What’s Happening With My Publisher Contract?

Over the past month I’ve had the opportunity to review and negotiate five separate publishing agreements for different clients, each from a different major publisher. Each one has taken some time, and my clients frequently write me wondering and worrying, saying things like, “How is the contract coming along?”

I’m not always sure what they’re actually asking me. I have a feeling what they really mean is, “I’m anxious to get the contract signed so I’ll know this is a done deal. I’m anxious to get paid. I’m worried that as long as this contract isn’t signed, it could go away. I’m worried that I dreamed this whole thing, and until I sign the contract I’m going to keep worrying.”

Authors are right to convey their anxieties to their agent. But in most cases, there’s no reason for any real worry. Sometimes contracts take time, but this doesn’t mean we’re in danger of losing the deal!

Instead, it means your agent is actively involved in trying to get you the fairest contract possible.

In some ways, this is becoming more difficult, because in these days of massive changes in the industry, the publishers are doing their best to make sure their own interests are covered, which frequently means new contractual language we haven’t seen before. This means agents need to carefully consider what each new contract sentence and clause actually means, what its implications are, and whether it’s fair for the author.

As agents, we’re advocating for our clients’ interests; but it’s more than just that one client we’re thinking of.

We’re always shooting for the win-win between author and publisher; after all, we want to continue selling books to these publishers so we want them to be successful and we want our relationships with them to be positive. We’re also thinking beyond the one client (whose name is on the current contract) to all our other clients who may eventually want to work with this publisher. If we see a contract provision we don’t believe is in the best interest of an author, we don’t want to let it go without discussion because it’s going to come up again in later contracts.

All this to say, there are numerous changes happening with publisher contracts these days. Not that I’m trying to be self-serving, but I believe it’s becoming more necessary than ever to have an agent if you want to publish with the majors. It would be so easy to sign something that you don’t understand and that limits your options in ways you didn’t expect. However, with a good agent, you can get a fair contract and have a positive publishing experience within traditional publishing. Yes, despite the self-publishing advocates, it’s still true!

Do you have any worries about publisher contracts? Have you heard rumors that concern you?

 

 

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  • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

    All I want is a one gallon jar of M & M’s, but no brown ones. Everything else is negotiable.

    • http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

      You mean I could have negotiated this in? What was I thinking!

      • http://www.maggielyons.yolasite.com Maggie Lyons

        My sentiments exactly, Andrew. My contracts claim first rights for series, which I now realize could be a snag. Is this a typical claim?

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Andrew, M & M’s are a must if we ever hope to be respected in the publishing world. They say, here’s a person who is OCD about chocolate, so they must have talent.

    • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major @Jjumping

      Only white curtains! And no one named Bob!

    • http://www.patrickecraig.com Patrick E. Craig

      Rachelle, how did you know those thoughts were haunting me every waking moment. I was sure my editor was playing some horrible joke with my agent and they would all get together at the next writer’s conference and tell stories about me at the staff meetings and laugh and laugh and laugh … and then I got my check. WHEW!

      @P.J. I did get some brown M&M’s in a bag with the check so I was forced to trash my dressing room …

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Patrick, congratulations on your contract. I look forward to the release of the first book in the “Apple Creek Dreams” series.

        Thank you for holding to your guns on the M & M clause. You supported both chocolate makers and maid service.

        • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

          P.J.,
          The brown ones are my favorite, so if they sneak any in, just pass them on to me. :)

          • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

            Will do Christine. GRIN

        • Patrick E. Craig

          …and I stood shoulder to shoulder in the trenches with my bros from Van Halen!!! No Brown M&M’s!!!

          • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

            I was hoping someone would catch that. :)

        • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

          Thanks! :)

    • http://www.laurahurlburt.wordpress.com Laura Hurlburt

      Totally being nerdy in my reply to this, but I read a really interesting article in Fast Company about the whole brown M&M clause. Van Halen’s opinion was if the management could follow the minutiae (brown M&Ms), the band could be certain the important things, like lighting and soundboard, would be correct.

      So, those brown M&Ms can be very important!! :)

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Laura, it is not nerdy to add information to a discussion unless you begin with “Well, actually…” :-)

        • http://www.laurahurlburt.wordpress.com Laura Hurlburt

          LOL!

    • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

      Which shade of brown don’t you want?

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Nothing that resembles a Kansas pasture.

    • http://michaelseese.blogspot.com/ Michael Seese

      OK, Mr. Van Halen. :)

    • http://www.chrisstaron.com Chris Staron

      Off topic — Interestingly enough, the brown M&M’s thing was written into rock contracts as a safety check. If there were brown M&M’s then the contract was not followed and the whole operation was called into question. Very important when lots of electricity was brought into a concert. If the rules weren’t followed then someone could get injured. There is your useless knowledge for the day!

  • http://lindsayharrel.blogspot.com Lindsay Harrel

    I admit, I’d probably fall into the category of authors you’re talking about–worrying that the deal might fall through up until the last moment when I finally sign the contract.

    I look forward to someday working with an agent who can help me interpret a contract and who will advocate for me. I might get too eager to sign something out of desperation otherwise. :P

    • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

      I’d like to think I as all cool and cucumberish. But I’m pretty sure I’d be given a PhD in worry if I knew a contract was in the works for me. A good agent is worth her weight in Canadian chocolate.

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Considering Rachelle looks like she weighs all of 100 pounds, you might want to double her chocolate portion.

        • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major @Jjumping

          Yes PJ Wan Kenobi, a wise statement!

    • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

      *was

  • http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    I think my story’s kind of backwards…I self-published on Kindle, and my publisher came to me.

    Oddly enough, it was a subsidy publisher – Tate – and they didn’t want a subsidy. It was a straight, conventional contract.

    Everything went very smoothly. I can’t say enough good things about their staff, in terms of courtesy, timeliness, and professionalism. They’re setting up a lot of events, and we’re getting good publicity.

    There was no advance – and as a first-time published author I didn’t really expect one – but the royalty structure is really excellent.

    • http://nowthinkaboutit.com EnnisP

      Thanks for mentioning Tate Andrew. I went on their website and found their approach to dealing with authors and publication interesting. They give a lot of attention to marketing which, as I understand it, is not the norm.

      • http://www.christianreads.blogspot.com Iola

        Tate say they give a lot of attention to marketing, but they have to – in most cases, they are asking the author for almost $4,000 to cover ‘marketing’.

        And I’m not actually sure what authors get for that money. For example, most of the major publishers are part of some blogging scheme (e.g. Bookneeze, NetGalley, BloggingforBooks, BookCrash), but I’ve never seen a Tate book in any of these.

        Frankly, the last Tate book I read didn’t need help with marketing. It needed help with basic writing and editing. It was riddled with factual errors, the headhopping was everywhere (at one point, it managed three points of view in just four sentences), it used adverbs as often as it could, and the speaker attributions bordered on weird.

        From a marketing perspective, it is overpriced compared with paperbacks from the kind of publishers Rachelle works with, and the ‘marketing’ doesn’t even include a Kindle edition or the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon, and I can’t even find it on the Christianbook, Lifeway or Family Christian Stores websites (so if it’s available as an epub, I’ve no idea where you’d buy it).

        • http://www.christianreads.blogspot.com Iola

          I correct myself. The book is also available from B&N (hard copy only), and in hard copy or as an ebook from Tate’s own website.

          So it’s for sale at the publisher’ site, and the two major e-retailers (which could also mean the two easiest to get lost in). But’s is not for sale in the three major US Christian book chains.

          • http://nowthinkaboutit.com EnnisP

            Thanks Iola. I was in the process of searching reviews for Tate when I got notice of your comment and the reivews are mixed.

            They range from severe head/neck bashing to glowing do-no-wrong endorsements. The jury is still out.

            Your observation is worrying though. Word crafting is significant and poor editing at the publisher level is inexcusable.

            Thanks for sharing.

        • http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

          I can only relate what happened in my case – it was handled professionally, the book’s being bought by retailers, and I did not have to kick in a subsidy.

          I’ll emphasize the ‘no subsidy'; it’s not something I could have afforded. And they are doing a creditable job of marketing.

          The criticisms about editing are well-founded, but I’ve read books from numerous big-name publishers that have those problems. I think it’s endemic, and may always have been.

          I’m not intending to be a shill for Tate – and I was reluctant to bring up the name of a subsidy publisher, since it could hurt my credibility in this forum.

