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So you want to traditionallly publish

Switch Blayde

I don't know if anyone here has a dream of traditionally publishing, but a very successful author I know made up a list of things to watch out for in a contract with a traditional publisher:

The big contract things for me are:

1. Length of copyright terms - which are ridiculous. Foreign and audio terms are for a certain number of years, the big-five contract should be to. Let them have the rights for 7 years and then they have to renegotiate or revert.

2. Non competes - I could spend a whole day talking on this subject.

3. Out-of-print clauses - does an ebook constitute "in print" ? Can they use print-on-demand? - For me it's no in both those cases. Ridiculously low thresholds to determine a book is "in print"

4. Taking too many rights and not reverting them if not exercised. If you take my graphic novel right then you better produce a product (or sub-license the right) within 2 years - if you don't, then give it back to me.

5. Sneaky things like adding within an indemfication clause that the author's next book will be that book - which if they take up to 2 years to produce means no new books by the author for 2 years!!

6. Royalty rates that change for "deep discounts" where the publisher actually makes more if they give the bookseller a deep discount because a 1% change the author from making 15% of list to 10% of net. So the bookseller makes more the publisher makes more but the author makes less.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Here's a couple of things I've read about the list.

Charging marketing and overhead costs against the author's royalties.

Large advances.

I've read stories about both of these being done people in both the music and publishing industries, to the point where authors / artists were left owing the publisher/label money.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

I have heard of one author who has three figures in his contracts:

1. Maximum retail price for e-book.

2. Maximum retail price for paperback print book.

3. Amount paid to author per copy distributed. Only deduction being for print books returned from shop within 2 months after publication.

Now if I can only remember who it was and who his printing house were.

awnlee jawking
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

My understanding is that nowadays it's almost impossible for a new author to get taken up by a traditional publisher without going through an agent first. And that presents another layer of contract details to worry about.

However there's a huge amount of cachet attached to being traditionally published. I'd like to get there eventually, as I imagine most aspiring authors would.

AJ

(Oops. sorry Ernest, this was meant to be a Reply to Topic)

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Established, popular authors can demand and get much better terms than a new author can.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Established, popular authors can demand and get much better terms than a new author can.


True, and I can't remember if he was new or just new to that publisher. A couple of authors who broke into traditional publishing via the indie e-book or self-publishing market have gotten better deals than most newbies, simply because they were approached by the publisher.

Way too many publishing houses have a 'No unsolicited manuscript policy' and you have to go through an agent they deal with. The downside is the majority of agents require you have a face to face interview with them before they represent you, which kind of cuts out anyone not living near them.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


My understanding is that nowadays it's almost impossible for a new author to get taken up by a traditional publisher without going through an agent first


That's true for the Big-5. Sometimes one of their imprints has an open submission, but usually they will only accept manuscripts from agents.

That's another aspect of what this author talked about. Even if the contract with the publisher has a reversion clause, if they go into bankruptcy the author doesn't get his rights back until the courts decide.

The author said that's not likely to happen with the big publishers, but can happen with your agent. Typically, the publisher pays your royalties to your agent. He keeps 15% (his commission) and writes you a check for the rest. Now if the agent goes bankrupt, you don't get paid. This author says he requires the publisher to write two checks: one for the agent and one for him.

But like someone said, you have to be an established author to demand terms. His last advance was something like $240,000 for a novel.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


have to be an established author to demand terms


Thanks SW. You've identified many things those who want to get published need to be aware of to protect their interests. Great choice of topic to initiate.

I'm not so sure new authors cannot demand terms.

I suspect it may be more that the profitability of the industry relies upon many new authors being so keen to get published, they agree to almost any terms offered, and almost any periods those terms will apply. The result is on the rare occasions a new author does become very popular, the publishers (and agents) end up taking most of the rewards - for a long time.

I'm sure publishing houses do take advantage of every sucker who comes in, as much as possible, but I expect they WOULD negotiate reasonably with an author they want. However, the author must insist upon it.

To SW, it appears as if authors should take as much care in negotiating terms with agents as publishers. Do you have any more specific thoughts on what authors should be considering for that.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

To SW, it appears as if authors should take as much care in negotiating terms with agents as publishers. Do you have any more specific thoughts on what authors should be considering for that.


I just passed along what someone said. I don't recall any discussion about the contract with agents.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

That's true for the Big-5. Sometimes one of their imprints has an open submission, but usually they will only accept manuscripts from agents.


I'm aware there is a substantial number of miniscule indie publishers who mostly have less than a handful of authors. I'm not sure what they offer is any better than self-publishing in terms of effectiveness or prestige.

Throwing in a random thought, some authors here offer e-book versions of their stories on a variety of platforms. I wonder if there's a synergistic business opportunity for Lazeez to run a SOL shop for such e-books, while protecting SOL's integrity by only offering completed (but not necessarily fully uploaded) SOL stories.

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


I'm aware there is a substantial number of miniscule indie publishers who mostly have less than a handful of authors. I'm not sure what they offer is any better than self-publishing in terms of effectiveness or prestige.


From what I can tell, it's better to self-publish than going with one of those small publishers. They don't do anything for you that you can't do yourself. The exception would be for a niche market (non-fiction). What they can do for you is get you into local bookstores.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

As a market for books, "local bookstores" are not a particularly viable market these days. Most of them seem to be on their last legs, although Amazon seems to be opening brick and mortar bookshops to help terminate their existence even faster.

Switch Blayde

@richardshagrin

As a market for books, "local bookstores" are not a particularly viable market these days.


