Monday, July 31, 2006


Linnea & Kristin toast the RITA

STATUS: Still on the Moon from the weekend in Atlanta!

What song is playing on the iPod right now? I KEEP FORGETTIN’ by Michael McDonald (But seriously, as much as I love Michael McDonald, I can’t help but think of the movie The 40 Year Old Virgin and the whole sales floor episode.)


The dark horse comes out of nowhere to win the RITA for Best Paranormal Romance.

(For those of you not tuned in to the world of Romance writers and readers, the RITA is the top award in the field—like a Hugo or Nebula for SF & F—it’s on par with that. It’s a big deal.)

Linnea and I are still surprised, stunned, and ecstatically happy!

In fact, Linnea was so convinced that she wasn’t going to win, she didn’t even prepare an acceptance speech. She had to go up on stage and tell it from the heart extemporaneously.

After all, we were finalists with some major heavies in the genre such as Catherine Asaro, Heather Graham, and Teresa Medeiros.

Not to mention Jen Holling, Pamela Labud, and Marjorie Liu.

Then add up-and-comers like J.R. Ward—well, we honestly were just pleased to have finaled in such great company. That in itself was an honor.

Then to win with nary a witch, vampire, werewolf, or a ghost in the traditional sense in sight was truly unexpected. (If you read Linnea’s novel, you’ll discover the real meaning of Gabriel’s Ghost—which isn’t a spirit by any means).

And don’t get me wrong, I love all the above paranormal elements but I figured our entry was so different (and not what’s currently the hot trend), that we were the young upstart.

Besides, who wins on their first RITA nomination?

Linnea Sinclair does and if you love paranormal romance and you haven’t given GG a try, I really encourage you to do so. You won’t be disappointed.

More RWA pictures and fun tips to come this week so stay tuned.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Enduring Themes in Chick Lit

STATUS: I’m getting ready for my workshop on Jane Austen and Chick Lit with Shanna Swendson that will be happening in 45 minutes! Why am I blogging?

What song is playing on the iPod right now? Radio isn’t on! That would require a dash across the room to make it happen.

I’m constantly amazed at synchronicity in the world.

Here we are. Shanna and Kristin in Atlanta getting ready to talk about classic themes in Jane Austen and how you can use these guiding principles to really break into the market of chick lit today—to create a more complex story, timeless in nature, that women would want to read.

And here is Bookseller Chick talking about chick lit books on her blog, at what happened to the readers, and where is the future.

Three smart chicks I’m thinking.

So here’s a little snippet (or preview if you will) of what Shanna and I will be talking about at our workshop.

You can take any Jane Austen movie, pick your favorite, and analyze the main heroine’s place in her society, her expectations, and what she needs to be or do to create independence and by doing so, you’ll start seeing the timeless threads that can then be incorporated to a contemporary story.

For example, in Jane Austen’s stories, her heroines need to get married to find financial safety.

Well, some ladies are still pursuing that route but what is a more contemporary spin on that? Doesn’t that just get the wheels turning!

Jane Austen tackles the dilemma of how to stay happily single (and wedded to one’s principles) when your friend gets married (P&P—Plain friend Charlotte marries the very respectable—on paper anyway—Mr. Collins.)

Jane Austen tackles women meddling in other women’s lives (Emma—Emma and her kindly but interfering ministrations to Harriet).

Jane Austen tackles the craziness and disparate personalities of families (P&P and S&S).

But ultimately, chick lit is the contemporary social observation with satiric wit. Completely timeless if you understand the depth of that voice to really carry out a social critique.

Now I have to go say all these things, albeit more articulately, in front of hopefully a large group of writers.

Happy Friday All!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Little Competition Between Agents?

STATUS: RWA is like watching TV on fast forward. A consistent, frenetic pace! Off to meet an author and her editor.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? Well, it’s the clock radio. Not great reception but it’s LIGHTNING CRASHES by Live

I was at a conference this year and moderated an agent panel. A member of the audience asked if agents felt like they were in competition with each other.

Obviously, if there are a finite number of good projects out there to represent, by the nature of our job we are, to some extent, in competition with each other.

But I must say I never FEEL that way.

So I was really surprised when three of the four agents on the panel declared that yes, we are in direct competition with each other and we must be aggressive to win the author and the work.


This might be silly but I actually believe in karma, that certain projects are meant for certain agents (not that I won’t go after it heartily if more than one agent is interested etc.) but in general, there is enough good projects to go around.

