Pub Rants

Category: royalties

Importance Of Tracking World Rights

Status: Ah, worked on royalty statements some today. Hence, this entry!

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? SUNSHINE ON MY SHOULDERS by John Denver

Even though as an agent I rarely grant World rights in a deal, I occasionally do if the monies are right. If the agency sells UK and translation rights, it’s easy to track the deals/monies as all info will be moving through the agency.

However, if a Publisher holds World, then all the info and monies move through the Publishing House’s subrights department. Sometimes editors are good at staying on top of the info and sometimes they aren’t. That’s why when I do grant World rights, I make it a point to contact the subrights person in charge of selling the rights for my author’s title.

It’s absolutely essential to know what foreign rights have sold and the terms of the deal. Why? If the royalty statement comes in and the subrights sales aren’t on it, then it’s clear something is amiss with the statement.

Case in point for a royalty statement I was reviewing today. We had on-file the deal memos and dates of all foreign deals done so far. Now foreign monies can often take 6 to 12 months to show on a statement so we don’t expect them to show immediately. However, if more than 12 months have elapsed since the close of the deal, it’s time to start asking questions.

In our case, the subrights monies were there but tied to a dummy ISBN that was created when the books first sold and not to the actual ISBN. This glitch kept them from showing on the statement.

Easy as pie as one phone call fixed the problem, but the issue can only be fixed if an agent or author knows to ask the question—which is why one should always track World right sales when the publisher holds those rights.

When Errors Are Found In Royalty Statements

STATUS: Not really liking how dark it gets so early.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LIGHT MY CANDLE from the Soundtrack RENT

Yesterday I highlighted the top 3 culprits regarding errors in royalty statements. So what happens if errors are found?

It’s pretty simple. We call our main contact in the royalties department. Since rarely an accounting period passes without some error being found on any one of the hundred + statements we receive, we talk to the royalty managers pretty often. First name basis actually.

We usually call first to discuss the errors and then follow up with an email so there is a paper trail. In all our instances, the royalties contact has corrected the errors promptly and regenerated the statements so we have correct ones for our files.

We make notes in the client’s royalties file so we can track past issues and be on the look-out for future issues (as sometimes it’s the same error that keeps reoccurring). Do I think the errors deliberate? For the big publishers, no. For some of the indie smaller publishers, it depends on the company.

Now there are definitely other things Publishers have done that haven’t been above board (as there have been lawsuits etc) that could impact royalty statements but they weren’t issues on the royalty statements themselves per se.

Top 3 Culprits

STATUS: It can’t be 2:30 in the afternoon already.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? NEVER, NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP by Barry White

One of the issues of writing a blog for so long (since 2006 for me) is that I often forget what topics I’ve covered and what I haven’t. And sure, I could scroll through some of my tags but I’m too lazy. *grin*

April/October is our biggest royalty period. It’s when we receive the most statements. So right now I have quite a pile on my desk so it’s first and foremost in my mind. And for one major publisher, their October statements always come the first week in November.

So after reviewing the umpteenth one today, whether I’ve already discussed this or not, I wanted to highlight the top 3 culprits regarding errors in royalty statements that I’m seeing:

1. Returns at a price point that didn’t exist with the original published edition.
If a book was published for let’s say $13.99, then returns have to be at $13.99. Any other number is a clear error.

2. The wrong percentage recorded for electronic books
This can happen in a variety of ways. Perhaps the royalty is supposed to be on retail price and it’s showing on net or it’s just the wrong percentage altogether.

3. A royalty escalator has kicked in but the statements don’t reflect it.
In deals, there are often royalty escalators at certain break points. For example, for an adult hardcover, a standard is 10% to 5000, 12.5% to 10,000 and 15% thereafter. The royalty statement might have an error putting all copies at 10% but let’s say 6000 copies have sold so 1000 of those copies should be at the 12.5% level.

