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saf1367
04-30-2008, 11:05 PM
I've been offered a publishing contract with a major legal publisher. As a first-time author, I'm not certain how to negotiate the contract because I'm not familiar with industry standards. The book is a niche legal publication that will be marketed to legal classrooms and the professional market.

I've been offered a $2,000 advance and $1,000 grant. Is this ridiculously low? I'd never heard of a grant before but it is a one-time payment that does not offset royalty payments.

I've been offered tiered royalties based on net receipts. The royalties start at 12% and progress to 15%, based on number of books sold. Should I negotiate these terms or be satisfied with what they've offered? The book will retail for around $40. I'm not happy with royalties on net receipts but I'm told that the publisher will not budge on this issue.

I've also heard that you can research a publisher's past advances and royalties. Where would I find this information?

Thanks for any advice you can offer!

gdaniel
05-02-2008, 04:02 AM
Textbook publishing offers much lower advances, traditionally, than trade book publishing, and grants also are fairly common in textbook publishing. Royalties on net receipts are also common, but I would try to push back a bit and get them a few points higher if possible. You aren't going to find a particular publisher's past advances anywhere (I'm an agent and should know). Congrats on the offer!

saf1367
05-02-2008, 05:09 PM
Thanks for the info gdaniel. I wasn't aware of those differences between textbook and tradebook publishing.

aka eraser
05-02-2008, 05:55 PM
I know nothing about textbook publishing but one of the things I negotiated in my contract was the level at which the higher royalties kicked in. I had the thresholds lowered.

I'd like to see Medievalist or someone else who's published in the scholarly field chime in on this.

Don't sign for at least a few days. Hopefully, more brains will be along to be picked.

jennontheisland
05-02-2008, 06:00 PM
Have you had a lawyer look at the contract? I know cash is what most people look at first with a contract, but it's worth the money to have someone familiar with the laws that govern this kind of contract check the rest of it.

scope
05-03-2008, 04:32 AM
I fully agree with gdaniel, and would only add that you don't do anything that in the remotest degree might jeopardize the offer.

You are a first time writer and the most important thing is that you get published. From that point on you have something significant to put in your queries and proposals, and will have established an audience and genre you can refer to. All of this is worth its weight in gold.

Coming from an educational publisher, the offer you received as a first timer is decent. Of course try to get a bit more, but be gentle. Get Published.

Medievalist
05-04-2008, 11:11 PM
That sounds odd to me, especially the royalties on net part. I'd want to look closely at the contract, get the publisher's definition, preferably in writing, of what "net receipts" means--including the various discounts they give to booksellers.

I'd also want to look closely at exactly what rights you are giving the publisher--do they include electronic rights, for example? Legal publishers frequently do include them, without pointing that out to the author.

If you've got a contract offer in hand, it's pretty easy to find an agent--I don't know one who does legal publishing, though. You might try the Waterside agency, to see if they're interested.

I'd also be very cautious about how you respond to the publisher--you don't want to be seen as antagonistic, but you might explain that you're new to all this and have some questions.

But do get yourself a reputable agent--one who will readily give you names of current clients and lists of currently available books they agented.

Sheryl Nantus
05-05-2008, 01:41 AM
for GOD'S sake, don't go on the net!!!

I just discovered that my $12.95 book only gives me a royaltiy of $0.63 cents when it's sold through Ingram's after everyone else takes their cut...

DON'T DO IT!!!

:(

saf1367
05-05-2008, 05:39 AM
Thanks for all of the advice. I have not had a lawyer review the contract although I am seriously considering it.

In terms of net receipts, the publisher claims that the majority of the books would be sold to legal bookstores and professional associations at full price. Maybe they are just telling me this to get me to sign.

They also want all rights. The copyright would be registered in the publisher's name not mine. They won't budge on this issue. Although I am not happy with this provision, I am inclined to take Scope's advice and take this offer just to get the publishing credit.

Another newbie question: Medievalist, since I already have a contract, what could an agent offer other than help with contract negotiation?

Medievalist
05-05-2008, 05:52 AM
They also want all rights. The copyright would be registered in the publisher's name not mine. They won't budge on this issue. Although I am not happy with this provision, I am inclined to take Scope's advice and take this offer just to get the publishing credit.