Maybe I’m the na├»ve one!

But on Saturday, if you are here at RWA, you’ll know I’m about to moderate a 2-hour panel entitled The Literary Agent Cartel: A Powerhouse of Caring, Knowledge, & Expertise that May Possibly Change Your Publishing Career.

We are a group of independent agents who formed a Yahoo chat loop so as to share information, support each other, and in many ways, share knowledge so it benefits all our clients.

I have to say that this is the kind of agenting I subscribe to. Healthy too. And yes, when I’m vying against 4 other agents for the project, I don’t ask who is involved (because it just might be my fellow Cartel member and let the best gal win!) so there’s no lack of competition but there is definitely a different perspective in terms of agenting.

I never think of my fellow agent as my enemy.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Agenting 101 (Conclusion)

STATUS: Had a great lunch with my author Jana DeLeon this afternoon. Her RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU is coming out this October. If you love Stephanie Bond type stuff—romantic comedy mystery, then bookmark Jana’s website since her book will be right up your alley.

I mean, look at this terrific cover?

What song is playing on the iPod right now? It’s a clock radio in the hotel room and I can’t quite bring myself to turn it on and look for a station.

Basically I want to finish up Agenting 101 before too much time elapses between entries. There are just a few more housekeeping details to share with you folks about negotiating a contract.

So here there are:

1. If an editor is asking for more than one book (so a two or three book offer), it’s really important to ask that that the books be accounted separately. We call that no joint accounting.

What’s the issue? Well, if they are jointly accounted, that means that you, as the author, would have to earn out the first book completely in order to see royalties for the second book and so on.

The monies are linked. What happens if the first book bombs, second one is stronger but the sales of the second book have to be accounted with the first until the first one earns out before the author sees any money for book 2.

See the issue? Books should be accounted separately and should stand or fall on their own merits. Let book 2 do the same.

The next two housekeeping issues aren’t really contract-related items (although one will have a tie-in to the contract) but should be questions you should ask before doing the contract negotiation.

Question 1 (to ask the offering editor): What editorial changes do you see as necessary?

And if you can get in writing, all the better. Simply, you want to make sure that the editor’s vision for the work matches with yours and you’d be amazed on how opinions can differ.

I just sold a book in the last couple of months and editor responses to this question really differed. We had a choice of editors so we made sure that the editor’s editorial comments wouldn’t suddenly make the novel leap off into a different direction.

Question 2: What is the potential pub date?

And the contract important factor is to make sure that the publisher must publish within 12, 18 (or worst case scenario) 24 months and if they don’t (barring force majeure—acts of God), they are in breach of contract and rights revert.

You don’t want your project hanging out in publishing limbo forever without some recourse if the publisher doesn’t get on the ball.

That’s it. Now you can negotiate like the pros.

No, I don’t really believe that but at least you will be less clueless if you decide to go it alone.

Good luck.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Thanks For The Rejection

STATUS: Greetings from Downtown Atlanta! Yes, I’m here for RWA (and for those of you who don’t know the acronym, it means Romance Writers of America). The national conference is this week.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? I promise to turn on the radio or something for this trip.

Today I had a great reminder of why I’m always polite in my query rejection letters—especially for partials.

I walked up to the airport taxi queue to grab a cab to my hotel (The Marriott Marquis) and I noticed four lovely ladies with large suitcases—a certain sign of arriving RWA members. I took a chance and introduced myself so as to share the cab and the fare. One lady enthusiastically shook my hand and mentioned that I had rejected her son’s partial just a month or so ago and she wanted to thank me.

Well, people don’t usually thank me for rejecting them so I was a little nervous at first.

She was completely sincere and even more fun? I remembered the partial because I had held on to it for several weeks and did two reads on it. Sharp writing but I felt that it leaned toward horror—and more so for what I do.

Ends up I actually mentioned that in the response letter I sent and consequently, her son had been targeting more horror agents and getting a positive response.

So even though I didn’t take on the project, I made a difference in a writer’s life and that made me feel kind of good.

And no, I won’t be providing comments on all partials received and read. That would be an overwhelming amount of work. Just the occasional partial that catches my eye but isn’t quite right for me.

Off to the fabulous 10th Anniversary party of The Knight Agency. Deidre is my best agent pal and I wanted to be here to support this wonderful occasion.