Publishers Behaving Badly–Again

STATUS: Okay, if I don’t blog in the morning, it looks like it’s not happening so more early morning blogging to come.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HER FIRST MISTAKE by Lyle Lovett

Several agent friends have confirmed that Macmillan sent a letter over the weekend asking authors to sign amendments that gave them electronic rights to backlist titles.

Oh Shades of Random House hegemony!

By the way, these letters went out to authors—not to the agents or agencies who represent them.

Tsk, tsk. I wag my finger at you Macmillan.

If you are an author and you received this letter, do not sign or return it without consulting with your agent or attorney first. If you haven’t got either, then pick up the phone and call the Authors Guild. I know the lawyers over there and they’d be happy to take a look at this amendment that has been sent out (if they haven’t seen it already).

Whatever you do, make sure you have a complete understanding of your rights and what you’d be granting if you signed the amendment and what other options exist if you don’t.

This has been a public service message from Agent Kristin… *grin*

Wiley (cont.) And Tidbits

STATUS: Is it Wednesday already?

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LONDON CALLING by Clash

Okay, my wifi at home has gone kaput. Sometimes I don’t get a chance to blog while still at the office so then I’ll pop online via the laptop at home. Kind of difficult when it’s not working. Hopefully that will get taken care of tomorrow.

So many little tidbits to share. Most of them funny and it’s not even Friday yet.

Authors Guild and Wiley continue… Lots of people didn’t agree with the AG stance on Google but I’m still quite glad they are out there being a watch dog for authors.

In the best headline I’ve seen recently:
Cops bust woman, 74, for pouring mayo in book drop

All I can say is there must not be a lot going on in Boise, Idaho. Still, I’m dying to know the motive for this condiment crime spree. (Never imagined those three words would appear in the same sentence together.)

And best for last. You know publishing has hit mainstream when The Onion jumps in the mix. I just laughed and laughed. (It’s TWILIGHT but with Minotaurs!).

Wiley Responds and Friday Funnies

STATUS: Where has the morning gone? Eek.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HEY GOOD LOOKIN’ by Hank Williams

Today Wiley issued a press release asserting the Authors Guild is in error.

Any Bloomberg authors want to weigh in anonymously and comment, feel free.

And to kick off the weekend, the Bronte Sisters Power Dolls (courtesy of my client Laurence)! Bless youtube. Where would I be without them? Enjoy!

Publishers Behaving Badly

STATUS: All my post-BEA stuff is done! Yes.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? FOREVER YOUNG by Alphaville

After my blog tirade two years ago when Simon & Schuster didn’t play nice in the sandbox (by deleting the crucial last four lines of their Out of Print clause without telling anyone), you know how strongly I feel about publishers behaving badly.

Sounds like John Wiley & Sons might be doing similar if the Authors Guild strong warning is anything to judge by.

I do not have any authors impacted by the sale of Bloomberg Press to Wiley so I have not seen this letter. And for the record, I have no personal take or stake on the situation but for general purposes, I like to pass on warnings when they occur so they reach as many readers as possible.

If you’re impacted by this, you might want to touch base with the folks at the AG.

Ebook Royalty Glitch

STATUS: So excited! Leaving the office before 6! However, I’m just going to take Chutney for a walk and then continue working tonight as I need to read client material.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? POCKET FULLOF SUNSHINE by Natasha Bedingfield

Today I was reviewing a royalty statement from a book that had been recently released. In other words, this was the first statement for the title that we had seen.

In looking at the statement, I noticed that there wasn’t a single electronic book sold in the six-month accounting period this statement encompassed.

Red flag! And you don’t even have to be a rocket scientist (or a literary agent for that matter!) to be able to look at the statement and realize that if an electronic book is available but sales are not showing on the statement, something has gone awry.

Now in this instant, the problem was easily solved. The book released right at the end of the six-month accounting period (so in late December) and the ebook didn’t release until 2 weeks later (in January) so there was no way for ebooks to show on this statement. Problem solved.

However, I bring this up because I’ve seen this issue on other statements and the above situation was not the issue.