          The thing is, for me, they did a good job, and I’m happy with the contract. It’s a chance to break in. I’ll run with it, and I’ll give credit where it’s due.

          • http://www.christianreads.blogspot.com Iola

            The other Tate book I’ve read and reviewed was excellent. I could absolutely see why a mainstream Christian publisher wouldn’t be interested (e.g. non-US setting), but the writing was beautiful and I didn’t notice any editing glitches.

            But the book I referred to above was just scary. Instead of paying Tate $4000 to market, she should have invested in a freelance editor.

            Good luck with your book. I hope it does well.

          • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major @Jjumping

            I really doubt you’d hurt your credibility Andrew, you seem to be rather highly regarded ’round these parts.

          • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

            Andrew,

            What Jennifer said.

    • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

      That’s a positive thing to hear.

  • http://www.martzbookz.blogspot.com Martha Ramirez

    Thank you so much for this!

  • http://ibischild.blogspot.com marion

    Aren’t publishers extremely risk averse these days? Don’t the editors often submit the ms. to the marketing dept. for a full-scale marketing analysis before committing to a book? Which could take months, couldn’t it?
    And isn’t the decision to publish or not often the decision of the marketing dept. more than it is the decision of the editors (apart from the fact that the editors intitiated the process.)
    I don’t know where I got this idea. Picked it up from somewhere.

    • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

      You probably learned those concepts on a really great blog where lots of smart people, and me, hang out to learn from Obi Wan Gardner.

      Side note-my dad went to U of Alexandria for Engineering. No movie stars though.

      Take care Marion!

  • http://4broadminds.blogspot.com/ carol brill

    Hi Rachelle, before following your blog, I thought I’d need a lawyer as well as an agent when I got to the pub contract stage. Now I realize that agents (at least agents like you) have the writer’s back and do for the writer what a good lawyer would do.
    I think the worries you mention have to do with the rejection at multiple levels that is part of the publishing journey. When I congratulated a writer friend for landing an agent she said, “I am just at a different level of rejection than you.”

  • http://theotherstephenkingonwriting.blogspot.com Stephen H. King

    I can only imagine the feeling of having a contract with an agent, waiting for the “okay, sign here” nod. It’s probably similar to the feeling I had after submitting drafts of my dissertation to my mentor, especially toward the end of the process. I always wanted to say, “okay, I know the time you’re taking is in my best interest, and I know you’ve already said you will take two weeks, and I know you have other mentees, but for the love of God could you just this once hurrrrrrryyyyyy uuuuuuuuuup?” I didn’t say that, of course; it would have been both unprofessional and counter-productive. Instead, I steadfastly watched the calendar, checking several times each day to see if the date had changed, and wrote her e-mails asking things like, “How is the draft coming along?”

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      “Lord grant me patience right now.” Imagine how much slower it was when the postal service was involved. :-O

      • http://theotherstephenkingonwriting.blogspot.com Stephen H. King

        Indeed. While I recognize that Morgan Freeman isn’t really God, one of my all time favorite movie quotes is from him portraying God (pretending to be a waiter), explaining God’s Will:

        “Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”

        Frankly, I can’t remember ever praying for patience or humility nearly as much as my writing efforts would suggest if Mr. Freeman’s/God’s discussion is correct. Still, the quote resonates.

  • http://theartoftoadkissing.com Heidi Lee Munson

    Thanks Rachelle. When you put the Publisher/Agent/Author relationship into terms from the corporate world, it becomes much easier for me to understand.
    Contracts take time and diligence – and protecting Intellectual Capital is one of the biggest challenges involved with inking the deals in my world.
    I imagine your role is magnified as you work to protect your authors. It must be more personal than a corporate contract because real people are involved.
    Thanks so much as always for the solid information.

  • http://jeniferjernigan.com Jenifer Jernigan

    Thanks Rachelle for this post.

    I have a question about a statement you made…You said because there are “numerous changes happening with publisher contracts these days” that you “believe it’s becoming more necessary than ever to have an agent if you want to publish with the majors.” My question is this, what do you do if you’re already in the door with a major publisher, they’ve seen your work and want you on their team, but you keep getting rejected by agents? The opportunity is unfolding to be much more than just a one-time book deal but the agents I’ve queried aren’t interested.

