Pub Rants

Category: royalties

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.

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.

Random House Gets A Clean Bill Of Health

STATUS: Leaving the office at 5 p.m. That never happens!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YOU AND I by Wilco

In good news, we’ve now gone through all our Random House statements from the spring with a fine tooth comb and I’m delighted to report that RH is not doing a wholesale change to their electronic book royalty rate on existing contracts; there was simply an error that was resolved promptly.

Contracts that have the royalty rate of 25% of retail will still have 25% of retail. Now, I have heard that they want to change any 15% of retail to 25% of net (which is actually to an author’s advantage per my previous blog entry) but I have not personally seen that so as far as I’m concerned, that’s simply a rumor for now.

As RH royalty statements are my fav in the biz and because they always resolve issues quickly, I’m back to happy.

Speaking of 25% Of Net Receipts

Status: Gotta hit the shower and the ground running. RWA, day 2.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? NEVER THERE by Cake

An update from blog entry 8-4-2011:

In good news, we’ve now gone through all our Random House statements from the spring with a fine tooth comb and I’m delighted to report that RH is not doing a wholesale change to their electronic book royalty rate on existing contracts; there was simply an error that was resolved promptly. Contracts that have the royalty rate of 25% of retail will still have 25% of retail. Now, I have heard that they want to change any 15% of retail to 25% of net (which is actually to an author’s advantage) but I have not personally seen that so as far as I’m concerned, that’s simply a rumor for now.


Since we’ve been speaking of 25% of net receipts and it would have been easy to miss, if you publish with Random House, you might want to take a look at your April statements again.


Random House decided they were arbitrarily just going to use the 25% of net receipts to calculate their authors’ eBook royalties in this last accounting round—regardless of what is stated in the contracts. There was no mention of it to agents or letter circulated to authors–that I know of anyway. I’m assuming some folks just weren’t going to notice?


Now for some authors, this may be an improvement over what they were getting, depends on what is in the contract. However, for probably the majority, Random House used to pay 25% of RETAIL price that would then drop to 15% of RETAIL price after the title earned out. (and yes I’m capitalizing the word “retail” for a reason).


We had so much fun yesterday doing math, I can’t resist doing more today.


Let’s say you have a mass market paperback priced at $7.99. (we might as well use the same type of figures as yesterday):


25% of RETAIL of 7.99 = 1.99 of royalty per sale to the author.


Oh how I loved Random House back in the day….


Now, if RH switches to 25% of net receipts and because they did, as a company, switch to the Agency Model in March 2011, the math would look like this:


7.99 – 2.39 (which is the 30% to the distributor such as Amazon) = 5.60 to the publisher

25% of net receipts of 5.60 = 1.40 of royalty per sale to the author


Yep, the author just lost 59 cents per sale. Add that up over X number of sales and that’s a lot of dough.


However, if an author’s title has already earned out and they are now at the 15% of RETAIL price, it’s actually a better royalty to switch to 25% of net receipts.


15% of 7.99 = 1.19


Since the author would get $1.40 calculating the other way, then it might be worth considering (but make sure RH is not doing any other deductions beyond what they are paying to the distributor).


This concludes your moment of math. We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming.


Doing The Math on Harlequin’s Move to 25% of Net Receipts but on Wholesale Model

Status: It’s official. RWA in New York has just begun. Most awkward moment today? Sitting on a panel that also had editors and being asked the question: what is a fair electronic royalty rate. Grin.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? BAILAMOS by Enrique Iglasias

Last Thursday, Harlequin sent out a press release announcing that for single title romances on their list, they would be switching to 25% of net receipts starting Jan. 1. 2012.

But before you begin celebrating that finally Harlequin is getting in line with the other major publishers, take a moment to look at the fine print or in this case, what isn’t there. What Harlequin didn’t mention in their press release is that as a Publisher, they are currently not on the agency model with their digital distributors—Apple iBookstore being the one exception.

So in short, this move to 25% of net is def. better than the paltry 6 or 8% of retail that they were offering but it’s not necessarily equal to what Publishers pay via the Agency Model.

Here’s why. Let’s do some math boy and girls.

Let’s say your single title Harlequin royalty rate is 8% of retail and the retail price for your romance novel is $7.99.

8% of 7.99 = 0.64 of royalty per sale to the author

That’s the baseline. Now let’s look at what 25% of net receipts from Harlequin looks like on the wholesale model.

$7.99 is the retail price but because Harlequin sells wholesale, they give (on average) a 50% discount to the seller. That would look like this:

7.99 – 3.99 (discount) = 4.00 of net receipts to Harlequin

25% of 4.00 = $1.00 of royalty per sale to the author

Well, that’s definitely better than 64 cents given previously!