The issue ended up being this: the ebook ISBN was not tied to the print title of the book and thus the publishing house royalty system was recording ebook sales with that ISBN but it wasn’t linked to anything. There was no way for the computer to know what author to attach it to.

The only way the problem was solved was by me ringing up the editor to get the ISBNs for the ebooks and then ringing up the royalty department to say, look, there’s an issue here. You need to tie these ISBNs to the statement for these titles. Then have the publishing house regenerate the royalty statements.

So even though you trust your agent, it’s still good idea to read your royalty statements and see if they make sense. Lots of royalty statements can come in certain months (like April/October) and heck, everyone is human and something could be accidentally overlooked. Be your own best advocate.

Agenting 101: Why I Don’t Like Net Amounts Received

STATUS: Phone conference in 10 so I’m trying to dash this entry out before it begins.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? NESSUN DORMA by Paul Potts

If you read my Agenting 101 entries on royalty statements (see right side bar), you should know why Kristin wouldn’t like net amounts received.

But if you haven’t, then I happy to just rant about it and tell you. There are two main reasons why I don’t like royalties to be based on net amounts received.

1. It’s archaic and currently doesn’t serve much of a purpose as audio and eBooks have a retail price and there are high discount clauses in all contracts so why not simply make the royalty based on retail?

And

2. Agents can’t track net amounts received by the Publisher. The only way we will get that information is if we:

a. audit and therefore look at the books to see what monies were actually received, from what account, for how much, and what were the deductions, or

b. we put a clause in the contract, not unlike reconciliation to print, that allows us to request the information from the publisher at any time and they can print out all the amounts received information so I can determine if what is on the royalty statements is correct.

Ah yes, once again the onus is on me as the agent to be a squeaky wheel, to demand more info, and pry the necessary info out of the publisher to see if the royalty statement is remotely accurate. And this is making a huge assumption that the publishers have the necessary software in place that will allow for this information to be accessed, printed, and shared.

I know Random House has that in place. Do the others? Guess I’m just about to find out because you know I like kicking up a fuss and less is not more for me when it comes to royalty statements.

See how much simpler it would be if all royalties were based on retail price? I’m capable of doing the math easily on royalties calculated via retail price.

Now that we have this big push from publishers to move to 25% of net receipts for eBook royalties, whose going to hurt 10 years from now when eBooks may be the main format and print editions the secondary?

Yep, you can see why I’m in state of righteous indignation all the time as of late. Maybe it’s time we move back to a term of license on contracts instead of Out of Print clauses and term of copyright.

Agenting 101: Royalty Statements: Lack Of Detail

STATUS: Interestingly enough, I’ve got more film interest for one of my clients. This will be the fourth of fifth deal we’ve done in this year alone. Go film!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOLDING BACK THE YEARS by Simply Red

Just this month I received a royalty statement that only had the following info on it:

Total copies in print
Copies printed during period
Copies shipped during period
Total copies paid during the reporting period [note: because royalties are based on net—not retail price—which is sometimes true for smaller independent houses)
Total copies returned during the reporting period
Net amount earned during period.

That’s it. That’s all that is on the statement.

So right off, we have some legwork we are going to have to do in order to review this statement. Lots of info missing.

Not to mention, I’m going to have to create a whole separate excel spreadsheet so I can track earn-out. On this royalty statement, the advance paid isn’t listed. So it’s going to be up to the agency to track it so we know when the title has earned out because that info isn’t on the statement.

Also a problem? All sales are lumped together in “total copies paid during the reporting period.” That means there is no break-down of format (as in hardcover, trade paperback, electronic). We didn’t grant translation, audio, or other rights so that won’t be an issue (as we’ll sell separately) but I want to know how many of those sales are eBooks. This statement won’t remotely tell me that. And let’s not even get started about high discount, special sales, export, etc.

Do you see what else is missing? No mention of reserves held. Now maybe this publisher isn’t holding any but I won’t know that unless I ask. Some publishers do hold a reserve but don’t list that info on the statement. If that’s the case, we’ll have to make a note to always ask separately.

And the list goes on. For me, less is not more.