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Thread: [Contest] Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

  1. #1
    Caught Somewhere in Time James M M Baldwin's Avatar
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    [Contest] Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

    Just out of curiosity. These are the royalties listed for ABNA contest. Of course there is a $25,000 advance toward royalties. But aside from that, would this be a good contract.

    "Hardcover royalties of 10% on the first 5000 units sold; 12 Ĺ% on the next 5000 units and 15% thereafter. Trade paperback royalties are 7 Ĺ% and mass market royalties are for 8% for the first 150,000 units sold and 10% thereafter."

    Just wondering.
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    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    These are standard commercial royalties.

    - Victoria

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    Caught Somewhere in Time James M M Baldwin's Avatar
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    This may be a bit brazen, but... Could an agent negotiate better royalties? I don't mean for the ABNA contest, but just in general.
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    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    For hardcover...probably not, though the agent could negotiate in a bonus to be paid if the book earns out within a year of publication. My agent always does this.

    For trade paper and mass market--maybe, but probably only if the author was already successful or as part of a frenzied bidding war, which doesn't happen all that often. It also depends on whether the publisher is publishing in that format only, or as part of a hard/soft deal. If you're doing a deal for trade paper only, you may be able to do better than 7.5%. A friend of mine, who has several bestsellers under her belt, got a hard/soft deal with 10% mass market royalties, bumping up to 11% after 100,000 copies sold.

    So, really, it's the usual answer to a publishing question: it all depends.

    - Victoria

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by victoriastrauss View Post
    These are standard commercial royalties.

    - Victoria
    These are standard for % of cover price, right?

    If the contract is about something other than cover price, it isn't standard, I think.

  6. #6
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamiehall View Post
    These are standard for % of cover price, right?

    If the contract is about something other than cover price, it isn't standard, I think.
    This is a really good point.

    Standard royalties are on percentage of COVER price, not of "wholesale" or "net" price. There are some publishers who either flat-out lie about this, saying "Of course we pay royalties only on net; that's what the big New York publishers do, too," or who try to finesse the whole issue.

    And there are some publishers who are quite honest and say "We're a small publisher and we can only promise royalties on net." Which, at least, makes the choice to the writers a clear one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by IceCreamEmpress View Post
    This is a really good point.

    Standard royalties are on percentage of COVER price, not of "wholesale" or "net" price. There are some publishers who either flat-out lie about this, saying "Of course we pay royalties only on net; that's what the big New York publishers do, too," or who try to finesse the whole issue.

    And there are some publishers who are quite honest and say "We're a small publisher and we can only promise royalties on net." Which, at least, makes the choice to the writers a clear one.
    Even small legitimate publishers will generally offer royalties based upon cover price, but smaller royalty percentages than the big boys. A big reason for this is that smaller publishers generally have to sell through book distributors, so they lose a percentage of the cover price to the distributor. But anything based upon something called "net" is very sticky because there are lots of ways to fudge what the "net" is. So a small publisher more usually would say, for example that the first 5,000 hardcovers get 8 percent royalty instead of 10 percent. At least if you agent is doing his/her job.

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    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    However, it's not unusual for smaller publishers to pay on net. So while it's far from ideal, it's not necessarily a red flag (although depending on other factors, it can be in some circumstances).

    - Victoria

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    practical experience, FTW twnkltoz's Avatar
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    Not all small publishers pay on net or small royalties on ASP. There are exceptions, so don't rule out small publishers out of hand!
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    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriastrauss View Post
    However, it's not unusual for smaller publishers to pay on net. So while it's far from ideal, it's not necessarily a red flag (although depending on other factors, it can be in some circumstances).
    Agreed. I think the potential red flag is in how they handle it. If they lie about what larger publishers do, they will lie about something else. If they're honest about why they do something that isn't the industry norm, that's a good sign of their willingness to be upfront in general.

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW twnkltoz's Avatar
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    Good point. Especially if they have a sound reason for it and will discuss it with you and treat you with respect while they do it.
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    Bored Fanatic Straka's Avatar
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    Wow looks like hardcover is the way to go. What determines a book's chance of being a hardcover?

