Ten Things to Know If You Go Commando
Writing the Region Seminar
Writing the Region Seminar
1. Don't sign anything without a publishing law specialist or publishing lawyer looking at it. If you need the name of a contracts review specialist, email me and I'll give you one.
Talk to authors who are published by the publisher. Particularly the authors on the back list.
Blog reader Pepper: One thing that would probably have helped is if I’d actually talked to authors who had been published through my first publisher. Don’t be afraid to ask for their experiences, though the newer the publisher, the less likely anything truly useful will come of it, because the publisher won’t have had time to make blatant mistakes yet, or the authors won’t have had time to realize they’re in trouble yet.
2. Buy and use Kirsch's Guide to the Book Contract
Acrobat Books (December 1998)
Know what's negotiable and what's not:
From blog reader Lynn: we’ve seen authors ask for some pretty ridiculous things that aren’t contract standard – like the time the author requested we would buy her a copy of Microsoft Word so we could perform our edits on her manuscript. If we declined to put that in the contract, she was going to walk.
3. A contracts lawyer is not in your best interest.
Publishing contracts, and publishing law are specialties.
4. Separate business and editorial calls/emails.
Keep all copies of your business emails. Keep notes on your business phone calls. You'll need them if you have to reconstruct or verify terms of the contract.
Blog reader Ryan: "Going commando" is as difficult as it is rewarding. Last month I found out by accident I was published in a book released in April, but they'd never sent a contract and I hadn't received a check or copies of the book. I knew I'd submitted to them, but after not hearing back I thought they'd passed and I didn't give it second thought. So I had to contact the editor and fix things...no big deal and now I have an even better relationship with the editor; he was mortified. And the book was featured in the ISO BOMC and it's received great reviews, so I'm glad I'm in it even if I got paid late.
5. Doing foreign rights on your own
A. Who controls the rights/how long-this is negotiable in the contract
B. How to find foreign agents-Publishers Marketplace. You query them like you do US agents. Most are fluent in English.
6. Managing film rights on your own
A. Don't EVER license the film rights to the publisher
B. Get a film agent-there's a directory of them.
C. Don't give your film rights away for nothing (production companies call and ask for this all the time)
7. Checklist for royalty statements
Make sure you mark your calendar for when royalty statements are due and follow up if they are not received.
A. Books printed, books shipped, books returned, royalty rate
B. Reserve for returns
C. Accounting periods
D. The evil that is "joint accounting"
From a blog reader: "In the late 90s / early 2000s, I published a number of technical books with Pearson PTR. The first 3 sold well, the 4th one did not. I really, really, really wish I'd understood that they were going to apply the earnings of books 1, 2, and 3 to pay back the advance on book 4 in the event that book 4 didn't earn out. I ended up doing that on basically for free. Ouch. "
8. What happens when you don't get paid.
A. Be pleasantly persistent
B. Take amount owed in books (and not at full retail value)
C. Contact Amazon to have book removed from sale
9. What to do if you don't get paid correctly
Marcum & Kliegman LLP
10. Know you're going to be doing a lot yourself.
One of the advantages of being published even without an agent:
Sandra: I discovered how editors treat my work, and they were vastly different. In the editing process, I learned to keep a sharp eye for mistakes and how to use diplomacy when dealing with editors who did a hatchet job on my work.
I consider this stage in my writing career to be a growth stage. Some of my writer friends hit the ground running, finding success right out of the gate. I'm simply taking baby steps, sniffing the air and making friends along the way. As long as my writing brings a smile or a tear
to a single face, I consider myself a success. Certainly not a financial success, since my last quarterly statement showed a grand total of $1.32.
Thanks to the many of you who emailed with your experiences and "what I wish I'd known" comments. They were all very helpful!