    What does one do in this case? Negotiate their own contracts?

    Thanks!
    Jenifer

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      Hopefully, someone with expertise will answer this.
      Are you querying agents when you already have offers? If you have something substantial on the board, couldn’t you call an agents office and explain the situation? Agents usually respond to queries based on sell-abilty of the work. You’re needed a contract negotiator with an offer, so the sales been done.
      I’m no one with experience, but if Harper-Collins told me they wanted my book, I’d get on the phone and call an agent directly with the editor’s name and number.

      • http://jeniferjernigan.com Jenifer Jernigan

        P.J., the queries I’m sending to agents are through personal contacts and within the query I’m letting the agent know the situation with the publisher (a major publisher). I’ve talked extensively with 2 agents who said they wouldn’t represent me, asking them why the ‘no’ when the offer has already been made and there’s nothing they have to sell. I’m in the Bible Study market, which I’m finding isn’t a market many agents venture into. In the end, one of the agents said he wouldn’t represent me long-term but would be willing to read over my contract when I get it. This isn’t something I really want to do because I want a long-term partnership with an agent.

        It’s been a very long, frustrating process. But, I continue to press on.

        • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

          This has a potential for lemonade. Scenario: They give you the contract, the agent looks it over and clears it, and you sign for the book. If the book does well, you’ll have proof of sales and in essence become a publishing commodity.

          Also, have you checked with the Van Diest agency?

          Once again, this is only my conjecture.

    • http://theotherstephenkingonwriting.blogspot.com Stephen H. King

      Agents on a panel at a writers conference I attended answered this one; they said to make sure when querying agents to identify that you have interest already from a publisher. They do make their decisions in part based on their sense for the ability to sell the work, and if you’ve already done that then you’re a much more attractive potential client.

    • http://www.lianamir.com Liana Mir

      In this situation, I’d hire an IP lawyer for a one-time go and a one-time free and not get saddled with an agent who doesn’t believe in your work.

    • B. S. Simon

      Jenifer Jernigan,
      There are some who suggest that if an author has an offer but not an agent then they should just get an IP attorney to do the negotiation and skip the agent.

      In addition it is foolish to sign a contract that has not been vetted by an attorney hired by you.

      BS

  • http://www.jamesscottbell.com James Scott Bell

    I agree with Rachelle here, that if you are going to dive into the traditional waters you need an agent. But an agent as partner. Which means you, the writer, should educate yourself on publishing contracts, what used to be boilerplate and what you can now negotiate and, in some cases, avoid. You need to understand key sections, esp. non-compete, reversion and subsidiary rights. Know specifically what you want (according to a career plan) so you can work on contract language with your agent. Know what you MUST have and what would be NICE to have. With the latter, you can compromise. With the former, are you prepared to walk away?

    • Jeanne

      Great thoughts to ponder. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    • http://rdmeyerwrites.blogspot.com RD Meyer

      One of the keys here, though, is for enough authors to have the courage to walk away. Too many are just so happy to have someone interested that they’ll sign whatever is offered. This creates a self perpetuating cycle during which the number of folks willing to sign the first deal offered outnumbers those who want better. As long as the balance leans that way, the publisher will always have enough leverage to demand better terms.

      • Deb Kinnard

        Bingo.

  • http://annbracken.weebly.com Ann Bracken

    Do I have any worries about a publishing contract? Yes, that I’ll never get one.

    The rumors that concern me most about publishing is that their margins are becoming smaller. Books are heavy and the costs of shipping are rising. I worry what might happen if those, or any other, costs become prohibitive.

  • Susan Foy

    I love the way agents always say we need them to get published, but then they won’t take us on because we’re not published!

  • http://dalesittonrogers.wordpress.com Dale S. Rogers

    I’m sure I’ll get impatient when my time comes to deal with a contract. My main concern would probably be that the publisher might go out of business!

  • Jeanne

    Not being agented or contracted yet, reading what you do to help your authors obtain a good contract is comforting. I would tend to be one who worried about the deal actually going through. Knowing that an agent takes the time to really understand the contract and work on behalf of an author is reassuring. Thanks for sharing a glimpse of all that you do, Rachelle!

