Pub Rants

Category: Publishing Deals & Contracts

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.

UK–How Stubborn You Are

STATUS: Have to run out the door in 15 minutes.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HARD TIMES by David Newman

Not to put too fine a point on it. The book selling market in the UK is between a rock and a hard place. Booksellers in trouble. Publishers selling half the books sold at high discount levels, etc. Consequently, UK publishers aren’t buying that much. As of late, it’s one of the hardest territories to sell into unless a title sold for a lot of moolah in the US.

We are struggling to land a licenses there.

In fact, it’s probably why a lot of UK booksellers are buying US stock wholesale and offering it for sale there (and this would maybe show on a royalty statement as an export sale). It would be hard to track down.

So when we sell North American rights only and then request that the US publisher pull down their edition from the UK market, we aren’t looking to screw UK readers. It’s simply that the author might not get legitimately paid for those copies. If it’s not in the grant of rights and not showing up on any royalty statement…

But authors who haven’t sold into the UK are getting creative. In fact, some authors are taking matters into their own hands and are making their titles available electronically through the different ebook venues in the UK.

So even though the physical version might be a hard to find, titles can still reach UK readers.

Selling Territories Publisher Doesn’t Have The Rights To

STATUS: Have morning chai, will work.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LET LOVE RULE by Lenny Kravitz

Late last week, I got an email from a client asking why her latest release wasn’t available as an eBook in the UK. Bemused, I emailed her to say that we had only sold North American rights to her US publisher and hadn’t done a subrights deal for that territory as of yet. The US publisher didn’t have the right to make its edition available in Great Britain. In fact, there shouldn’t be any edition of her book being sold in that territory.

She then sent me a link to amazon.uk where her US book was clearly for sale.

Well, that made her question make a whole lot more sense. No wonder she was confused.

The point of my post? As authors, you should randomly check bookseller sites abroad and if something pops up, then you need to inform your agent and he/she needs to track it down. Because the US publisher didn’t have UK in the grant of rights, this would never show up as an itemized list on the royalty statement.

But if the book is for sale there and we discovered that, then the Publisher needs to do a couple of things. 1) Take the edition down and 2) let us know how many copies were sold and how they plan to account for them.

Another favorite story, which didn’t happen all that long ago either, is when an author received several emails from Italian fans who loved her work but were complaining about the poor translation.

Uh, Italian license had never been done for the book. There should be no Italian edition–badly translated or otherwise. I reached out to the Italian publisher and they were mortified. They thought they had an agreement in place but the contract was never done and the author was never informed.

I give Italy kudos though. When the problem was discovered, they stepped up immediately to make it right and paid for the edition they had published. As it was also out of print, they officially reverted the rights they actually never had. *grin*

All’s well that ends well…

Just another day at the office.

Should Dorchester Remain on Probation? Yes.

STATUS: Was all set to potentially launch something cool on Friday and lo and behold, ice storm in Seattle. Trust me, this makes sense because we are based in Denver but our tech person, who manages all things digital, is in Seattle. She had no electricity or internet for 3 days. Shudders.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? FREE by Graffiti6

Last week, the Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America reached out to SFWA members about Dorchester Publishing.

Dorchester’s probationary period is scheduled to end on January 31, 2012 and SFWA would like to evaluate their progress in meeting the benchmarks SFWA set for them.

By their request, members could contact them with any information that the Board should consider.

Well, let me tell you, I was happy to oblige. I wrote a letter clearly outlining my stance that that Dorchester should remain on probation or be delisted altogether based on not making any progress whatsoever on benchmark 1: That it fulfills its contractual and financial obligations to the authors it has already published, including full and accurate accounting of royalties per contract, with scheduled payment of any royalties outstanding.

Despite repeated requests for updated accountings and the thousands of dollars still owed in back royalties to NLA authors who used to be with Dorchester, we’ve received excuses, delays, and no good faith efforts to resolve their obligations.