They are in small towns where there's no Barnes and Noble. Actually, it's Barnes and Noble that will probably go out of business. From what people say, it's the small local bookstores that are doing okay usually because they're a niche player

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

From what people say, it's the small local bookstores that are doing okay usually because they're a niche player


There's complex economics at work here. The small town stores don't ever have a big list of titles on hand, because they can't afford them. Will the big networks like B&N can afford to have a much larger list of titles in their stores, they also have a huge corporate overhead to go with it. Both sides have their good points and bad points, and the local shoppers will be the key to who stays in business. I would expect a small town bookstore where the staff know what their customers want and buy to suit their customers is much more likely to continue in existence than any store buying a wide generic list of titles.

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

As a market for books, "local bookstores" are not a particularly viable market these days. Most of them seem to be on their last legs, although Amazon seems to be opening brick and mortar bookshops to help terminate their existence even faster.

Amazon has opened a grand total of ONE retail bookstore, to almost no acclaim or recognition. I haven't heard anything about it's success, and seriously doubt they plan to open any more.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Amazon has opened a grand total of ONE retail bookstore, to almost no acclaim or recognition. I haven't heard anything about it's success, and seriously doubt they plan to open any more.


On the other hand, they are building "fulfillment centers" everywhere.

richardshagrin
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

From a Google search for Amazon Book Stores:

"Amazon will open its second physical bookstore in the summer — this time in Southern California — venturing further into the business that it squeezed over two decades.

Called Amazon Books, the store will be located at Westfield UTC mall near UC San Diego. New signs posted in front of the e-commerce company's future bricks-and-mortar location confirm what's been expected since early February, when Amazon advertised online for Amazon Books store managers, booksellers and device enthusiasts.

The Seattle company already operates a bookstore in an upscale shopping center in its hometown and could eventually open up to 400 bookstores, according to a recent earnings call from mall operator General Growth Properties Inc."

I also heard on KUOW, a local NPR outlet, that they plan a store in Chicago and bookstore owners there are petitioning to stop them opening a store there, as unfair competition. Not clear what was unfair about the brick and mortar store competition, but the story helped fill several minutes of airtime.

Replies:   REP
Crumbly Writer

Thanks for the update. I hadn't heard anything beyond the opening of the initial store.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I hadn't heard anything beyond the opening of the initial store


It makes no sense to me for Amazon to open brick and mortar bookstores.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

It makes no sense to me for Amazon to open brick and mortar bookstores.

I suspect it's a prestige thing, which is why I doubted they'd open many outlets. It's a "We're the new boys in town, and we now represent respectability, as opposed representing "Cheap-assed crap" online yesterday.

In short, the Amazon Execs can take their grandmothers whenever they start harping on how "No one builds anything of quality anymore!"

REP
Updated:

@richardshagrin


Amazon will open its second physical bookstore in the summer


A short while ago, my wife saw the new store in the UTC mall and it is open for business. Perhaps she and I will stop in and see what it's like in the next week or two.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@REP

I suspect it's a prestige thing, which is why I doubted they'd open many outlets.


There may be a regulatory or tax advantage to having bricks and mortar stores in the states where they have opened them.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

There may be a regulatory or tax advantage to having bricks and mortar stores in the states where they have opened them.


That's the probable cause. A few years back there was a major issue about taxing Internet transactions in the USA, and some states started talking about amending laws to tax retail businesses more if they didn't have a physical retail operation within the state. Don't know how that went.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

There may be a regulatory or tax advantage to having bricks and mortar stores in the states where they have opened them.

That could be. Chances are, there's a discount on shipping taxes for in-state enterprises. For Amazon, that would be a huge advantage.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Chances are, there's a discount on shipping taxes for in-state enterprises. For Amazon, that would be a huge advantage.


It would be huge, however, if it was just shipping taxes for in-state enterprises, all they should need is a fulfillment center there, not a store front.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

It would be huge, however, if it was just shipping taxes for in-state enterprises, all they should need is a fulfillment center there, not a store front.


That'll depend on the state laws on what qualifies. For most states and countries what amazon calls a Fulfillment Center meets the definition of a wholesale facility and not a retail facility because it doesn't have a shopfront for walk-in retail sales. Add in some state laws only have the tax saving for sales from retail facilities with a physical presence, then you have the basis for a small retail facility. The smart thing would be to put a small retail shop in the front of the Fulfillment Center, and claim all the sales are retail.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

To SW, it appears as if authors should take as much care in negotiating terms with agents as publishers. Do you have any more specific thoughts on what authors should be considering for that.


I asked the author and this was his reply:

Blayde asked, "How about the contract with the agent? Anything to watch out for?"

Yes, many ;-)

Some of the top of my head.

Never allow an agent to take money for something they don't sell. It sounds like a no-brainer but most contracts I've seen give them a right to collect 15% for ANY work they represented even if they didn't sell it - which means you are double dipped - 15% for the old agent that was unsuccessful and 15% of the new agent that actually got the job done.

Also, what happens when the agent dies? There have been children who claim they are now the agents (and get 15% of royalties) to works that were signed by their parents - but they know nothing about the business!!

Also, you should be able to remove an agent from a contract (for instance if they embezzle).

Also make sure the publisher sends split payments 15% to the agent and 85% to you. It's insane for them to get 100% and you HOPE that they send you your check.

And last but not least, I would say there should be an upper bound on royalties. I'm paying 15% to an agent that does nothing for me anymore (she is essentially out of the business). I would have some language in there regarding they cut off at a certain amount (say $100,000 or something) or if they are no longer actively working with you. Just because they signed a book once, it shouldn't be perpetual passive income that they get for doing absolutely nothing.

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