I can’t wait to celebrate my own—in 2012. Sheesh that sounds an eon away.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Queries That Sounds Like Past Lives

STATUS: One frantic day in the office before I leave for RWA in Atlanta tomorrow morning. Rather like sticking one finger in a hole in the dam as an attempt to keep it from breaking.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? TRUE FAITH by New Order

I got a huge kick out of reading several other blogs this weekend. POD Girl literally had me helpless with laughter on POD Books where she didn’t make it past the first line or paragraph. And Jason Pinter did some Agent/Editor speak translations that were incredibly hilarious too.

One of these days, I’m going to have to negotiate with him and we will barely be able to hold a conversation. We’ll have to email the deal points.

Today Sara was in the office screening queries. Suddenly, she gasps aloud and says, “you won’t believe this. Some guy just wrote us a query saying that he’s not really Joe Smith but a guy who lived 1,000 years ago and was name XYZ.”

She was genuinely startled and was ready to hit the REPLY button to zip that NO out into the cyber world.

“Wait,” I said. “Are you sure he’s not just writing to you as the character in his book? I don’t recommend this technique but I’ve seen it before.”

“Aha!” she said and decided to give it a longer read.

Needless to say, the query didn’t get any better (and she had to read a while to figure out that the “character” of the book was indeed “writing” the query), which rather defeated the query’s purpose.

You literally could be considered as a believer in reincarnation or even schizophrenic if there are too many voices going on in the letter. I remember a query that was the writer and the character in the book having a conversation about the query.

Strange and unique--and not in a good way.

What makes a query letter stand out and what makes it tip into the realm of the bizarre? Well, it’s a fine line so I caution you to be careful if you are employing what most agents would consider as a gimmicky approach.

We receive a lot of strange letters and some of them are literal—as in the writer who is writing it considers it to be true.

No joke. Not sure you want to be confused with that company.

If your character is writing the query letter, at least make that clear in the opening paragraph. And you know my advice, I’d avoid that altogether. A short and professional letter with a pitch paragraph blurb has won the day more times than I can count.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Pay it Forward

STATUS: It’s Friday night. 11 p.m. Eastern time. Is Kristin out partying in the fabulous NYC? No, she’s at her hotel room writing her blog…

What song is playing on the iPod right now? I’d really dig some music right now.

The biggest thrill I get is when people accuse me of being Miss Snark. Alas, I’m not nearly so witty and fun.

I just plod along with my little blog.

As I mentioned yesterday, I was at the Backspace Conference today (and I’ll be there tomorrow) but at the banquet dinner, J.A. Konrath won the Bob Kellogg Award (and for those of you who are none bksp members, Bob was an original member who was on the verge of publishing and really gave back to all the members before unexpectedly passing away—and hence an award in his memory). But Konrath won and often people will say something inane when accepting an award but he didn’t.

He said (and this is a loose paraphrase because I didn’t have a recording device or anything) that writers are not in competition for the elusive reader. If a reader is a fan of a certain type of book (in his case thrillers), they’ll pick up his book, a Barry Eisler book, and a Lee Child book (all folks who are in attendance at the conference) so there is no reason not to share information with other writers and there is no reason not to support each other. In fact, we should pay it forward to beginning writers if, as a writer, you’ve already found a measure of success.

Darn Straight I think. And they were words worth repeating so here they are.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Power Of The Blog

STATUS: Work week is semi-over. Backspace Conference starts tomorrow and although conferences are technically work, I always find them to be a lot of fun.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? I’m missing my iPod. You guys will just have to sing or hum quietly on your own.

I’ve got a great story to share.

My new author Sherry Thomas (whose lovely deal with Bantam for her debut historical romance was announced on deal lunch today) discovered me, my agency, and my blog because of reading Miss Snark.

Wow! That’s the power of the blog.


May the gin forever flow and may Mr. Clooney be holding the bottomless gin pail.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Random Thoughts on What Editors Are Looking For

STATUS: Had a fabulous day because I accepted a pre-empt for a project that went out on submission last Monday. Watch deal lunch for an announcement.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? I’m too tired to think let alone listen to TV (or anything else for that matter). My head is longing for the pillow but alas, must blog.

Had lunch with Rose Hilliard from St. Martin’s yesterday. It was kind of fun to hear that editors are still open to chick lit—albeit for more mature topics and characters. Shopping and man or job searching ain’t going to cut it.