  • Stephanie M.

    As soon as I saw my contract I wanted to sign it and return to my agent. Hurry, hurry, hurry. She said SIMMER DOWN pot roast. She worked hard to negotiate the contract in my favor.

    I’m an attorney and there is NO WAY I could’ve gotten through my contract w/out my agent. And I think as long as your agent is competent and experienced, you don’t need a lawyer. (Did I just say that?)

    • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

      Thanks, Stephanie. I think that’s good for the rest of us to hear.

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      “Simmer down potroast” <–that's the number one reason I'd need an agent.

      Contract? Oooo it's all shiny, must sign now, must get my precious.

  • http://www.noveltravelers.com Ginger Marcinkowski

    I think you are right Rachel! As a new author myself, we just don’t know what to expect. We just have to leanr to trust that our agents, and editors are doing the right thing and will teach us as we go along. We should’t put the pressure on those who are helping us. But we are often scared, excited and wondering if we are doing the right thing all while waiting for our agents to reply. Can’t blame us, I guess:)

  • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major @Jjumping

    I would hope that when I do land an agent, that he/she and I can work well together and I shut-up and listen. I KNOW I’ll be like a squirrel on speed once things start rolling, so I need to master calm, and good questions, now.

    And just to stir the pot (cuz when have I done that?) Canadian Smarties do taste better than M&M’s.

    But if my agent said “No Canadian Smarties” ? They’re gone! The Smarties, not the agent.

    • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

      For the sake of national pride, I would argue with you, Jennifer, about the Canadian Smarties versus M&Ms, but I value our friendship, so…. :)

      Have a safe trip, and definitely don’t bring any M&Ms as they’ll melt before you ever get one to your mouth. “Melts in your mouth, not in…” not in Oklahoma and New Mexico.

      • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major @Jjumping

        I’m bringing Laura Secord chocolates!!!
        And I love you too much to debate our superior chocolates.

        Thanks!I’m meeting one author, and maybe even another one. Christine, can you do me a favour? Can you pray me to a mesa? I’ll tell you on FB.

        • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

          Of course, Jennifer — or rather, I’ll pray for you. The rest is up to God.

          In regards to the Laura Secord chocolates, if you value them, bring an ice chest. I kid you not. Me? Not kid? But really, I lived in Oklahoma. Protect your chocolates.

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        These Canadian chocolates are called “Smarties?” If they’re so smart, how come they got caught?

    • http://nowthinkaboutit.com EnnisP

      Smarties? Pleeeease.

      They’re English, you know that don’t you.

      • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major @Jjumping

        Not the ones made here. ;)

        • http://nowthinkaboutit.com EnnisP

          Actually, if it’s chocolate, it’s good. Even if one is better than the other :)

  • http://www.henwoodtitles.weebly.com Brian Henwood

    Perhaps I am the exception, but I do not care if I make any money at all. For me, it really is only about having a chance to get my story out to as many people as I can. I’ve tried the self publish route, and found it incredibly daunting. Sure it’s easy to get your book made, but reaching an audience with it is tough.
    Perhaps my attitude will change once I’m a huge success. But at least for my first best seller (wink wink), it would be enough to see it on the shelves of the average book store. Gosh what a rush that must be!

    • http://www.henwoodtitles.weebly.com Brian Henwood

      Edit: I realize that’s exactly why I need an agent. I’d sign my life away without someone there to stop me.

  • http://davidatodd.com David Todd

    Based on all I’ve read, I think reversion of right is what would concern me the most. The e-book has changed the term published, or still published. A publisher can have the e-book version in their catalog and sell a few copies from time to time, but otherwise have abandoned the book yet claim it is still actively published and refuse to revert the rights back to the author. So I would want reversion of rights to be after a fixed time period: 5 years after the contract is signed or 4 years after initial publication date, whichever is earlier, unless the publisher wants to revert sooer or author agrees to an extension.

    I’m sure that’s dreaming for a first-time author, but that’s what I’d want.