I'd run far far away. If it were me, I'd think that there are other publishers; if one wants the book, another will too. There are lots of ways to get publishing credits that don't involve giving away rights. This is a work-for-hire contract, and given the potential market, I don't know that it's in your best interests to sign. I'd think really really hard.


Another newbie question: Medievalist, since I already have a contract, what could an agent offer other than help with contract negotiation?

Get a better deal, make sure you only sell first time publication rights, that you keep copyright, and that you're benefitting from your work--which is as it should be.

scope
05-05-2008, 07:26 AM
I really think you have to trust you gut on this one. Only you know the publisher and what they are capable of doing with your book. There are many things which only you can and shoud take into consideration. I do think it's worth the money to have an intellectual rights attorney go over the contract for loopholes and to give advice.

I can't disagree with anything said by Medievalist, however there are always extenuating circumstances and situations. Take me. The first book I wrote I sold ALL rights in any way shape and form to a very major publisher. I knew what I was doing and exacted a ridiculously high guaranteed dollar advance and very generous royalty rates on anything they sold in any form and in all markets. The book went on to sell millions of copies and was translated into over 40 languages and sold throughout the world. It stayed in print for 35 years. Go figure!

My only point is that every case is different, and sometimes what looks very wrong may be very right. I don't know about your situation, and only you can measure all the variables.

Good luck.

susangpyp
05-10-2008, 04:39 AM
If you go with a "net" price on royalties, agree to a floor price, meaning not less than $x. You can state it as "net price" or "x" (your floor price) , whichever is higher.

saf1367
05-13-2008, 12:17 AM
If you go with a "net" price on royalties, agree to a floor price, meaning not less than $x. You can state it as "net price" or "x" (your floor price) , whichever is higher.

How do I determine an appropriate floor price? The book will retail at approximately $40.00.

The publisher has agreed to raise the proposed royalties, quadriple my grant monies and make a few other significant concessions which makes me believe they may agree to a floor price. However, I don't want to be too aggressive.

Triomferus
05-14-2008, 08:58 AM
I just wanted to A) bump this for saf1367, and B) thank everyone who posted their piece. This thread is worth its weight in gold.

saf1367
06-04-2008, 10:09 PM
Thanks for the words of wisdom. After negotiating my first contract I have the following advice:

1. Consult an experienced contracts attorney.

I took the advice here and had a lawyer review the contract. She brought up some good negotiating points I would not have thought of (and I'm a lawyer myself). I would advise anyone considering a publication contract to have it reviewed by experienced legal counsel, especially if you don't have an agent.

2. Aim high.

Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. Surprisingly, the publisher agreed to most of my proposed revisions and made several signicant concessions.

LC123
06-15-2008, 02:56 AM
What were the negotiating points that your lawyer brought up and that you had changed? I'm a textbook author too, and your original offer is similar to what mine was. I was encouraged by the publisher to have a lawyer review the contract, but I didn't, as I didn't think it was necessary and was satisfied with what I got.

I still am satisfied (absent being told how much better your negotiated contract is, lol), as they're doing an amazing job of selling it. But I'm shopping another book now and am wondering if I should have done something different.

LC123
06-15-2008, 03:08 AM
<< I'd run far far away. If it were me, I'd think that there are other publishers; if one wants the book, another will too. There are lots of ways to get publishing credits that don't involve giving away rights. >>

I'm sure this is a really stupid question, but what do you mean, don't give away rights? I gave all rights to my publisher. What would I do with them? My book is an expensive, heavily illustrated, four-color that is marketed mostly to colleges for a "101" class. If the publisher weren't marketing it, I sure wouldn't be.

LC123
06-15-2008, 03:18 AM
I just pulled out my contract. Should I have negotiated this more? How badly does this suck? :( FWIW, it's a major NY house. I trusted (and still do) that they would deal square with me.

Royalties are based on net receipts, 10% of the first 2,500 units sold, 12% for the next 2,500 units sold, and 15% for all sales over 5,000 units.