Not like that’s really a newsflash but it’s nice to know that if the voice is right and the story original enough, editors are open.

Also, what fun to hear a romance editor talking about wanting to see historical romance again. Let me tell you. It’s been a while since an editor has asked, “what do you have going on for historicals?”

Could it be a turning trend? Too soon to tell.


Chatted with the publisher of Dutton Children’s—Stephanie Lurie Owens—and I think we might have coined a new YA phrase for what Dutton is looking for:

The 80s John Cusack Syndrome

I just have to smile. You know how an 80s John Cusack film just has a certain heart-warming level of honesty, sentiment, and reality? There is such an emotional connectivity to his character despite foibles and mistakes. Well, that’s what they like for their list.

Gossip Girls—not for them. Too mean.

Not that edgy won’t work it just needs that certain level of compassion.

And I got a chance to meet a new editor (to me anyway). Lovely, lovely person by the name of Ali Bothwell Mancini at Viking/Plume.

Not that it’s any big surprise but historicals are hot and editors are actively looking for original voices—both for big women’s fiction historicals but also for what I call “straight” historicals (especially if they have some sort of intrigue or mystery bent).

Think a more commercial Umberto Eco.

Must sleep now….

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Agenting 101 (Option Clauses—Part Eight)

STATUS: Yep, another late night. And gosh darn it’s hot in New York City. I realize it’s hot everywhere right now but 100 degrees in NYC is not the same as 100 degrees in Denver—not by a long shot. I think the word “sweatball” comes to mind.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? Nada. Not even the telly is on at the moment

So, I promised to talk about option clauses. As I mentioned before, Publishers want the broadest language possible and agents want the narrowest language possible.

For example, Publishers will ask for “the option on the author’s next work” or some such similar language.

Well, duh, of course they do but that’s way too wide open. Next work could mean anything—from nonfiction to the next literary novel to the next romance or what have you. Any next work from the author.

Agents always limit the option to specifically what the author is writing and the more specific, the better.

For example, if the author writes historical romances, then you can limit it to that. Better, is to even designate what type of historical (ie. Next historical erotic romance, next historical paranormal romance, next regency-set historical romance).

Specifics is key.

In fantasy, you can have the option be “for the next fantasy work in this series.” Next epic fantasy. Next Urban fantasy, next dark horror fantasy.

Get creative.

For nonfiction, you can limit it to the next self-help nonfiction work appropriate for XYZ line.

Another good thing to remember is to put the word “adult” in front of certain unclear categories such as “adult chick lit.”

This is super important if you have an author that’s branching out into young adult, middle-grade, or children’s and as an agent, you need to manage both sides of the career.

You can also add “writing under the author’s own name” or “XYZ pseudonym.”

Limited option clauses are imperative for authors who want to write for several houses, in different genres, or for two different markets—like adult vs. children’s.

Another tricky clause to be on the look out for is the non-compete clause.

Publishing houses like to insert that little bad boy in there and often it will read something like this: “this work will be the next published work by the author and the author will not allow any other work to be published until six months after publication of the final book in this contract.”

And this is a loose paraphrase since I don’t have a contract in front of me.

Well, that can get darn complicated if the author is writing in various genres for various houses.

An important clause to really dig in and change.

Okay. My brain is done for the day.

Monday, July 17, 2006

New York State of Mind

STATUS: It’s really late here in New York and I have to say I’m a little tired so I’ll make this short.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? Poor little iPod is lonely in Denver

And yes, I’ll get back to Agenting 101—hopefully tomorrow—but right now my brain is too tired to concentrate on explaining option clauses.

I did, however, go to a lovely dinner with St. Martin’s editor Nichole Argyres at Ocean Grill on Columbus Ave. on the Upper West Side.

Of course we got to talking about women’s fiction (as we are wont to do).

Needless to say, we are both big Jodi Picoult lovers and if I could find a new writer that had the same level of mastery in terms of characters and emotional intensity, I would snatch that person up (as would Nichole if I sent her such a submission).

We both agreed that what we’d been seeing way too much of is this tired storyline: woman in her early 40s gets a divorce (and her husband invariably has found a younger woman—as if 43 is old or something) and then must discover who she really is. Usually two kids are involved.

I know this is an important event that women in their 40s often face but darn if I have trouble suppressing a yawn when I read queries for this plot scenario or even if I see sample pages.

Rarely is the material handled in a fresh or engaging way. The tone is usually serious and full of angst (and basically overly dramatic).

