Monday, December 11, 2017

The option clause

I'm the author of a series of six novels. The company that publishes the books offers a small advance and I've made only enough to cover the costs for me to attend a conference in my field once a year. Income does not seem to be increasing, just declining as the books go along.

The publisher has an option on my next work with these characters. I'd rather get out of that option so that I can write another book in the series, if and when I feel like it, and self-publish it as an e-book, thus satisfying my fans, who keep asking about the next book.

I've been considering talking to my agent about this but wonder what would be in it for him? I mean he only makes money if I make money and obviously this cuts him out of the loop. On the other hand, neither he or the publishing company are making much money on my books.

Don't worry about what your agent wants. If this is what you want to do, talk to him about this. He'll explain that self-publishing isn't as much fun or as easy as you may think.

He can also get you out of your option with some cleverness that only agents know how to do.

The question he'll ask is do you want to write another book, and have it NOT go to your current publisher. Because the option is limited ("with these characters") you can write something new that won't be covered by the current option.

Publishers are generally reluctant to let go of options because they want to reap the reward if one of the books suddenly earns a lot of money (think film here.)

If you let the books go out of print, you can get the option cancelled pretty easily.

This is something to discuss with your agent and NOT with your author buddies. The last thing you want is for your publisher to get wind of this before you're prepared to discuss exactly what you want to do.


Kathy Joyce said...

OP, Wow! Six novels, impressive! I'm curious if the lackluster sales are more recent. Like, maybe the series has run its course. In that case, maybe the agent and publisher might both be willing to let the option go, and try something new. I like Janet's advice to discuss with your agent. Maybe s/he is trying to find the right words to have the same discussion with you! Good luck.

Julie Weathers said...

My two cents, but I wonder if sales are declining as the books go along why the OP thinks self-publishing is going to be any better. It will be worse. Yes, you'll get a larger percentage of what does sell, but still--I get that scene from Firefly going through my head where Jayne is doing the math. "Ten percent of nothing is nothing, carry the nought..."

It seems to me the problem may lie with the actual series. Yes, you have some fans who want to know when the next one will be out. That's great. It might be time to move on to something new, though.

Julie Weathers said...

"Publishers are generally reluctant to let go of options because they want to reap the reward if one of the books suddenly earns a lot of money (think film here.)"

I know this is really putting the cart before the horse, but should a person discuss this with an agent before they sign if they have no interest in having their book made into a film?

Julie Weathers said...

Dear Lord, I hope everyone in NY is all right.

Sarah said...

Yes! Just saw the news...

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Once again, I'm humbled by the courage and spirit of the people of New York. Thank God that no one was killed and the terrorist was caught quickly.

Maybe this is my lack of experience talking, but if OP's goal is to get the next book to the readers who're asking for it, why do they need out of the option? Doesn't it usually mean the published can choose whether to publish it, and if they decide against it, the author can pursue other options?

On a second read-through, it looks more like a money problem. If that's the case, surely the agent is the right person to ask about it. Oh, these dark and confusing waters!

AJ Blythe said...

Just caught a headline on the morning news (it's 8.15am here) on NY. From what I understand it's amazing it wasn't worse.

Are the books earning out the advance? If not, then surely getting the (albeit small) advance is better than selling to the same fans via self-publishing, which also requires all the extra time and costs to go with it (editing, cover, marketing etc)?

John Davis Frain said...

The option clause

I stood in line at the mall for three hours tonight to get my picture taken with the option clause. Holidays are hard.

I'd have a discussion with my agent, but I don't know where to begin. Oh, right, the query. Writing is hard, too.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

A question for Opie: what is your publisher not doing that you think you can do better by indie publishing?

Have you gone indie before?

What is your seventh book?

How many more books are you looking forward to in your career?

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