Net receipts are described as: "gross receipts by the Publisher from all sales less any itemized taxes, interest, finance charges, insurance, packing, shipping and transportation costs and less any credits or refunds for returns and any credits, rebates, bad debts, value added taxes, discounts and promotional allowances to customers."

scope
06-15-2008, 03:54 AM
I'm not a lawyer, and I wouldn't suggest that your contract is good, bad, or below average. However, from my layman's read the resultant dollar amount on which you'll be paid seems to give them license to deduct pretty much whatever they wish from the gross. How could you know what they are including in "....less any itemized taxes, interest, finance charges, insurance, packing, shipping and transportation costs and less any credits or refunds for returns and any credits, rebates, bad debts, value added taxes, discounts and promotional allowances to customers."

LC123
06-15-2008, 04:28 AM
You are right, it does give them license to deduct anything. Is that not a standard clause? Is it something everyone else takes a pen to, or asks for the aforementioned floor to help combat it?

happyslob
06-26-2008, 11:13 PM
So glad I found this thread, because I'm involved in negotiations right now, too!

LC123
06-26-2008, 11:18 PM
So glad I found this thread, because I'm involved in negotiations right now, too!

Well, don't be too glad, because it's been largely ignored, lol.

Looks like I may be back into negotiating myself. Last week I sent queries out for another textbook and I just got an email today from an editor at a major house wanting to discuss it.

How much loyalty do you all have to your current houses? Do you give them an advantage or do you negotiate anew with everyone equally?

Dantes
06-27-2008, 05:20 AM
How about bringing in an agent at this point? Lots of times agents are contacted only after a contract is on the table. It's easy money for them and might be a smart move for you, sort of like telling an interrogating officer that you're not going to talk without a lawyer present.

An agent might know of some other publishers that could be interested and then maybe drive an auction. That's when the advance goes from dirt-bottom to something decent. If the publisher already quadrupled your grant, etc., it sounds like you have a marketable product and were clearly low-balled. An agent would recognize it immediately.

Good luck and congrats.

LC123
06-27-2008, 06:12 AM
How does one find an agent, and what do they charge? Looks like I'll be bringing a publisher to the table soon. I've never used an agent before, despite having two other books published. Would the benefit really outweigh the charge? A large advance is not an issue to me because I'll eventually get that money via earnings anyhow (at least, historically I have). The grant would be more of an issue to me. Would going with an IP lawyer be just as good an option?

scope
06-27-2008, 08:02 AM
Having had two published books to your credit, you must know that an agent would be desirable for a published author. For many reasons. However, you may have a bit of a problem since agents don't want to handle writers in the educational market. Rarely do educational publishers offer any advances, and their royalty percentages are relatively low. Of course there are exceptions. Some educational books sell in huge quantity and make up for this. That leads me to ask you something I find puzzling. I'm not questioning what you said, only confirming that I understand you correctly. You say that you're getting 10% to 15% royalties from an educational textbook publisher, is that right? If so, those royalty percentages are tremendous. Normal is about 5% or so.

LC123
06-27-2008, 04:36 PM
That leads me to ask you something I find puzzling. I'm not questioning what you said, only confirming that I understand you correctly. You say that you're getting 10% to 15% royalties from an educational textbook publisher, is that right? If so, those royalty percentages are tremendous. Normal is about 5% or so.

Scope, I don't know what you're talking about. Here's an excerpt from my contract:

http://i222.photobucket.com/albums/dd118/1820magnolialane/royalties.jpg

It is standard, as you can see. Even the guy who started this thread said he got a similar royalty (in fact, his was higher). My book is selling domestically and overseas. In fact, I even got a royalty check already, for two weeks of sales (it was released two weeks before the year's end), and it was in the low four figures. Do you want me to scan that too, lol.


Yes, my advance was very low, as was my grant. The advance is a "who cares" for me, but the grant isn't. This is what I'm hoping to change. If you say agents aren't interested, fine, I guess I should see a lawyer instead, like the guy who started this thread. Yes, I have published before, but I know next to nothing about the business. I have a day job and writing is just a hobby for me. I was wondering if what I'd be charged would negate the benefit they'd get for me. Guess I just have to make some calls and find out.

scope
06-27-2008, 07:27 PM
I understand that the grant is your primary concern and that you are trying to increase it. Also, that the advance means nothing to you. However, do you intend to ignore the 10% to 15% royalty on net, when there seem to be no clarification as to what all the other charges they list mean? Without knowing what these charges will be, how can you figure out if they might negate the additional grant benefit they might give you?