I want a women’s fiction novel that grabs a hold, forces me to keep reading, and won’t let go until I finish. It has that level of emotional realism and intensity. I feel that way about every Jodi Picoult book I’ve read.

When I find a debut from a new writer that does the same, I’d sign that person tomorrow.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Agenting 101 (Bonus Clarification)

STATUS: I have to say that the next two weeks are going to be silly hectic—with my trip to New York and then RWA in Atlanta back to back, blogging might be sporadic or really late at night.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? LEVON by Elton John

I just realized (after reading the comments section a couple posts back) that I actually never defined what a bonus was. I just listed the types that are common in publishing contracts and explained the two points of view about them.

Yep, a good example of knowing my topic so well that I’ve forgotten that others probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

And yes, sad but true, I was a college teacher back in the mid-90s and should know better.

My excuse is that I’ve been out of the classroom (except for the workshops I give at conferences etc.) for a good ten-plus years.

So let me define what a bonus clause is for an author.

A bonus is an outlined stipulation for the Publisher to pay the author an advance sum beyond the original advance negotiated when certain parameters have been triggered.

A general world example: you’ve heard of athletes getting a “signing bonus” when the contract is signed and if Colorado is like other states, the nursing shortage often means that nurses get a “signing bonus” when coming aboard. Also, athletes can get a “performance bonus” if they throw X number of touchdowns in a year or reach a certain RBI level (and folks, I have no clue what the bonuses are in the sports world so I’m just making this up but you get the picture).

Well, authors don’t really get a signing bonus but a performance bonus is definitely a similar idea.

An author might have a $15,000 advance for one book, original trade paperback. Then there can be a clause in the contract that if the work ships more than 25,000 copies in a 12-month period, the publisher will pay the author an extra advance of $5000.00 (or whatever).

This is 5k above and beyond the original 15k that was negotiated (and before the account has “earned out” in royalties the $15,000 that the publisher has already paid).

It’s an extra advance that the author will now earn out but is likely to because if the bonus clause was triggered, the book is doing well.


Probably not but I’ll keep muddling along. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Agenting 101 (Hiatus)

STATUS: Crazy day. I sent out a project on Monday and got an offer today. Love that.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? VOLCANO by Jimmy Buffett

I’m really sorry. I literally have to be somewhere in 10 minutes and there’s not quite enough time to blog.

I know you are dying to hear about the option clause.

A little teaser.

The publisher wants the option clause to be as broad as possible.

An agent and author want the option clause to be as narrow as possible.

Of course!

Until tomorrow.

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
Bestseller list appearances
Hardcover bonus

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.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Agenting 101 (Royalties--part six--continued)

STATUS: Busy. Busy. And then I was busy. I’m trying to get submissions out and finalize everything for my trip to New York next week.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? TIME The Alan Parsons Project

I’m talking about royalties, right?

Okay. Dig right in. I’m not going to go into details on these but you will have royalty clauses in your contract for all kinds of specialty things—like on copies sold for export to third parties. Mail order and direct response. Special discount sales. Copies sold to book clubs. Remainder-in-Place.

And then there is a whole clause on when the Publisher won’t give you a royalty such as on damaged copies or for the blind or for promotional use.

Royalties based on Cover price will look like this:

From yesterday, Hardcover:
10% to 5000
12.5% 5001-10,000
15% thereafter

Unless you are Stephen, Nora, or John. Chances are good you’ll have some better royalty percentages.

Trade Paperback is usually 7.5% flat rate but if you can get an escalation to 10% after 25,000 or 30,000 copies, great!

Mass Market
8% to 150,000 copies
10% thereafter

There are still some houses trying to squeeze a 6% royalty (and I’ve even heard of lower) but that’s so not standard so don’t let them convince you otherwise.

Standard Subsidiary rights splits:
They are usually 50/50 with these exceptions:
90/10 first serial (and, for clarification, the first number before the slash is to the author)
80/20 UK
75/25 Translation
66 2/3 Canadian

But as I mentioned before, I’ve seen all kinds of other splits and usually with the small or independent houses.

As you can tell, in contract negotiation, there is a lot of attention to detail. Random House also just revised their boilerplate contract and want to stick in a bunch of new clauses that aren’t particularly favorable to authors.

