Today, there was supposed to be a guest blogger--actually a trio of them--but that didn't work out, so you're stuck with me again. Fortunately for you, I attended my RWA chapter's December breakfast meeting on Saturday, and I am full of new stuff to tell you.
Kristin Nelson from the Nelson Literary Agency was our guest, and boy did she have a lot to tell us. I had the privilege of sitting with her, and she is just as gracious and fun as she is smart and savvy. Anyway, she talked about the changing landscape of the publishing industry. Since so many of us are publishing on our own with smaller presses, I found her advice on contracts very informative. Even though I have the world's greatest agent who spends a potload of time rewriting contracts to make them the best they can be for her clients, I am still glad I heard what she had to say so I can share it with you guys.
First of all, she told us that romance is leading the charts in sales at 14.3%--no big surprise to those of us writing it--and that 26% of the romance sales are digital. Again, no big surprise. To break that down, those sales came from Amazon at 25%, other e-sales sites at 19%, book clubs at 11%, Barnes and Noble at 11%, and only 4% from Barnes and Noble.com.
About the Random Penguin merger--she said it will mean fewer opportunities for debut authors as they combine lines at the two houses. Crap! As if getting published wasn't hard enough. And she mentioned the upswing of digital first imprint publishers who only do print runs if a book is selling really well as an e-book.
As far as these kind of contracts go, she said to think of it as you NEVER getting your rights back since they will always be available online.
Kristin went on to explain something to watch for when you are faced with a contract and have no one like Christine to be your bulldog in negotiations. Three different phrases mean a big difference when you sign.
World Rights -- publishers would love to have all these.
World English--means all the English-speaking martket (Australia, New Zealand, etc.)
North American--the US and Canada
The more rights you can keep, the better you are.
She got into the difference between Agency Model versus wholesale which is the basis for the DOJ lawsuit against the big 6 and Apple. In a nutshell, the wholesale model allowed Amazon (and anyone else) to buy a book at 50% off and then sell it for less. Why would they want to do that, you ask? Think about it. How many kindles do you think Amazon sells when people know they can download books at that kind of discount? Yes, they lose money on those sales, but they make a fortune off all the Fires they sell. The Agency Model is kind of like price-setting. On all my books, for example, there is a disclaimer on Amazon that says the price is set by the publisher (Penguin who has not settled the lawsuit yet.) In other words, they are not allowed to discount any of my books because of the Agency Model.
Then Kristin got into a really important area of contract negotiations that every author should be aware of, especially since it is so hard to get an agent these days and a lot of you are doing your own contracts.
The OPTION clause. This gives the publisher first dibs on your next book.
Wait! Your next book??? You read it right. So many of you out there have probably signed a contract with this language without realizing what it really means. As written, if you publish romantic suspense, ANY other story you have has to go through them first, even that non fiction you have under the bed. And that's not all. Some of the contracts even say you are required to submit a FULL manuscript and they have up to a year to decide. So, let's see. You've written an entire manuscript and have waited almost a year only to have them pass on it. See how that clause works? It's not in your best interest to sign something that reads this vague. Pinpoint it. Make them say they have first dibs on your next romantic suspense in the SERIES only and even then--only give them a proposal to make their decision.
No wonder they want you to sign that. They now have all the power.
And another one to watch for is the non-compete clause which basically says you can't write anything else that might compete with the published work or that might hinder the sales in any way.
That, my friend, is why I am walking away from a NY house and an editor that I love. We couldn't get them to reword this clause, and now that I write for Midnight Ink and self publish, I can't live with the broadness of that language. It's too big of a risk in today's litigious society. It could easily be said that my straight mysteries with sex and bad language might hinder the sales of my G rated cozies, and before you know it, I'm being sued.
Don't laugh. It has already happened where an author signed a contract and then self pubbed something the publisher had already passed on. When her editor (Penguin) freaked out and demanded that she take it down off Amazon, she refused. They reacted by cancelling her contract and then asking for the advance back. When she said no way, they sued her. You can read about it here.
So, I guess the moral of the story is--if at all possible, get a literary attorney to have a look at your contract before signing anything. If not, do your homework before signing on the dotted line. And even if you have a great agent like I do, it is always smart to be aware of what she is negotioting in your behalf.
29 More Days.
I'd love to hear your comments on this blog. I'll start off the countdown by giving away one free autographed copy of the book to one lucky commenter. All I ask in return is an honest review. So start talking!!