On the other hand, perhaps I just don't understand the entire matter. f so, I apologize.

LC123
06-27-2008, 08:59 PM
do you intend to ignore the 10% to 15% royalty on net, when there seem to be no clarification as to what all the other charges they list mean? Without knowing what these charges will be, how can you figure out if they might negate the additional grant benefit they might give you?

I was responding to your claim that the royalty I described was non-standard for textbooks. As far as I know, it IS standard, and I took the contract as offered. I only began second-guessing it after reading the OP in this thread.

I asked about the other charges in an earlier post, but no one responded. I have no idea if that net charges paragraph is fair or not, and wondered what others do when confronted with it. I take it you've never seen it before?

I also wondered what agents charge and if that charge would negate any benefit they'd bring to this standard contract. The OP posted that his lawyer negotiated better terms. So it sounds like that's the route to go, esp. since you said agents aren't interested in educational texts. I guess I need to google some IP lawyers. I don't know any.

All three publishers I queried last week have responded. So I was just hoping for some feedback. But I guess the drug dealer thread above this one is more interesting, lol.

escritora
06-27-2008, 09:19 PM
LC123,

I write nonfiction and my agent take is 15% - that includes the advance and for each book that is sold.

Like you, I sure hoped the OP would respond to your questions, but he fell off the planet. ::smile::

Would appreciate it if you would come back to this thread and report your results.

LC123
06-27-2008, 11:39 PM
LC123,

I write nonfiction and my agent take is 15% - that includes the advance and for each book that is sold.

Like you, I sure hoped the OP would respond to your questions, but he fell off the planet. ::smile::

Would appreciate it if you would come back to this thread and report your results.

Escritora, doe you mean 15% of your annual royalties? That seems like a lot to me, but what do I know.

Anyhow, I can report results right now. An editor from one of the oldest, biggest, most prestigious publishers (textbook and regular books) in the country just called me. We spoke for an hour. He does not deal with agents and will not talk to me if I'm agented or talking to other publishers. None of his authors are agented (he says). Because this house is who it is, I'll roll with it, even though I'm kind of uncomfortable cancelling my phone dates with the other two publishers. He's going to send me formal proposal materials. We discussed lots of things over the phone, and assuming he can put the book out as I want it and I can get the kind of grant money I want (he has to discuss it w/ his people), my impression is that we're both "there."

For those who ask if they need a finished manuscript to sell a book, all I can say is that I currently have an outline, a preface and some fairy dust. He was cool with it and just wanted to know when I'd have it done.

escritora
06-28-2008, 12:16 AM
10%-20% is standard. Here's a link that may help you: http://www.agentquery.com/writer_la.aspx

Keep in mind that I write practical nonfiction (how-to books) and text books are a different animal.

talkwrite
06-28-2008, 12:50 AM
Anyhow, I can report results right now. An editor from one of the oldest, biggest, most prestigious publishers (textbook and regular books) in the country just called me. We spoke for an hour. He does not deal with agents and will not talk to me if I'm agented or talking to other publishers. None of his authors are agented (he says). ...
. He was cool with it and just wanted to know when I'd have it done.

The Text book publisher I work for does not work with agents either. We publish books written by lawyers too. Note image below)

One element you have not mentioned is the marketing talent and success of these publishers that you are considering. I like knowing that my book has a loooong future ahead of it that the house has a good relationship with academic institutions who buy their texts on a regular basis and a house that knows how to convince institutions to require their texts be standard ongoing course texts. That value to you is multiple printings and editions. This should also be a part of your research. After all the beauty of text book authoring is the longevity of the joy of receiving royalties. You want your book to have several editions you want a publisher that can and does make that happen. So look into the house series list that encompasses your topic. See how many titles they have been printing and for how long.

scope
06-28-2008, 04:07 AM
I was responding to your claim that the royalty I described was non-standard for textbooks. As far as I know, it IS standard, and I took the contract as offered. I only began second-guessing it after reading the OP in this thread.

I asked about the other charges in an earlier post, but no one responded. I have no idea if that net charges paragraph is fair or not, and wondered what others do when confronted with it. I take it you've never seen it before?

