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#1 ClarkLori

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 08:01 PM

Someone suggested I post this on the watercooler? But I can't find that... so here goes. :)

I do not have an agent. I submitted my manuscript to a small local publisher and she loved it. I am meeting with her next week to talk about publishing the book and she said she will have a sample contract for me at that time. Basically, it's a published book once we can come to and agree on the terms.

Which brings me to my next questions... How in the world do I know what is fair? I don't have a lawyer and really would rather not have to find one. But should I? Or are there some basic things to look for and/or to avoid during negotiating a contract?

Thanks everyone in advance.

#2 KrystenH

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 01:17 AM

Oh, wait, I think I saw you on the other site! Hello!

They were talking about Absolute Write Water Cooler (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/). This place is great also. If you go down to the 'Publishing and Networking" section and you might get some help with your question.

Sorry I can't be of specific help. I don't know much about contracts. That's why I'm trying to get an agent!
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#3 ClarkLori

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 08:47 AM

I tried to get an agent too... But found a local publisher in the process. So... Now I'm full of questions!

#4 mwsinclair

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 09:48 AM

I was at a workshop this past weekend (writeup to come ASAP) and a question on contracts came up. Janet Reid said "Make sure you have an exit clause." Basically, it should specify how you can get out of the contract. Nota Bene: she was referencing a contract with an agent, not with a publisher. But I think knowing how you can make sure you don't become an indentured servant beholden to one publisher is a good thing. The publisher would be footing the bill on the books and distribution, I'd expect. But make sure the contract doesn't put the onus all on you.

I am not a lawyer, and I suspect even the lawyers who are here will be very careful with what they say, since you're not a client, but read any contract very carefully. What are they promising in the contract and what is not being addressed?

In my opinion, it might be worth querying an agent saying something along the lines of "I have an offer from a publisher..." There might not be enough money in it for them, so they may balk, but it seems worth considering.

#5 Peter Burton

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 10:31 AM

I would agree with all that MW has said, but would add:

Often as writers we become so enamored with a chance to publish we don't take the time to find out who we are really dealing with. Although I will say that I DO NOT know the publisher you are dealing with, and could be quite wrong, this business has more sharks than a tank at Sea World. (The problem is they do not look like sharks, until they bite you.)

Move slowly, and check her out. Predators and Editors is a pretty good place to start. http://www.pred-ed.com/

Writer Beware by the SFWA is another resource that can help. http://www.sfwa.org/.../writer-beware/

Again, I AM NOT saying this is the case, but don't let your desire to get published overrun your common sense.

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#6 RC Lewis

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 11:53 AM

A big thing to look for is how long it is until the rights revert to you, and under what circumstances this happens. I don't know exactly what's standard, but I've heard of some bad contracts where they've worded it to pretty much hold your rights hostage forever.
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#7 shawnrohrbach

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 01:56 PM

I will ask a few questions and answer only those you want, and only to your self if you want. 1) Did you get an advance? I always ask for one even if it sours the deal because the publisher will have to market your work to get back the advance giving you a better chance to see it more widely read. The advance does not have to be huge, just a statement they believe so much in the marketability of the book they are willing to put their checkbook up front. 2) As noted above, do you see a termination time frame or an exit clause? Typically my contracts run for three years and I am then free to find a new publisher for the work or re-negotiate the contract with the original publisher. 3) Are you being asked to front any of the editing and production costs? Most people give this type of contract a bum rap, but we are seeing more and more success stories from self and subsidy published authors. I have never paid anything up front, but that is not to say if the deal was right I would never consider it. It's entirely up to you. My caveat is, crunch the numbers and determine how many books you will have to sell to recover those up front costs before making any profit. 4) Do you have control of the subsidiary (screenplay, television, theater) rights? Do everything you can to retain those rights. 5) Will the publisher sell any portion of your book on line and does your royalty agreement cover those sales as well as print and e-books. I just walked away from a contract and returned the advance to a large publisher who started on line sales of portions of guide books and the authors do not receive any royalties on those sales. It was evident to me the downloads of portions of the book would be far greater than print sales. In closing, it is always a good idea if you do not have an agent to get an attorney to look at the contract and finally do not be afraid of walking away from a bad deal. Check out the web site Editors and Predators run by John Kremer and see if your publisher is listed there and what good things or bad things others have to say about them.
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#8 shawnrohrbach

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 02:30 PM

The only things I might add to my previous post in retrospect are these two questions. 1) Are you getting a number of free Advanced Readers Copies for distribution for pre-sales reviews and 2) Is the publisher planning a pre and post sales promotional effort. Budgets are very tight for everyone, but any effort to get your book into newspaper reviews, on the radio and into book stores for in-persons signings will not only boost sales of this book but will effectively start to brand you as a writer and hopefully you can get this effort spelled out in your contract.
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#9 ClarkLori

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 10:12 AM

Wow you guys! Thanks so much for all the advice. For some reason, these replies didn't come to me via email -- I thought I signed up for them to do that.
I tried to get an agent. In the process of searching for an agent, I came across Walrus Publishing in St. Louis. There is another Walrus out there, and they aren't so great... but they aren't in the United States. As I live about 30 miles away from this publisher and they are seeking both stories written about St. Louis (Fiction and non-) and by St. Louis authors, I went ahead and sent my manuscript via an online form in October... which was about the time I was extremely frustrated by the lack of response my query letter was drawing.

I didn't hear anything back until the same day I found out I'd made it thorugh the first round of the ABNA.

I'm trying to resist "settling" just so I can get my name in print. It would be so tempting to take just any old offer. At least for me.

Very good advice and I'm going to keep these things in mind when I meet with her next week.

Thanks again!

#10 thom71gt

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 08:25 AM

Get the contract and read it thoroughly and then spend a couple hundred bucks to have an attorney review for you and answer any of your questions. Money well spent in my opinion.
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#11 J.K. Hogan

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 09:30 AM

Get the contract and read it thoroughly and then spend a couple hundred bucks to have an attorney review for you and answer any of your questions. Money well spent in my opinion.


This! Also, I learned through my own experience that many agencies offer contract neg & consultation for a flat fee. One more thing to consider. Good luck!

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#12 Cat Woods

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 11:27 AM

Another thought: is there any mention of future works? These options clauses can trip up writers. For instance, does the publisher have the first option to accept or reject subsequent manuscripts? Regardless of genre? If so, how many and for how long? What happens to those works once they pass?

I think now you are in a perfect position to query agents. Let them know you have a contract offer and are looking for an agent to help you negotiate the deal.

Best luck~

PS. Some authors never get an agent and have long and succesful careers. It can be done. Just do so cautiously, so you don't lose out on your rights or royalties.

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