That’s why my contracts manager can be so valuable.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Agenting 101 (Royalties--part six)

STATUS: Today I was perky. How can I not be perky (isn’t that such a fun word?) when I get the news that Target has bought in for ONCE UPON STILETTOS. They are a hard market to capture so this is great news.

In fact, here’s a picture of STILETTOS on the Breakout End cap in West Hollywood. Go Shanna. And yes, I would love to fly to Hollywood and pop that baby up to the top shelf position.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? TUPELO HONEY by Van Morrison

Am I done yet with Agenting 101?

I have to say that I couldn’t really conjure up a whole lot of excitement to write about royalty structures and percentages. I mean, there are a million (okay, I’m exaggerating but it feels like a million) different royalty clauses in any given contract.

And it varies greatly if we are talking about the big publishers versus the small independents.

The biggest thing you need to know is that big Publishers calculate royalties from the list or cover price. Independent publishers (and smaller houses) often calculate royalties from net proceeds received (otherwise known as cash received).

Big, Big, very Big, and did I say Big, difference.

Calculating royalties based on Net isn’t bad or evil. It’s usually just because it’s easier accounting for the smaller house.

However, you have to figure out the equivalent of what a net royalty would be versus a royalty based on cover price.

Back to math.

Let’s say you have a hardcover book priced at $24.99 and the first 5000 copies are based on a 10% of cover price royalty.

This means, as the author, you would receive on your royalty statement (after you have earned out your advance of course), 10% of $24.99 which would be $2.49 for each book sold.

When a publisher operates on net proceeds received, then you, the author, would only get a royalty on what the publisher received after the discount.

For example, if the publisher sells the $24.99 hardcover to a distributor at a 40% discount, then you as the author would only be getting 10% of $15.00 (approximately—$24.99 - $9.98 = $15.01).

That would mean you would only be receiving $1.50 per book.

See the difference? Rather eye-opening.

So what you have to negotiate for is a royalty percentage that would be the equivalent of 10% of cover price.

That means if the upon net publisher is trying to get you to go for the standard:
10% to 5000 copies
12.5% to 10,000 copies
And 15% thereafter

They are getting a bargain.

In reality, if the publisher is operating on Net, you should ask for 16% (instead of 10%) for the first 5000 copies and then do the math from there on up. (Because 16% of $15 is $2.40 per book—pretty close on to the cover price royalty calculation.)

Need I say that most small publishers are quite reluctant to give that high a percentage?

More on royalties tomorrow.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Agenting 101 (Payout--part five--comments)

STATUS: There’s only enough time to do Payout comments on the blog today because I’m off to a wedding in Vail, Colorado. You know you are getting old when you stop going to weddings of your friends and start attending weddings of your friends’ children. Yikes.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? DRIVER 8 by R.E.M

I normally don’t answer questions on this blog (as you well know) and I’m not actually answering questions today but a couple of commenters raised some good points in the comment section and I wanted to add some thoughts.

A Payout schedule (of either 1/2 or 1/3) should not change—even with a multi-book deal. So fight for a fair split.

For example, let’s say we have a two book deal and we are doing payments in thirds at 15,000 per book.

Payout would look like this:

10k on signing (allocated 5k to book 1 and 5k to book 2)
5k on delivery of book 1
5k on acceptance of book 1

5k on delivery of book 2
5k on acceptance of book 2

That’s 30k total and only 5 payments. So, fight if the publisher is trying to space out the money in tiny increments.

And if a publisher insists on a payment upon publication, I always minimize the amount of money for that final payment.

For example, in this above scenario, I would weight the money forward so only 1k would be on publication (if I can swing it).

It would look like this:

14k on signing (allocated 7k to book 1 and 7k to book 2)
7k on d&a of book 1
1k on publication of book 1

7k on d&a of book 2
1k on publication of book 2

And here’s another thing I forgot yesterday. When you have an “upon pub” payment, you need to specify a “no later than” clause.

In the contract, it will read something like this:
$1000.00 on Publisher’s initial publication of the work

And you need to add these very important words, “but no later than 12 months following the acceptance of the manuscript.”

That way there is no excessive waiting for your payment if publication is delayed (not to mention there should be a concrete specified time frame in the contract for the Publisher to publish your work (as in within 12, 18, or 24 months from signing) and if they don’t, it’s breach of contract.

Off to the wedding. Have a great weekend.

