dystopian novels also becoming hot has yet to be proven. Well, I’ve got my fingers crossed for June and Day…

Hands down, for middle grade DAIRY OF A WIMPY KID works amazingly in every country but Russia. Guess they like big burly guys instead of wimps?

*grin*

Some pics!

Anita and I at entrance of the Fair.

Me with Sara’s amazing client Stefan Bachmann and the brand spanking new cover for his wonderful middle grade gothic steam punk: The Peculiar

Marie Lu and her Taiwan Publisher Sharp Point! Marie was a rock star. She did the whole meeting in Chinese. (Marie is second person from right.)

Marie and I in the Penguin Bologna Stand.

Now Dorchester Is Trying To Sell The Company

STATUS: Leaving for Bologna, Italy on Friday for the Book Fair. Ack!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SET FIRE TO THE RAIN by Adele

I also have some land 100 miles west of Ft Myers I’d like to sell you….

What would a week be without an update on Dorchester? I can’t imagine what company would be interested in buying an ailing organization with such a significant amount of debt. I don’t have updated numbers from the phone call last year but back then, debt owed was in the millions.

Maybe it’s good for the taxes.

But straight from the horse’s mouth, here is a letter from Dorchester’s president.

The Sky Tumbling Down

STATUS: Only 65 emails in the inbox to start the day!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? I FEEL THE EARTH MOVE by Carole King

Wait! What is that I hear? I think it’s the wind whistling down Park Avenue and through the Dorchester non-existent office space.

In a world where information is found in a quick Google search, why try and dissemble?

Here is a link to a notice to Dorchester of foreclosure for the note and a sale of the assets that were pledged as security on a loan.

Back to my question. Why do I say that I don’t think I’ll see a bankruptcy filing soon? By the way, this is not a statement of fact. Simply a supposition on my part.

I don’t think Dorchester will file unless forced to. It’s costly to file and go through the process. Meanwhile, monies are coming in and not being paid out.

Last year when my lawyer and I sat in on the phone calls where Dorchester disclosed their financially precarious position, the list of creditors was part of that conversation. There are at least 6 companies that might find it worthwhile to force Dorchester into Bankruptcy to recover monies owed.

And I hope they do.

But to be blunt, those companies will crunch the numbers. If they come out ahead in what they will recover versus what it will cost, then my guess is they will do it. It certainly won’t be altruistic.

We Are so Dense About Technology That We Can’t Figure Out How To Forward Our Phones

STATUS: Typical Denver schizophrenic weather. I was wearing short sleeves and no jacket yesterday while taking Chutney for a walk in 70 degree weather. Today it’s going to snow. Yay spring!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MATILDA by Harry Belafonte

To a new office location.

Let’s see a show of hands. Who believes that Dorchester might simply be moving offices and the phones are currently being “switched over?” (see the added links in comments section of yesterday’s blog post.)

Hum… thought so.

So to my post of yesterday. I’m going to make my readers do a little work. I can’t hand over all the information on a silver platter. *grin*

I mentioned that Dorchester has disappeared and that I don’t think I’ll see a filing for bankruptcy any time soon. Now why do I say that?

Surely if a company is defunct they’ll file for bankruptcy, right?

Not necessarily….

So tell me why.

Meanwhile, all Dorchester eBooks are up and still for sale across all the electronic distribution venues. Where is the money going? We know for certain it’s not going to the authors.

Every night I sleep easy knowing that I fought tooth and nail to get rights reverted for each of my five authors who had backlist there when Dorchester first breached those contracts and weren’t paying owed royalties. Even for titles I didn’t represent on their behalf because it was before my time as their agent.

And I’m also happy to report that those authors are self-publishing those books and making a very nice income on backlist ebook sales. Want to support a former Dorchester author? Check out their offerings on the links connected to their names.

JANA DELEON
MARI MANCUSI
LESLIE LANGTRY
CAROLYN JEWEL

A happy ending for us but I feel for all those authors who couldn’t get their rights. I strongly recommend you reach out to the various agencies that support authors: Authors Guild, Romance Writers Of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America etc. I can’t list all of them here.

These organizations might be able or connect you with the right people who can advise you on next step if your rights are in question.

We Won’t Leave The Light On For You

STATUS: Bologna Children’s Book Fair is almost upon us. Oi. Not ready yet.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MERCY by Duffy

On Thursday, I got word that the doors were locked, lights out, and the phones disconnected at Dorchester.

I know. Surprise. Here are links to my previous entries on Dorchester and its impending demise.

As a matter of course, I did touch base with my lawyer simply to see if there had been a bankruptcy filing. I’m actually not expecting to find one.

Now why do I say that?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I know a lot of blog readers have backgrounds in law so feel free to chime in via the comment section with your surmises.

More to come tomorrow.