Monday, July 03, 2006

Agenting 101 (Grant of Rights--part three)

STATUS: I have to admit. I’m pretty much taking the day off but I have managed to drag myself to the computer to do this blog.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? LADY by the Little River Band

I have to say that explaining elements of publishing is the least creative writing I can think of. Why? Because it’s really not ranting—polite or otherwise—but y’all seem pretty excited so I’ll see how creative I can get with my explanation but I tend to like bullet points. Quick, easy, and to the point.

Now remember, this is a broad overview and not to meant to cover EVERY aspect. It’s just enough to give you some light working knowledge.

Isn’t it Alexander Pope who says, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”?

Please keep that in mind. Here we go. The grant of rights has two parts: 1) territory for print rights granted, and 2) other mediums where print rights can be exploited—otherwise known as subsidiary rights.

Territory

When a publisher calls to offer, basically, they need to explain where they want the right to print your work. There are several possibilities.

1. World Rights

This means that they have the right in all English-speaking territories (US, Canada, UK etc.) and that they also have the right to sell the work in translation (which means to sell the work to foreign publishers to be translated into another language).

If you are working without an agent, more than likely, the publisher will ask for World rights. This is not a bad thing—after all, they do have subsidiary rights people who can sell the work on your behalf and then you split the monies (and splits can be as good as 75/25 [75% to author and 25% to publisher] or 80/20 for UK but some publishers do 50/50 and I have seen 60/40 splits for translation).

2. World English

Publisher has the right to publish the English version throughout the world (and the main markets are US, Canada, UK, Australia)

3. North American Only

Publisher has the right to publish an English version in the US and Canada (and territories) only.

4. U.S. Only

Publisher only has the right to publish the work in the US. Author reserves rights to Canada and may sell that separately.

Subsidiary Rights

Print rights are valuable. There are many other mediums in which to exploit them. These venues are called Subsidiary rights and they can include the following:

1. Motion Picture/TV
2. Dramatic (which is plays or theater but sometimes we say Dramatic to include Movies and TV just to lump it all together)
3. radio
4. Commerical Merchandising (that’s products—like a doll or a cup holder)
4. audio
5. video
6. Calendar
7. Electronic rights (e-book)
8. Multi-media and/or interactive electronic rights (not the same thing as an e-book—and are almost always sold in conjunction with Motion Picture/TV because studios are evil and want to rule the world. Interactive e-rights could be a game made for a gameboy from your print work.)
9. US-Only Spanish Language

That’s the general explanation. Now, what most authors don’t realize is that these elements are your bargaining chips. What you will and will not give to the publisher really depends on the money being offered.

Always note that the first offer a publisher gives is never the final offer that they are willing to do. Never.

If they want all these rights, they should pay for it and increase the advance offer or the royalty percentages or something.

Now, they aren’t always open to changing the advance monies but if they aren’t, then you need to restrict the territory grant of rights and then of course, no subsidiary rights. (Hint: this is where an agent, and our years of expertise, really helps. We know what a project is worth, what publishers will pay what for it, what to hold, what to allow, where we can push).

I prefer not to give World rights (because I have a terrific foreign rights co-agent and I think we can earn the author more money selling them individually) but if the money is right, everything is negotiable in terms of territory. And if you are without an agent and want those rights exploited (and you, personally, don’t have the means), then it’s better to let the Publisher handle it.

For subsidiary rights, as a general rule, for me personally (and remember, I don’t rep all agents in the universe here), I never grant dramatic rights, merchandising, multimedia, radio, or Calendar.

E-book and Audio is all I’ll ever play with and once again, it depends on the money being offered.

Why? Most publishing houses are not equipped to really sell dramatic rights (although lately, many partnerships are being created to make this more viable), Either way, I would rather control this on behalf of the author.

As an author going forward without an agent, my recommendation to you is to never grant dramatic rights. If Hollywood comes a-calling, it’s easy enough to get an entertainment lawyer on board to help you through it. You want control over this medium and if you grant to the publisher, you’ll have no say (and trust me, it’s not like you have a lot of say to begin).

See my previous rants on Hollywood and dramatic rights.

Well, this post was as exciting as a root canal. Big grin here. If I forgot something, I’ll address it later. Onwards to tomorrow.