Thursday, July 06, 2006

Agenting 101 (Payout--part five)

STATUS: It’s raining in Denver. This is actually good news. In fact, it’s been raining consistently in the afternoons for the past 5 days. We are in a terrible drought so this is fabulous.

Do you know what else is fabulous? My author Jennifer O’Connell popping into a Stop-n-Shop in Boston, Massachusetts and seeing a copy of PLAN B on their mini-bookstore display.

Go Stop-n-Shops. Is that a perfect venue for a teen book or what?

What song is playing on the iPod right now? CONSTANT CRAVING by k.d. lang

Last night I had to blog in a hurry so I didn’t sum up some of the drawbacks to the dirty and quick advance formula. I need to highlight that here before tackling payouts.

The Q&D is simply a semi-educated guess because most of it is determined by numbers that may or may not be accurate.

Is 30% the discount? What would you, as a debut author, actually sell-through? What is the print run going to be? An editor can estimate and have it change drastically before actual pub time. The editor might not be willing to share that info and then you have to work off of knowledge of general print run numbers for mass market or trade paperback or hardcover.

And 8% is not the only royalty percentage in the contract. In fact there are usually 2 pages of various royalty percentages depending on import, export, Book Club etc. Using only 8% is actually fudging the numbers quite a bit.

Lot of non-solid numbers figuring into that “formula.”

Not to mention, that info was more for debut authors with no track records whatsoever. If you have been previously published, that throws in a whole new monkey wrench. Suddenly your publishing history needs to be taken into account (although you’ll have a pretty good idea of your sell-through percentages!)

Just a word of caution.

But onwards.

This is the schedule the pub house will offer for paying your advance (and needs to be specified in your deal negotiation before the contract is finalized). Most often, payout is done in thirds.

And unfortunately, pub houses seem to be implementing a nasty policy that one of those thirds has to be on publication (which makes me wonder why it is then called an advance!)

So a payout can look something like this:

1/3 on signing of the contract
1/3 on d&a (delivery and acceptance) of the manuscript
1/3 on publication

Can you tell that the ‘on pub’ third gets my goat? If you have no leverage (as in, no other house is bidding on your project), you might get stuck with an ‘on pub’ payment. Best you can do is to shift the money weight forward to the other pay dates and get the least amount of money possible for the “on pub.” That messes up the 1/3 exact ratio but that’s okay.

There are a variety of ways to schedule payouts (depending on the project etc.) but avoid drawn out payouts (as in 1/4 on this and 1/4 on that so you have more than three payout payments) and other schedules can look like this so you should at least try for them:

1/3 on signing
1/3 on delivery of the proposal and first three chapters
1/3 on delivery of the full manuscript

I’ve done:
1/3 on signing
1/3 on delivery of manuscript
1/3 on acceptance

I’ve done:
1/2 on signing
1/2 on d&a
(LOVE that schedule and I always go for it if possible)

And I imagine it’s possible to get the entire advance upon signing but I haven’t had the pleasure of that—yet.

I’ve done a variety of others but I’m too lazy to go through my contracts to see what was what.

Remember, I only allot myself 15 to 20 minutes to write these blog entries.