  • http://www.soberboots.com Heather Kopp at SoberBoots.com

    Rachelle, I have loved all your posts lately. I loved the one too about interval training. It come just after I spent a day trying to turn writing into a bitter marathon. I look so forward to everything you have to tell us every day. Really. Just wanted to say. Heather

  • http://www.karenranney.com Karen Ranney

    I’ve had three writer friends with two other publishers (not mine) who have had odd clauses inserted in new contracts. Things like non-compete clauses and basket accounting that were NOT there before the new contract.

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo

    I love that you’re so willing to share all this. Thank you so much.

  • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

    Rachelle,

    You have highlighted a couple of the important reasons I’m SO bent on being published traditionally. A good agent’s relationship with good publishing houses and the knowledge, experience and ability to negotiate a contract that looks after the best interest of the author are at the top of my list for wanting an agent. Thanks so much for all you do as an agent and for giving us who follow your blog such an invaluable education — gratis!

    • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major @Jjumping

      Perfectly said Christine!

      • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

        Thank you, Jennifer :)

  • Patti Mallett

    Thanks for this helpful post, Rachelle. It’s good to know what’s going on!

  • http://www.christianmamasguide.com Erin

    Contracts are SO stressful. Makes me really glad to have an agent, but also makes me feel a bit overwhelmed.

  • http://jilldomschot.com Jill

    I had pretty much decided to divert my worries by self-publishing (ha, ha), but now am thinking of putting together a nonfiction book proposal, so back to the worry board.

  • Jennifer

    Rachelle, I always love reading your comments. Lately, I’ve been listening to a deluge of positivity from the indie publishing and self-publishing world. They all include horror stories about the “big six” publishers. I’ve been wondering what the benefit is, if there is still any there, about going to a big publisher. All this is assuming that I will have a product an agent and a publisher deems “good enough” to publish, but I’m being positive about that. Is big publishing still the best?

  • http://www.joymediaservices.com Julie-Allyson Ieron

    Rachelle — Makes me doubly grateful that you were in my corner for my newest contract. I also have a greater appreciation for what you did on my behalf! Many, many thanks!

  • http://www.cmcaterer.com Claire M. Caterer

    Rachelle, I think the anxiety writers feel mostly stems from being unfamiliar with the process. My contract took 4 months to arrive after our “gentlemen’s agreement.” There were no problems with it, and I was very happy with the final product. But I’d had no idea it took so long to produce a contract. I just thought the agent sold the book and within a week or two, the contract came down the pike. Wrong! Now that I know the score, I won’t be stressing next time.

  • Felicity

    This is a little off subject but it still pertains, I think.
    I know another person at my church who is a writer as well. She”s actually farther ahead in the proccess than I am. She has an agent and they a working on professional edits.
    She’s been telling everyone that she is going to be published soon.
    An acquaintance said something to me about it i asked if she had officially sold her manuscript and had a contract.
    My intention was getting an agent is only the first step. There’s more hoops to jump through before it’s published soon.
    Word got around and now I’m accused of being jealous when I thought I was being honest and realistic, since I’ve been studying the proccess. I should’ve kept my mouth shut and said it was nice that she was going to be published.
    So my question is, when you have an agent does that give you license to tell everyone your soon to be published?
    I always thought I’d say I have a book agent and then when i got a contract say id be published in 1-2 years.

  • http://thewritertorium.blogspot.com/ Bethany Neal

    This could not be more timely for me as I await the arrival of my 1st contract. It feels like it’s taking forever, and, yes, sometimes it feels like the whole thing might go away if I don’t have that signed piece of paper, but at least there’s a contract to wait for and an awesome agent advocating my interests.

    Thanks for posting.

    • http://www.DrCoachLove.com Patt Hollinger Pickett, Ph.D.

      Hi, everyone,

      Been following the trail on this. I was seeking an agent(I also queried a few publishers) and a small traditional press contacted me with a contract offer four days ago. So I am waiting on my first (ever) non-fiction book contract. Should arrive yet this week. Glad to hear that it is normal to feel the disappearing ink on the contract syndrome—-or maybe the contract just evaporates. Since I have no agent, I am contacting a literary attorney for help. This blog topic has been helpful. Thanks, Karen.

  • http://www.artesianministries.org Donna Pyle

    I’m very content letting the process run it’s course. I trust my fantastic agent — YAY! :) — and the people/pieces God is moving around behind the curtain that I can’t see – and don’t need to.