    I'd imagine it includes potential popularity and the publisher's resources.
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    Quote Originally Posted by twnkltoz View Post
    Not all small publishers pay on net or small royalties on ASP. There are exceptions, so don't rule out small publishers out of hand!
    Absolutely. Many of the smaller publishers are more daring than the big boys in terms of publishing something a bit off the beaten path. Especially in genre fiction, the big imprints often tend to follow certain formulas as to what they think the public is looking for. That's why we get ten or fifteen Da Vinci Code lookalikes in the two or three years after it comes out. My own novel -- a crime novel that is in the place on the genre map where it says "Beyonde Here Be Dragones" -- is coming out indie, although a major German publisher will publish it in German because it appeals to the macabre German sense of humor.

    Generally, though, you will find that smaller publishers pay smaller royalties, at least for a first novel. They are under greater financial constraints than the big imprints, especially because selling via the book distributor channel is more expensive than selling direct to larger customers. But if the first novel is a success, and they want your second, they will probably at least try to match the large publishers in royalty percentages.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Straka View Post
    Wow looks like hardcover is the way to go. What determines a book's chance of being a hardcover?

    I'd imagine it includes potential popularity and the publisher's resources.
    Many imprints (or imprint divisions of large publishers) are strictly hardcover only. An example is William Morrow division of Harper Collins. If they pick up your novel, it comes out in hardcover. They also almost always pick up the right to sell the mass market paperback rights later. There is a split of the paperback rights if they sell them, often fifty-fifty between the imprint and the author.

  15. #15
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    I think Dutton is also hardcover, too.

    Tri

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    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dantem42 View Post
    Many imprints (or imprint divisions of large publishers) are strictly hardcover only. An example is William Morrow division of Harper Collins. If they pick up your novel, it comes out in hardcover. They also almost always pick up the right to sell the mass market paperback rights later. There is a split of the paperback rights if they sell them, often fifty-fifty between the imprint and the author.
    This was true a few decades ago, when most publishers were what we would think of nowadays as independents, and tended to specialize--i.e., they were hardcover houses or paperback houses. Hardcover houses would sell paperback rights the same way other subrights are sold--but a paperback sale was by no means guaranteed.

    These days, the big conglomerates--and also the larger independents--do everything in-house. So if they plan an initial hardcover release and want to reprint in paperback, they will offer a hard/soft deal, which may mean hardcover/trade paperback or hardcover/mass market, depending on genre and projected sales figures. Since the paperback rights are not being sold separately, but exploited by the same publisher (even if under a different imprint, as with Morrow), you get royalties, not an income split (hence the royalty language quoted in the post that began this thread). And since the publisher is doing it in-house, a paperback re-issue is more likely to happen.

    What determines whether a novel is initially released in hardcover? Market/genre, to some extent--you see more mass market paperback originals in SF/fantasy and romance than you do in other genres, for instance--and also things like prestige (it's fairly standard to issue literary novels in hardcover, though publishers are increasingly moving into trade paperback, which has more prestige than mass market but is cheaper than hardcover), authorial success (a genre author who has gotten increasing sales over several mass market paperbacks may be bumped up to hardcover), projected popularity (hardcovers are more expensive to produce, but they're more profitable for publishers, so if a book is expected to sell well, it's likely these days to go into hardcover). And many more factors that I'm not calling to mind at the moment.

    All of this is a big change from the past. Hardcover for genres like fantasy/sf and romance used to be rare--mass market was the standard. But mass market has lost a huge amount of ground over the past couple of decades (due in large part to the collapse of the traditional mass market distribution system) and books that once would have been issued as mass market originals are increasingly appearing as hardcovers or as trade paperback originals. Conversely, many publishers that once would automatically have issued books in hardcover--literary presses, for instance--are turning to trade paperback, as noted above.

    - Victoria

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    I think the hardcover divisions of the conglomerates often have a lot of autonomy; I've heard that the structure at William Morrow, for example, is that they still usually sell off the mass market paperback rights, even if it is to another division of Harper Collins. Supposedly the other divisions of Harper Collins are only on an equal footing with other publishers to bid for the rights; otherwise you could get a lot of ways where an internal "sale" is disadvantageous to the hardcover imprint, that is, it's "forced" to take the deal. Of course, I imagine they keep it in house when they can. And I imagine that other hardcover imprint divisions have less autonomy.