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.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Agenting 101 (Advance--part four)

STATUS: Yuck. I hate when a Wednesday feels like a Monday. Always a pile of stuff to do when I’ve been frolicking for 4 days instead of working. Also, I have to be somewhere at 6 p.m. and I didn't get a chance to proofread. Sorry for typos etc.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? IF I EVER LOSE MY FAITH by Sting

Talking about advances is a loaded topic. I know all of you out in blogworld are screaming, “show me the money” but honestly, advance monies really vary depending on the type of project, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, whether it’s romance, SF &F, or literary.

There’s just no unifying number range that I can give to y’all and say, “expect that much for your advance.”

So much of what is offered depends on how hot the project is and how many publishers are interested.

I’ve sold a debut YA title for a solid six figures and I’ve sold debut YA titles for the more standard advance (which is more likely to be between 10-25k).

All were from great writers. What made one worth lots of zeros and what made the others worth regular zeros?

Yep. No easy way to answer that question. It all depends on how hot the project.

There’s no hard, fast rule on what to expect for your advance when a publisher offers and an agent isn’t involved.

I’m going to give you a quick and dirty trick that will at least give you a general idea of what the editor should offer. This isn’t gospel though. Don’t be quoting back to me 6 months from now saying, “you said if I followed the silly thingie formula, I should expect to get offered XYZ.”

Advance monies depend on a lot of factors.

And I would strongly recommend that you start hanging out at and reading the deals on a regular basis. The site doesn’t post actual advance totals but will give you a general idea of the advance range.

Also, RWA is amazing about educating its members. So does SFWA and Sisters in Crime and places like Lighthouse Writers—who devote themselves to educating writers. If your project fits, join.

But I promised you a quick and dirty method. Here goes.

After the editor calls and has emailed you the deal points, you might ask for a bit more information. Ask for the format (as in, will it be hardcover, original trade paperback, or original mass market). Ask for the price point and ask for the estimated initial print run.

The editor had to run a P&L (profit and loss) statement and if you haven’t checked out Anne, the editor at TOR’s blog, do so right now. She actually has two blog posts where she literally breaks down how an editor does the P&L and decides what to offer for the project.

But back to a quick and dirty method.

Let’s say the project sold is a romance novel (because publishers offer all the time to unagented romance authors). It will be an original mass market (which tends to be standard). The price point will be $6.99 with an initial print run of 30,000 copies.

Royalty percentage is usually 8%.

Quick and Dirty Method (and yes, you must do a little math to get this)

What we are approximating here is how many copies do you need to sell to earn out your advance? When you get that number, you’ll probably have a really good idea what the editor will offer when she calls.

So, $6.99 x 30,000 copies is $209,700.00. 8% of that is $16,776.00.

Wait. They aren’t going to offer that.

Why? Because booksellers have discounts—and those can be anywhere from 20% to 6)%. You might even ask the editor what the average discount is.

Also, chances are good that the publisher might initially print 30,000 copies but most debut authors, on average, will sell-through anywhere between 50 to 90% of those 30,000 copies.

I know I said this was the quick and dirty method but hang in there with me.

Let’s pick 30% as the average discount. Let’s assume you are going to sell-through well or the publisher is optimistic and use 70% sell-through.

More than likely, your book will have a cover price of $6.99 (and yes your royalties should be based off of the cover price but that’s for a future blog—I’m just trying to get you to see what might be offered as the advance and hence this silly formula thingie).

At a 30% discount (which publishers are going to figure in on their P&L statements in a much more complicated formula than this), the book will be selling at around $4.99 (just to round up a little). With a 70% sell-through of around 21,000 copies…

Now you have $4.99 x 21,000 copies is $104,790.00. 8% of that is $8383.20.

Aha. The offer should be between $8 and 16k/ per book. (But if the project is a super sexy paranormal vampire romance and that’s selling like hot cakes, well, you should push for more. Knowing the market is part of this game as well.)

Of course, without an agent, they’ll probably low-ball you at first. Not to mention, some NYC publishers won’t offer this kind of money regardless of what the quick and dirty formula says (and if you join RWA, the members will tell you which publishers won’t offer above 5k no matter what).

Value of those organizations.

Like I said. This is just an approximation game you can play. I repeat. This isn’t gospel. This isn’t the truth. It’s just to give a ball park idea.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th Hiatus

STATUS: Off to play!

What song is playing on the iPod right now? WHO NEEDS LOVE LIKE THAT by Erasure

Have a Happy 4th!

Agenting 101 will recommence tomorrow.

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.


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.