  • Elizabeth Dunn

    Reading between the lines, here are my concerns:

    Contracts are getting more complicated, more difficult and publishers are skittish. Therefore, realistically, is the market locking down? Is it even more impossible to get published?

    Agents need to be more on the ball. Agents have lots of clients to think about. Agents want to do the best by their authors BUT I’m thinking they don’t want to irritate their publishers either.

    It seems agents are riding a very slim canoe in a pool of sharks.

    Uber agent Rachelle aside, can we be sure agents are always on our side? This chilling thought came to me when I was reading a new indie author’s blog who suggested agents were just as eager to close a deal as the authors. Get it out of the way, let the money flow even if the contract isn’t perfect.

    Sure, authors who have been through the whole rejection thing can be nasty and resentful but still……makes you wonder.

  • http://www.authorpeterdehaan.com/ Peter DeHaan

    In another industry I’ve had unsigned contracts unexpectedly withdrawn.

    Once the lawyer was still reviewing it when the sender became impatient and rescinded his offer.

    In the other case, negotiations were proceeding smoothly and final detail was finalizing the purchase price. We were a couple thousand dollars apart on a mid-six figure deal when the seller abruptly ended all dialogue and pulled the plug.

    So, yes, an unsigned contract does worry me, but then so does signing a bad contact!

  • http://hollydroo.wordpress.com/ Holly Russell

    The thing I have heard rumors about recently is regarding those who do speaking and writing in the non-fiction genre. I have heard recently that some publishers put a halt to your speaking engagements from the time you sign until the release date of the book. This concerns me greatly. I understand from the publisher’s point of view that you don’t want to spill the beans on your book orally, but at the same time that is how I build my audience for my platform. Has anyone else heard of this?

  • Ursula Jordaan

    Thanks for the insight. I hope to eventually get an agent which sounds to be most beneficial.

    I’d like someone to do that work while I work on creating better stories.

    Cheers!

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  • http://hardcoremuse@blogspot.com Lawrence Parlier

    I have a question along these lines. Hopefully, one of you all will be able to help me out.
    I am waiting on word from a publisher about my first novel. I should hear back either tomorrow or Monday. This is a small start up house and if the book does get accepted I wonder if I should look for an agent.
    There is no advance involved so I’m not sure if I could find one interested in representing me.
    I have a friend who is a lawyer that’s willing to look over the contract when/if it arrives but I worry that he isn’t hip to the ins and outs of the industry as an agent would be.
    What should I do?

    • Deb Kinnard

      Ask your attorney for a referral to an experienced IP lawyer.

      • http://hardcoremuse@blogspot.com Lawrence Parlier

        IP? Sorry, that’s a new one on me. I live in Cincinnati, not exactly a big literary haven. I’m sure there has to be that kind of lawyer around here somewhere but they’re by no means ubiquitous. I can’t even find a literary agent around here.

        • Deb Kinnard

          IP means intellectual property. These attorneys are experienced in law as it pertains to publishing and the performing arts, and the special contracts we deal with.

          • http://hardcoremuse@blogspot.com Lawrence Parlier

            Thank you!!

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  • Elka

    “This means agents need to carefully consider what each new contract sentence and clause actually means, what its implications are, and whether it’s fair for the author.”

    I’m wondering, since agents are not lawyers do they/you hire literary lawyers to understand new contract sentences and clauses or are they/you are just assuming what they could mean?
    I’m also wondering since publishing contracts are becoming more and more complicate how come only rare agents propose authors to also hire literary lawyers? Wouldn’t that be the best combination: having an agent for their connections and having an literary agent for their knowledge of law and for negotiating?

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  • http://www.horsesanddragons.co.uk Diana Kimpton

    I’m surprised at the idea of the author being left in limbo while the agent negotiates the contract. I like to read the initial version of the contract myself and, if I’m using an agent, to talk it through with her so she knows what changes I’d like. I also make clear which of those changes are so important that I won’t sign the contract without them. I don’t see how an agent can negotiate a contract properly without knowing how the author feels about it.

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  • Jen Kirk

    How does one get in touch with a publisher? My father has been writing for some time now. He says he writes as a hobby. I would like to see if someone would actually publish some of his work.

    Jen Kirk | http://www.weecreekpress.com

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