Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Agenting 101 (Bonus--part seven)

STATUS: Spent a lot of time on the phone talking with editors today. That’s always fun. In fact, chatted via email with fellow Blogger and Random House editor Jason Pinter.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? FUNKY COLD MEDINA by Tone-Loc

Finally, a controversial topic! Bonuses are controversial? How so you say.

Well, there are two schools of thought where bonuses are concerned and I have to say that I fall somewhere in the middle between the two points of view.

Side 1
This side perceives bonuses as ghost money. A carrot in front of the author for performance but the actual bonus clause isn’t tied to a result the author can control.

Therefore, it becomes unlikely for the author ever to reach said bonus stipulation and makes the money included in the bonus a moot point.

Side 2
This side perceives bonuses as a failsafe. In the event a novel (or project) does extremely well out of nowhere, excellent sales numbers (or whatever—depending on how the clause is structured) can trigger bonus clauses which would result in additional advance money for the author before a project has earned out.

As I mentioned, I walk the line. I do believe that bonus clauses are ghost money. I NEVER figure them as value when negotiating for the advance.

I include them only when it’s very clear to me that the deal points aren’t moving anywhere else and I might as well include a back-end fail safe in the event a book does well.

On the other hand, included bonus clauses can be a detriment in later rounds of negotiations for future projects. Publishers might want to play the game of weighting the advance monies toward these bonus clauses that may or may not ever be triggered.

As an agent, you really have to stand tough against that.

And, if the author has a strong opinion about whether to include them or not, I always acquiesce to the author’s wishes because I can see the value of both sides.

Bonus clauses can come in all sizes or shapes. Common ones include these:
Net copies sold
Copies shipped
Movie/TV
Bestseller list appearances
Hardcover bonus
Awards

And every bonus clause has different aspects to them such as what would be a reasonable amount for net copies sold in 12 months, or the amount of copies shipped, or a time frame for when the movie is in production, or what position on the NYT or USA Today bestseller list and which award. Does being a finalist count?

Oh yes, a loaded question those bonus clauses.