And I have no problem making my sentiment on the situation public.

Importance Of Specifying Format Of Initial Edition

STATUS: Auction tomorrow. Always fun.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? FADE INTO YOU by Mazzy Star

Here’s a contract tip that is both simple and yet can have a large consequence if not done.

As an agency, it’s been a long-time policy for our deals that publisher must specify initial publication format in the contract. For example, if a publisher wins a book at auction and part of them winning was a commitment to doing the book as a hardcover (for example), then when it comes time for publication, we don’t suddenly want the publisher to do the book as a trade paperback original instead.

One reason for this has to do with the author’s ability to earn out an advance. If a publisher paid a solid six-figures for something, the author is going to need the hardcover sales (with the higher price point) to earn out. Not to mention, with a hardcover initial edition, the author gets two publishing shots toward earn-out as the publisher, as a general rule, will publish the trade pb edition about a year later.

Makes sense.

Here’s another reason for specifying format of initial edition. As agents, we want to ensure that a publisher will do both a print AND electronic edition and not just publish a digital-only edition if that was not the original intent for accepting deal/contract. (Sidenote: Obviously, if an agent is selling a title to a digital-only publisher, then ebook only as initial format is understood.)

In this rapidly changing publishing landscape, and the rise of ebook sales, it is conceivable that a publisher buys a book with the intention of doing both formats and then decides later to not do the print edition and publish it only as an ebook.

I have not heard of this happening–yet. But why chance it?

Part of our job is to anticipate possible issues.

Scarier Than Halloween

STATUS: The last 70 degree day. Okay, I’ll admit it. I popped out early to play a round of really bad golf. The weather was beautiful. The company sparkling. Kristin shanked every shot into trees. Ah yes, I’m THAT horrible beginner on the golf course that you never ever want to play behind of.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THRILLER by Michael Jackson (I mean, duh, what else could possibly be playing on the iPod tonight.)

What’s scarier than Halloween? Writers signing publishing contracts not fully understanding what they are signing.

I figured I’d devote this entry to scary clauses in contracts that actual writers have signed.

1. The option clause into perpetuity.

Such a monster! I’ve seen this in too many small publishing house contracts to count. Any decent option clause will allow the publisher a look at the next project (usually narrowed down to specific type and genre) and that’s it. Unsuspecting writers have signed contracts where they literally have to show a publisher every work they do–even if the publisher doesn’t want it. The clause obligates them to then show their next project, and then the next project and so on.

I think any writer can get out of this (and the court will rule in the author’s favor) but probably not without some substantial cost and a good lawyer.

2. Low royalties based on net.

Don’t get me wrong, having royalties based on net isn’t necessarily egregious. It is when the publisher tries to pass off royalties based on net to be equivalent to royalties based on retail price. In other words, they offer they same as “standard” such as 10% to 5000 copies, 12.5% on next 5000, and 15% thereafter but it’s based on net receipts.

Sounds good until you calculate the math. 10% of net equals about 5% of retail price. Not exactly the same thing so do your monster math.

3. Warranties and Indemnities clauses where the author is on the hook for all the costs.

The author should only be fully responsible if they are found guilty and in breach of this clause. I’ve seen clauses where authors are on the hook for the full cost of even an alleged breach and yet they have no say in the proceedings. Oi! Even Frankenstein got a better deal.

4. Joint accounting.

Publishers love joint accounting. That means they link the monies of multiple books together. In short, an author doesn’t see a penny of royalties until ALL books in the contract earn out and only then are royalties paid. You might be waiting years and years to kill that zombie.

5. Unmodified competing works clauses.

If you aren’t really really careful, you might be legally obligated to not pursue any other writing work until the books in your contract are out of print and the rights revert back to you.

This is definitely worst case scenario but depending on the language in the contract, you might have backed yourself into this corner. Talk about hamstringing your career as a writer.

For me, in this digital age, the above are way scarier than anything that might go bump in the night.