    The big restriction on these divisions of conglomerates I've heard is in bidding. I heard that for example Random House only allows one of its divisions to bid for a particular book at a time, so they don't end up bidding against each other and pushing the bids up themselves. I can't say for certain, because I never had that problem :-)

  18. #18
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dantem42 View Post
    I think the hardcover divisions of the conglomerates often have a lot of autonomy; I've heard that the structure at William Morrow, for example, is that they still usually sell off the mass market paperback rights, even if it is to another division of Harper Collins. Supposedly the other divisions of Harper Collins are only on an equal footing with other publishers to bid for the rights; otherwise you could get a lot of ways where an internal "sale" is disadvantageous to the hardcover imprint, that is, it's "forced" to take the deal. Of course, I imagine they keep it in house when they can. And I imagine that other hardcover imprint divisions have less autonomy.
    This is simply not true. A large publisher like Harper buys the right to publish in book form--which means in any format it chooses. The contract will make provision for all formats, from hardcover to electronic, even if the publisher doesn't plan to exploit them all. Smaller, specialist publishers may buy hardcover only or softcover only, and allow the author to retain whichever rights it doesn't want. But the big houses can do everything, so they want everything. And their divisions do not bid against one another for re-issue rights. It's all done in-house, even if under different imprints.

    (Why wouldn't it be possible, if you had a good agent, to negotiate to keep whatever rights the big publisher wasn't planning to use? For instance, if the publisher wanted to do mass market only, why couldn't you hold onto your hardcover rights? Two reasons--the publisher wouldn't want the competition; and if the book becomes successful, it wants the option to re-issue in a more profitable format. Also, even if you could overcome those hurdles, what other publisher, knowing that a large house was doing a mass market version, would be interested in issuing in another format? You're better off letting the book run its course, reverting the rights, and trying to re-sell.)

    I sold two books to the Eos imprint of Avon/Morrow in 1997, before Avon/Morrow was bought by HarperCollins. Even though those books were issued as mass market paperbacks, Eos (which at that time was under the Avon umbrella) bought hardcover and trade paperback rights as well; if the books had been published in either of those formats (which does sometimes happen if a book does well and is re-released), I would have gotten royalties. (I did retain a good number of subrights, though).

    I sold two more books to Eos in 1999, after the Avon/Morrow sale to Harper. For those books, I got a hard/soft deal, with initial issue in hardcover and re-issue in mass market paperback. Once again, Eos bought "the right to publish in book form," and the contract covered all print formats, including trade paper (they had to come back to re-negotiate when they decided to issue an electronic version). As it turned out, while the first book was re-issued in mass market, the second one was re-issued in trade paper. Eos is moving away from mass market, and it was felt that trade paper was more appropriate.

    Eos now falls under the Morrow umbrella. Some authors acquired by Eos are issued in hardcover with the Morrow imprint, and in softcover with the Eos imprint. Some are Eos/Eos. Some are Eos/HarperTorch. Some of the YA books acquired by Harper's children's imprints--which are part of an entirely different division of Harper--are issued under the Eos imprint.

    While imprint distinctions are important when you're submitting, they are largely illusions in the publication process. Having bought all rights, the publisher can put re-issues wherever it wants.
    The big restriction on these divisions of conglomerates I've heard is in bidding. I heard that for example Random House only allows one of its divisions to bid for a particular book at a time, so they don't end up bidding against each other and pushing the bids up themselves. I can't say for certain, because I never had that problem :-)
    It depends on the company, but generally it's not a good idea to approach more than one imprint within a division or group when you are trying to sell a manuscript. Here is Random House's structure. So if you approached Knopf, you wouldn't also approach Pantheon. But if Knopf rejected, you could then go to Bantam Dell.

    - Victoria
    Last edited by victoriastrauss; 01-17-2008 at 09:28 PM.

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    [Contest] Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition

    I don't know how to post this warning without coming off as someone seeking a pat on the back or other ego enhancing crap. The best I can do is tell my tale and hope you'll judge for yourself.