I also wondered what agents charge and if that charge would negate any benefit they'd bring to this standard contract. The OP posted that his lawyer negotiated better terms. So it sounds like that's the route to go, esp. since you said agents aren't interested in educational texts. I guess I need to google some IP lawyers. I don't know any.

All three publishers I queried last week have responded. So I was just hoping for some feedback. But I guess the drug dealer thread above this one is more interesting, lol.

Given the tone of your last paragraph above (uncalled for), I'll conclude by saying that most agents get 15% of whatever you earn. By the way, I never said ALL agents don't handle textbook writers, only most -- some do.

LC123
06-28-2008, 05:08 AM
10%-20% is standard. Here's a link that may help you: http://www.agentquery.com/writer_la.aspx

Keep in mind that I write practical nonfiction (how-to books) and text books are a different animal.

That link was interesting; it looked to be for fiction writers, though. The slush pile photos seemed gratuitiously mean. I'm not sure what their point was in posting them other than to graphically show fiction writers what they're up against. I wonder if that stuff gets read or just photographed, laughed at and thrown out.

What kind of how-to books do you write?

escritora
06-28-2008, 05:13 AM
AgentQuery is for fiction and nonfiction writers. I'll rep you the name of my book. On this forum, I write under a pen name.

LC123
06-28-2008, 05:14 AM
One element you have not mentioned is the marketing talent and success of these publishers that you are considering. I like knowing that my book has a loooong future ahead of it .

Check to this for both my current and potential new publisher. :)

LC123
06-28-2008, 05:19 AM
Given the tone of your last paragraph above (uncalled for), I'll conclude by saying that most agents get 15% of whatever you earn. By the way, I never said ALL agents don't handle textbook writers, only most -- some do.

What tone? The drug dealer thread did get more responses!

The editor emailed me a proposal sheet that looks like it will take half the day tomorrow filling out. In place of "submit sample chapters" I was told I could just submit my current textbook. I told him sure, but I want it back, he can buy his own copy! lol

scope
06-28-2008, 06:36 AM
Since as I've said, I don't write textbooks, I'm not even sure what the proposal sheet your publishing company is asking you to fill out looks like. As for their request for one copy of your previously published textbook, why not just give it to them and not ask for its return? Asking the latter could irritate them while allowing them to keep the text can only benefit you now and in the future.

LC123
06-29-2008, 10:14 PM
Since as I've said, I don't write textbooks, I'm not even sure what the proposal sheet your publishing company is asking you to fill out looks like.

If you want, I can email you a copy. It's very detailed; if a person hasn't thoroughly thought out and researched their idea, it would be impossible to complete.

scope
06-29-2008, 11:41 PM
If you want, I can email you a copy. It's very detailed; if a person hasn't thoroughly thought out and researched their idea, it would be impossible to complete.

Thanks, but respectfully, no thanks. It's something I don't expect to be involved with, and given your explanation, don't think I could be of any assistance to you. I hope you figure it out and wish you all the best.

LC123
06-30-2008, 12:04 AM
Respectfully, I wasn't asking for your assistance. I was offering you a chance to see what a top publisher's proposal form looks, like since you are clearly unfamiliar with this genre (e.g., what royalties are), yet seemed interested.

scope
06-30-2008, 03:00 AM
Respectfully, I wasn't asking for your assistance. I was offering you a chance to see what a top publisher's proposal form looks, like since you are clearly unfamiliar with this genre (e.g., what royalties are), yet seemed interested.

No thanks, but the thought is appreciated. Frankly, I'm not interested in writing textbooks. About 10 years ago ago I had a good chance to do so when shopping publishers with one of my commercial nonfiction books for MG. An offer came from one of the top three textbook publishers in the US. The editor loved the book (as was) and with my permission presented it at a editorial board meeting. Apparently, the powers that be also wanted my book, but the caveat was that I had to make changes for the textbook market (I thought they might want it as a supplement to an existing textbook on a related subject). No advance was offered and royalties started at 5% and topped off at 7% of gross. Perhaps it would have sold well to schools and libraries and I might have made good money -- I'll never know since I rejected the offer. I just had no desire to start learning about how to write successful textbooks, and the bottom line was that if I could not successfully convert my work into a textbook they would have undoubtedly rejected the work and only paid me some expense money.