Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Publisher/Agent Contracts: Eight Tips

I'm sorting contracts today. Hopefully, I've learned a few things since the start of my career. Here's a few tips from many years of various major publishers and agents. They are from a writers POV.

Disclaimer: All situations as different as individual writers. Most of us do the best we can, given the situation. Keep in mind that if you are just getting a look from a publisher or an agent, that you may have to take what is offered. Or not. :) Some publishers use a boilerplate. That means it is set in concrete.

Rule Number One:
Prepare for the divorce, prior to the marriage--or check the exit policy. This exit policy can be extensive on BOTH sides.
Be concerned about rights and payments. Now, with indie publishing, reversal rights are extremely important. Here's a good clause: If payments to the writer do not meet X-amount (be reasonable here) within 2 pay periods (Using May and Nov in traditional publishing), then all rights revert to the writer.

The writer may have to go after that, i.e. send a formal request letter. Use certified. In many cases, the publisher obliges with just an e-mail request. When terminating with Agents, put it in writing.

Number Two: Try to retain control of the next option book. You may want to sub somewhere else and if the publisher holds the next option book, which is pretty usual, but then does not want it, the writer could lose a good sale. Do not give an agent the next option book privilege.

Number Three: Try to get Bonus Clauses. That is, if the book sells over X amount, your percentage goes up.

Number Four: Try to get graduated advances per multiple book contract.

Number Five: Input to covers. Try to get some cover input.

Number Six: Some publishers/agents want exclusive submission. If they do, limit the time. Three months is a good average time, no more.

Number Seven: Watch the e-book splits. For example: If a publisher has a 50/50 split, then submits a book to Amazon, Amazon takes their percentage from the writer's 50%. If you have an agent, their take is in there somewhere.

Number Eight: Try to get as many free ad copies as possible in your contract. If those ad copies are deficient, or if you buy your own from the publisher, make certain that they are in good format. Or they will be replaced.

Additional Tips:
1. Scan all reverted right letters. Scan into special folders for easy finds. Scanning is good.
2. When contracts use Book #1, 2, etc., as soon as the book is titled, write the title on the contract.
3, If you are an established author with a lengthy reverted backlist, do not offer all of them at once. Test the waters with a few. If you're not happy with the publisher, you can move on with the rest.
4. Keep your pertinent business mail/e-mail. CC: yourself on replies. Or keep in a special mailbox that can be easily saved for reference.

Let's go back to Rule Number One. Clarify that exit policy with both publisher and agent.

Do you have any tips you'd like to share?


J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Cait,
I found my ebook offer from my publisher unfair as they were giving the same amount as for print books. They also wanted first option on the next book. Needless to say, that hasn't happened.

Cait London said...

That is something to check for sure. Thanks for noting it.