    I entered the Amazon Breakthough Novel Competition and made the first cut to the semi-finals with my novel, The Empty Empire. (You can check it out at www.amazon.com/abna, but I wonít guarantee how much longer my entry will be up for viewing). I was excited and thought maybe I had a shot. I sent emails to everyone I know asking friends and relatives alike to stop by and write a review. Making the cut to the finals will be based on reviews by Publisher's Weekly, Amazon's Top Reviewer and customer reviews, as well as full manuscript review by the judges.

    I soon learned people who have never made a purchase using Amazon's site were not only required to open a new account, but before reviewing an entrantís excerpt, they were required to make a purchase. Amazon customers could make a review by simply signing in. My son-in-law, one who has not done business with Amazon, enlightened me. To make sure he wasn't mistaken, I acted as a new customer, opened an account and tried to review...he was right, I was asked to make a purchase first.

    I have withdrawn from the competition and closed my accounts with Amazon. They didnít mention in their contest rules that novels entered could be used to garner a few million in sales from thousands of potential new customers. Even if those new customers only purchase one item, one time, Amazon makes millions off we the naÔve, would-be authors.

    I donít know, maybe itís me, but Iím tired of the shabby moral structure of big business today. Iím wore down to the nub watching ethics and common courtesy pushed deeper into the sewer day after day. Iím not here to advocate a boycott of Amazon, although I plan to do just that. I do suggest that those doing business with Amazon give some thought to this underhanded method of making more money and ask yourself if they need any of your hard earned cash. cf

  20. #20
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Amazon doesn't let anyone who doesn't have a customer history post reviews of any kind; I think that policy has been around for years, following some scandals where authors spammed their reviews with sockpuppet postings.

    I'm not sure why you think it's devious for Amazon to permit only customers to give reviews on entries in a contest that promised "customer reviews".

  21. #21
    matushka at large matdonna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IceCreamEmpress View Post
    Amazon doesn't let anyone who doesn't have a customer history post reviews of any kind; I think that policy has been around for years, following some scandals where authors spammed their reviews with sockpuppet postings.

    I'm not sure why you think it's devious for Amazon to permit only customers to give reviews on entries in a contest that promised "customer reviews".
    Thanks for posting this about the contest-- and you can have a pat on the back even if you weren't looking for one! ;-)

    I also got caught not with the contest but with the regular review process-- I was going to re-post a review I had published in a print journal, but then found I had to have made AMazon purchases. True, the book was by a friend of mine, but I have been up front about that, and I wouldn't have reviewed it if I didn't think it had merit. I appreciate the problem of people spamming the place with reviews of their own or friends' or family's stuff-- or in some cases maybe giving bad reviews to someone they have a grudge against. Don't know what the answer is.....myself, I always take Amazon reviews with a pinch of salt. If they are well-written and happen to speak to issues that resonate with me, and if there are similar reactions from several of the reviewers, then that might influence my decision to purchase a book.
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  22. #22
    practical experience, FTW rwam's Avatar
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    Well, just to play Devil's Advocate, consider this: One good thing about this is that it makes it harder for entrants to call everyone he/she knows to write reviews that stack the deck in his/her favor. In this contest, stacking the deck costs money, which, by its very nature, acts as a deterrent. So, really, I guess you could argue that this policy adds to the contest's legitimacy?

  23. #23
    Brian Boru brianm's Avatar
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    If I were you, I’d see if you could rescind your request to be withdrawn from the contest. The key words are “customer reviews” and this from the rules for the contest.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/custom...deId=200183240

    An account on Amazon.com is necessary to vote.
    I think it pretty clear that anyone wanting to review entries would need to be an existing Amazon customer. Additionally, Amazon customers are eligible for prizes by participating in the contest as a reviewer.
    Last edited by brianm; 02-07-2008 at 06:01 PM.
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    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Last edited by IceCreamEmpress; 02-07-2008 at 08:48 PM. Reason: Oh, never mind. ;)

  25. #25
    What? I have a title? Julie Worth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by captflash View Post
    I soon learned people who have never made a purchase using Amazon's site were not only required to open a new account, but before reviewing an entrant’s excerpt, they were required to make a purchase.
    This is one advantage of the Amazon contest over the those at Gather.com, which spawned fake accounts by the thousands.

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