The Benefits of Having an Agent

The Benefits of Having an Agent Today I’m covering some back-to-basics information. While people have always asked me about the advantages of having an agent, I’ve noticed an increase in the frequency of the question in this age of independence and do-it-yourself. People want to know: Do I need an agent? If I had one, how would they help me? Is it worth paying out 15% of my revenues? Not everyone wants or needs an agent. Your job is to assess your situation and decide if it is the kind of partnership that would serve you. Here I offer you an overview of the ways the right literary agent can enhance your writing career. What kind of publisher do you want? You only need to consider an agent if you’re interested in pursuing traditional, full-service, advance-and-royalty paying publishers. If you’re...
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What’s Happening With My Publisher Contract?

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...
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What Does a Publishing Contract Cover?

What Does a Publishing Contract Cover? Many of you are looking forward to the day you sign your first publishing contract. But you also wonder… what the heck is in a publishing contract, anyway? Below is a brief overview of some of the important contract clauses. This is *NOT* by any means comprehensive—contracts vary and are typically 12 to 20 pages long (single spaced). Some are more detailed than others. I’ve put an asterisk (*) by the points I find myself negotiating most often. Remember, the agent’s job is to advocate for the author: first to make sure they are well-protected in every eventuality, and second to make sure they’re getting the best deal possible when all variables are taken into consideration. So the agent will negotiate any clauses that need it. Here are some of the things a typical publishing...
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Advances: How Can I Find Who Got What?

Advances: How Can I Find Who Got What? Today I debut my video blogging. Please go easy on me – I’ve never done this before! I decided that in my video blogs I’ll answer questions readers have sent me via email, Twitter, my Facebook page, or the blog. So if you have a question you want me to answer in a video, send it along one way or another. Today’s question: “Where can I find information on actual advances writers have received for books?” The writer noted that the Publishers Marketplace gives a ballpark advance – such as below fifty thousand dollars, or between fifty and one hundred thousand dollars. But they want to know specific advances. Here’s my answer via video, and the same answer appears written out below. My answer: Publishers don’t give out this information, so the only way...
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Multi-Book Contracts

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Qi_6eFCuqlo/Tci9RDMGKpI/AAAAAAAAEe4/R1y0FOMoxY8/s320/signing-contract.jpg Do You Have to Sign One? In my May 3 post, “Will Your First Book Be Published?” I mentioned multi-book contracts, and blog reader Marion asked: “Do you have to sign for a multi-book contract?” Her concern was mainly that she wasn’t sure she wanted to be locked into deadlines since her first book took her ten years to write. The short answer is no, you definitely don’t have to sign a multi-book contract, and you may not even be offered one. (You certainly won’t be offered one if you don’t have more than the one book.) There are some cases in which you wouldn’t want to sign a multi-book contract even if offered one and you wouldn’t have any problem delivering the manuscripts. This has to do with specific publishers and the terms they’re offering. For...
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The Dilemma of the Prolific Writer

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TTz1Uq3jTKI/AAAAAAAAEV4/tpCEws_S5Q4/s400/typewriter.jpg I have a few clients who are very prolific. As soon as they’ve finished a manuscript (including getting outside feedback and going through a few rounds of revisions) they’re always excited to move on to another. They immediately brainstorm a new story and get going on it. They can write two or more terrific manuscripts in a year. For some authors, especially if they’re already established, this works out great because they’re able to contract those books as fast as they can write them. But for other authors, not so much. The problem comes with a writer who is contracting with a publisher for the first time. Let’s say the publisher loves their writing and we get a two book deal. And with a prolific writer, those two books may already be complete before we even sign the contract....
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Royalty Rates

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TPW7Z56gyyI/AAAAAAAAENA/K2nI6-m-als/s200/money.jpg I’ve written about royalty rates several times, and I usually avoid using actual numbers because royalty rates are varied across types of publishers, types of books, and book formats. But people keep asking me, so I’ll try to explain a little more clearly here. Royalty rates are calculated either on the retail (or cover) price of the book, or on the net price which is the price at which the publisher sells to the retailer (usually around 50% off). The big New York publishers always pay royalties based on the cover price. Most publishers in the CBA including the largest ones pay on net. Smaller publishers vary in how they calculate royalties. Most royalty rates increase according to the number of units sold. So a typical royalty schedule for a first time author with a mainstream...
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Reversion of Rights

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TPL6TsGP5BI/AAAAAAAAEMw/ky7j8dS0V64/s320/contract.jpg Blog reader Sue Harrison said: I’ve found myself in a frustrating situation with a publisher regarding the definition of “out-of-print” [and not being able to obtain] a reversion of rights to two of my novels. These novels have earned back their advances but are no longer available to the public. I’m guessing this situation has come about because I signed these contracts before e-book rights were contracted. Do authors still have so much difficulty obtaining a reversion of rights when their books are no longer in print? An anonymous blog reader said: I am especially interested in how you handle e-books—is it possible for the author not to sell those rights at all, and how do you negotiate when (and if) those rights revert? Good questions. Rights reversion is an...
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Answering Questions On Contracts, Part 2 of 2

http://www.rachellegardner.com//HLIC/9a771259d21287f607872f111297cdcb.jpg Denise Grover Swank asked: What should an author do if they are offered a contract from a small publisher but don’t have an agent? → Do your best to understand it. Be ready ahead of time by reading (and maybe even printing out and keeping in a notebook) all the blog posts you can find about publisher contracts. Get a book or two if you want. You’re most likely not in a position to pay hundreds of dollars for a professional to look at it, since you may be getting a small advance or more likely, no advance. Watch carefully for language that ties up your rights forever—and ask the publisher to put limits on it. (Watch for my blog post coming soon on reversion of rights—this should help you understand how to do this.) T. Anne asked: Are all of the publishers marketing...
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Answering Questions on Contracts, Part 1 of 2

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TOB-v7zLprI/AAAAAAAAEL4/S-lO6GtwiO0/s200/questions.jpg Last week I did a post giving a cursory glance at a few important clauses in publishing contracts. It would take a whole book to go into detail on contracts, so on this blog I’m just trying to get you familiar with some of the basics. Today I’m going to answer some of the questions that came in on last week’s post. (I answered some of the questions already, in the comments.) Kevin Dillon asked: What is the traditional/usual price for the advance for first time author? → The reason I didn’t give examples of specific numbers is because I wasn’t kidding when I said that advances are all over the map. Even for first-time authors, there is a huge range of advances depending on type of publisher, genre, and author platform—but it always comes down to the perceived strength of the...
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Publishing Contracts

I’ve been negotiating quite a few contracts lately, and you’d be surprised how this aspect of an agent’s job stays constantly interesting. Publishers are always changing their contracts in small and large ways, needing more and more to protect their interests in this difficult economy, so agents have to stay diligent in making sure their authors’ interests are protected as well. The contract is one of the biggest reasons many authors choose to have an agent. It’s typically 8 to 16 pages long (or so) and is incredibly detailed. Some of the clauses are more negotiable than others, as you might expect. So today I wanted to give an overview of a few of the provisions we are likely to negotiate: Advance: This one’s fairly obvious—but note, it’s not the only or...
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