Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Writing for a packager

Thank you so much for your fabulous blog, which has been so informative! I'm also grateful to Reader Kristin for telling you that there's still a need, which there certainly is.

So on to my question. After a short story of mine was published, a book packager reached out to me to ask me to audition for a project by writing a short sample. If chosen, I'd be paid a flat fee up front to write about 75-100 pages, and then a percentage of the advance & royalties if the proposal was sold to a publisher. From my research, that all seems reasonable. This particular packager would like me to write under my name, which means I would have to call this my one and only debut if the project sold.

They did encourage me to personalize the characters, which is important as the whole reason I got into writing was to create representation for PoC like me. I'm still quite hesitant because it isn't *my* story and this would be my debut. On the other hand, I've been writing for quite a long while and this could be an opportunity to finally get my foot in the door of this competitive industry.

I know you can't decide those things for me, but here are some things I don't know.

1. Are agents interested in signing clients who have partnered with a book packager?
2. What happens after the debut? Would this limit my chance to write future books of my own choosing?
3. What would you tell a client in this situation?

1. Yes

2a I don't know. Much depends on the work, the success of the work etc.

2b It will NOT limit your ability to write future books IF the contract you sign with the book packager does not grant them an option on your next works.
There are some things to watch out for in the contract. You'll need advice on this before signing. Consult a book contract specialist. If you need names, let me know.


This is opportunity knocking.
Answer the door.


Steve Forti said...

See? I've been reading here for what? 12 years? And I never knew this packaging was a thing. Still plenty for all of us to learn! (Not to mention the community itself, of course.)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Like Steve, I had no idea that packaging was a thing. This blog never grows stale for me. I love it. Thanks for asking the question, OP and good luck.

Kitty said...

What is a book packager?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I have been busy with little ones of late and have been drifting a few swells away from the reef.
So I caught up.
God bless Kristin.
You must not go dark my dear.
You must not.
You teach, we learn and we all rise.
Sharks swim constantly. So must we all.

Okay back to packaging. Huh? Wha?
Slate ready in my one room schoolhouse.

Jill Warner said...

Oooooh! Congrats OP! This sounds like an exciting experience.

Pericula Ludus said...

Book packagers... one of those terms that I always pretend to completely understand as I nod my head sagely. So, ummm, don't tell anyone, but what does it all mean? Who does what? What's the process? How do the financials work? Basically, I'd like to read "Book Packagers for Dummies".
As for OP's conundrum... As far as I understand it, it's still your writing and all the details are yours, even though it's not your original idea. So that sounds pretty appealing to me, especially given the opportunity to personalise it and ensure good representation. Wouldn't that be an advantage in future queries? Like actually something to say in terms of publishing credits?

Claire Bobrow said...

First off, I am here to thank Kristin. THANK YOU, KRISTIN!!!
(How did I miss Sunday's post? Was I abducted by aliens?)

Second, I am here to say: "Open the Door!" (unless you're on GOT). And also, "What is a packager?"

InkStainedWench said...

I'm sure our sharkly muse can provide a detailed definition, but I can tell you what I know, having written several books for packagers.

In my experience, the packager made deals with publishers who needed to fill out their line in some way....say, How to Breed Sharks for Fun and Profit. Then the packager would seek out a writer to produce the book as a work-for-hire.

They approached me, having seen an article of mine in a magazine. They sold the proposal to the (nice big) publisher, and away we went.

I got my name on the cover, plus up-front money. No royalties or copyright.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

That sounds like a lot of what I did for work. Clients would hire me to research, write, edit, (and often shoot) a project. Sometimes a play or a music piece. My biggest hit (an audio tour of the White Mountains) has been translated into at least six languages, recorded and downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. If I had a dollar for each recording or download I'd be rich! I also did some documentaries in the same way.

Craig F said...

I think the neatest package book I have read was Songs for a Dying Earth. An homage to Jack Vance and that strange future archaic, quasi-poetic style he used I his original Dying Earth story.

It introduced me to several new writers and added a layer of wonder(for me)about the bigger names that anchored the thing. The versatility needed to write in that style was the source of that wonder.

Peter Taylor said...

My first book was contracted through a packager in 1987.

The packager knew that Allen and Unwin in Australia wanted a calligraphy book on their list. A friend who knew my skills recommended me to the packager. I wrote a sample which they showed to Allen and Unwin, who liked it, and I signed a contract with Allen and Unwin. (I wish I'd had an agent to negotiate it and I said 'yes' to everything.) When the text (208 pages handwritten in black and red calligraphy) and art were completed, and prior to printing, it was also sold to HarperCollins/Unwin Hyman in the UK who gave it a different title but used the same internals.

The packager took care of all the printing and delivered the books to Allen and Unwin and HaperCollins to be sold. There was a tight deadline for it to be ready for the Frankfurt Book Fair.

My name appeared on it, I have retained copyright, I received an up-front payment and a payment per copy printed in each reprint. I think it went to three reprints.

I signed for Allen and Unwin to have first option on any new work, but they allow it to be submitted concurrently to other publishers.

This book's been good for me, and I hope this project works well for you, too.

The Sleepy One said...

When I was a kid, I bought a used book about Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys--which talked about the TV show but also the creation of the books, which were developed by a book packager--and it's the only reason I know about book packaging.

Also, a number of teen-centric YA shows--Pretty Little Liars, Vampire Diaries, etc--were all born from book packagers. There are some interesting articles about Alloy Entertainment, who do a lot of work in the packaging field:

K. White said...

When I read this post my reaction was "Run away! It's a scam!"

I nearly dropped my phone when Janet said it was opportunity knocking.

After some research (strange that in 12 years of serious pursuit of traditional publication I've never heard of book packagers), it does sound an opportunity worth pursuing. OP, I hope you'll keep us updated if you decide to go this route.

AJ Blythe said...

Please tell me I am not the only one who immediately thought "shipping company for books".

I had no idea that was the term for that sort of thing - because I had heard of that sort of thing, but as part of a discussion so no name given to the process.

Sounds like a fab opportunity, OP. Go for it and good luck.

Kae Ridwyn said...

I'm with K. White. After reading and sometime-commenting for a few years now, I thought I knew how our QOTKU would respond. But no, add me to the list of people who are learning so, so, so much here - and also to the list of us who'd never heard of book packaging before.
Thanks for enlightening us, Janet - and congratulations, OP!

Peter Taylor said...

Book Packagers are also called Book Producers. You'll find a website for the American Book Producers Association with names of members, a more detailed description of producing/packaging and the kinds of books created. But there are other producers/packagers worldwide. Some don't advertise their existence, but you'll find their name among the legals or credits in published works. A few let you register your expertise in case a suitable project becomes available.

Mostly, the packager will already have written the proposal and pitched it to a publisher, or the publisher has told the packager what they want. It is unusual for a packager to accept ideas for books through pitches/proposals from authors/illustrators, but I have seen one that's willing to accept them, but I can't remember the name.

Originally, the packager I worked with (now closed down due to the owner's retirement) asked me to write a table of contents for a how-to book of 64 pages and the text and some illustrations for one or two chapters. When the publisher saw these, they changed their mind and wanted a complete bible of calligraphy - everything I knew that would be useful. I so wish an agent had negotiated the contract...