But the whole reason why Big 5 Publishers moved to the net receipts royalty rate is because of the agency model. In this configuration, the Publisher gives 30% to the distributor and receives 70% as net receipts. So it would look like this:

30% of 7.99 = 2.39 to the distributor

Now deduct that commission:
7.99 – 2.39 = 5.60 of net receipts to publisher

If author gets 25% of net receipts on agency model, that would be:

25% net receipts of 5.60 = 1.40 of royalty per sale to the author.

Not quite the same.

Now keep in mind that the above calculations are not taking into consideration any other deductions a Publisher on Agency Model might possibly be taking before calculating the author’s share. So that is a possible factor to consider.

But in general, Harlequin’s move to 25% of net is not, on the surface, the same as what other houses are offering.

And from what I’m hearing via chat in the blogosphere, the other Harlequin royalty rate of 15% of net to series authors (which was also announced in a separate press release) is going over about as well as a lead balloon.

In The Spring An Agent’s Fancy Turns To…

STATUS: Yesterday Angie and I were reviewing one client’s statement and to sum it up. What a hot mess.

What’s playing on the iPod or the XM radio right now? SWAY by Dean Martin

Love of royalty statements.

Yep, it’s that time of year again. April and October are NLA’s biggest royalty periods which means that the month of May and November are consumed by hours reviewing those statements.

So, in an effort to empower authors about their statements (because I promise you that a lot of agents don’t spend nearly the time they should on reviewing them), here’s another tidbit to file away in your knowledge bank.

If your publisher holds World rights and is selling your titles abroad, it’s important to track where the projects are sold to and when they will be released.

Why? Because if you don’t know that info, how do you know when the monies are supposed to appear on your royalty statements? Also, do you have a copy of the licensing agreement and the latest foreign royalty statement from the territory in question?

Most agents insert a clause in the contract allowing the author to receive such info—usually upon request. Without it, it’s impossible to review a statement for accuracy. What? You gonna just take the Publisher’s word for it?

Considering the number of errors we see in EVERY royalty period, that’s a lot to take on faith.

And there’s another facet to this. If Publisher has World, did they sell UK rights to separate publisher or was it done by a sister house in England? If a sister house, then UK royalties are specified in the US contract and should show on the US statement.

You don’t want to know how many times this information has just been plain missing from the statement or just wrong.

Knowledge is power and as an author, you have a right to a copy of those licensing agreements so ask for them. I would say that in the last several years, NLA has recovered well over $100,000 in missing royalties—money clients would never have received if we hadn’t pestered Publishers about info missing from the statements. In fact just last week, a client got $8000 because we argued that the wrong royalty rate was being used to calculate certain sales listed on the statement. And per the contract, we were right and they paid up. But if we hadn’t pointed it out…

Well, that’s a lot of money to leave on the table.

Fun Facts On NLA Clients—Take 5

STATUS: I think my telephone’s handset is permanently glued to my left ear. Way too much phone time over the last few days.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE LOVECATS by The Cure

Wrapping up the fun facts tonight!

Mari Mancusi—It took me over two years to convince her publisher to buy the fourth book in the Blood Coven Vampire series. Then they did, repackaged the back list with new covers and now the series is doing great and we are up to having recently sold book eight!

Lisa Shearin—who has well over 100,000 copies in print for her Raine Benares series had a ton of passes while on submission for MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND because the editors didn’t like the “fun voice.” It wasn’t the “norm” in fantasy.

Shanna Swendson—Gets regular royalty checks for her Enchanted Inc. series even though the first book published more than 5 years ago. Talk about evergreen!

And I have a ton of other facts that will probably never see the light of day but this has been fun to recap.

More The Cure music on iLike

Most Favored Nations

STATUS: Just finished up two contracts today. Always a great feeling.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CHRISTMASTIME by Stevie Wonder

With all the changes in the publishing world, this might be a buzz word you’ve heard thrown around lately. Agents are often including Most Favored Nation clauses in publishing contracts where it relates to electronic books.

It’s actually an odd term for it but including it often protects our clients. A quick stop at Wikipedia will give you an in-depth definition of the term. It’s most often used in international economic relations. In short, it means that if the US has a most favored nation status with a state, that state will not be treated less advantageously than any other country the US has trade relations with. They would get the same tariffs, quotas, or breaks etc.

And yes, it’s more complicated than that but you just need the cliff notes version for how I want to talk about it. Great. Most Favored Nations. International economics. What does this have to do with publishing and electronic books?

I’m getting to that. There are various ways to structure the clauses but in general, when an agent includes a most favored nations clause, it means the author will not be subject to a less advantageous electronic royalty rate than any other author at that Publishing house.

TGIF! Have a great weekend.