View Full Version : Hmm...mildly worried; and a few questions

09-29-2007, 09:15 PM
My acq. ed. told me on Tuesday, when she called to tell me that I got the project, that Friday, I'd be hearing from the eds with feedback on my annotated chapter outline, a schedule and the official contract. So I called her late yesterday afternoon to touch base. She called back and said that they weren't quite ready yet, but that I should see something from them by mid-week, and that she'd lean on them a bit. But knowing what she already knew, asked if I could start on one of the chapters she definetely knew that they'd want to see. I also asked if the schedule was still the same as when she initally told me about the project (early Dec. deadline), and she said that now, it's Nov. 21st. We also scheduled a conference call w/the eds. for Thurs. to discuss the chapters. The good news is that they like the title, so it will probably stay (but they've changed titles on me before).

So, here's why I'm worried. When I worked with them last, my one-month deadline was changed to a two-week deadline. And already, with this project, we seem to be starting off late--at least from my perspective.

Also, when I speak to them, do I have any bargaining power? (I probably shouldn't even be writing anything yet without seeing a contract. ) Can I get them to keep the schedule? Can I ask for a certain percentage of the $$ up-front? Can I negotiate for royalties, and if doing that, would it cut into what they've offered? And, this one is probably premature, can I have them send copies directly to reviewers, or do I have to wait until the book is shiny and new and send them to reviewers myself? These are all questions that I didn't even think of when working with them the last time, but now I know that these are at least questions to consider. Are there any other things I need to consider asking during the conference-call?

TIA! :)

09-29-2007, 10:20 PM
Hmm, I'm the wrong guy for THIS one.

Jenna, can you shed some light, perhaps?

Tish Davidson
09-30-2007, 09:36 AM
Everything in a contract is theoretically negotiable. Of course, it takes two parties to negotiate and if one party has a take-it-or-leave-it attitude no negotiation is possible. My advice would be establish a priority list of things that matter to you and work on negotiating the most important. I would think it would be fairly easy to get them to set a reasonable deadline. After all, if you miss the deadline by a couple of weeks, what can they do? They aren't going to get the book any faster by starting new with someone else, so it should be in everyone's interest to have a realistic schedule.

You can ask for royalties, but you will probably get less of an advance or lump sum payment. I've been offered a choice occasionally on children's nonfiction of x dollars lump sum or x minus 25% plus royalties. Which is best depends on the book's potential audience and sales and how hard you are willing to work to sell the book and what its shelf life will be.

If you are offered either an advance or lump sum payment, the industry standard is some close variation on 1/3 at signing, 1/3 when you hand in the ms and 1/3 after all edits and it is in publishable form. It is definitely okay to ask for some money up front. You have to eat while you write and the publisher should recognize that.

I would think that it is in the publisher's best interest to send copies to reviewers. You might start by asking them how they will support publicity for the book and see what they say. You also can negotiate for how many free copies of the book you get - just be realistic. They aren't going to send you 100 free copies.

You're running into some of the issues that agents routinely negotiate, so you might also ask you questions in the ask the agent forum.

09-30-2007, 09:48 AM
Agreed with everything Tish just said. They gave you less than a month to write a whole book?!

More than anything else, I'd insist on a reasonable deadline. You're going to kill yourself trying to meet their crazy demands. Then I'd address the money issues (advance and royalties), then rights, publicity, etc. You definitely have power: they want you. They don't want to start over with another writer. They already trust you. So by all means, make sure the deal is fair to you before you do them any "favors" (like starting work before they've even given you a contract). You might start out with, "When I agreed to this project, we had agreed on a timeline of x months. I really can't work any faster than that."

The publisher should definitely send out the review copies, and give you some to have on hand so you can send them out to any personal connections you may have who might be helpful.

Lauri B
09-30-2007, 04:06 PM
What Jenna and Trish said. And writing an entire book in a month is ridiculous--they should have some wiggle room for that one, since it's bound to take much longer than that for edits and layout, if they are rushing it to press.

09-30-2007, 05:17 PM
When a publisher asked me to write a book and originally said they don't pay part of the advance up front, my agent said to me, "well, you're not going to write the book for nothing." I hadn't thought of it that way, but it made sense. He took over negotiations (I didn't have him when the publisher first approached me), and I'm getting half the advance up front (and he sweetened the rest of the deal, too). Needless to say, agents can be helpful. Certainly, his comment made me stop and think. I originally had no problem writing the book without receiving any of my advance up front, but once he said that to me, I realized he was right.

09-30-2007, 05:19 PM
This sounds like one of those "xxxxxx for Dummies" projects. They routinely don't decide on giving the writer the assignment until there's no time left to write it.

09-30-2007, 06:37 PM
"Publishing Contracts Terms for Dummies?!"

09-30-2007, 09:24 PM
Writing a book in a month (or two weeks for that matter) was rediculous, but at the time, I was brand new to the publications process in this respect, and I was just thrilled to be asked and get the assignment. (My previous publication was in-house.) Also, I had all the resources at my fingertips and there was no toddler involved. (LOL).

When the aq. ed presented the current project to me, the timeframe was longer than a month, but having worked with them before, I know that there's the chance for a suddenly shorter deadline.

I've written out a list of what I'd like to discuss in the conference call, and now, I'll prioritize it. Hopefully, they'll be agreeable--I think that they will be, since I'm on their list of authors they want to work with. But, now with 20/20 hindsight and from what I've learned here at AW, I also want to make sure that the "mistakes" made with my first work with them in terms of reviews and marketing don't happen with this one. The last one had so much potential especially given the topic and it's release so close to the same-titled film by our dear friend Mel Gibson. (LOL) (Did I mention that they changed the title on me from The Art of the Passion to simply, The Passion of Christ?

Tish: It's funny that you mentioned 100 copies...that's the exact number DH said I should ask for, to which I told him, they'll never agree to that number. FWIW, the last time, I got 20 complimentary copies plus the ability to order more at a discounted rate. What's a realistic number to ask for?

Jenna: The last time they didn't send out review copies, at least not that I know of, so this time I'd like to make sure that they do, and know to whom they'll be sending them. Can I give them a short list?

Triplets mom: I totally agree with the concept of "not writing for nothing" (even if you have other income coming in). Can one get an agent, when you already have a contract with a pub, who'll be helpful in negotiating for you? (Not that I realisitically have time to court agents right now, for this project.)
I think I'll actually post that Q in the ask-the-agent forum.

Nomad: Yeah..I agree. I know how long it can take to do edits, layout and proofing of the galleys and blues. I think that one of the ways this pub works is that they've got this great idea, have an idea of the shape they want the book to take, ask for submissions, then see how much the submissions match up with their vision, pick the one that does, and as chapters come in, "plug and play," as opposed to getting the entire mss, then doing the edits, working with those revisions and then starting the layout and final proofing process. I know that they already have a committment from certain bookstores for the book, so maybe they already have the layout figured out and are going to plug the text in as the chapters are edited and approved. Who knows? When I worked on Monet, Renoir and the Impressionst Lanscape, there were several rounds of mss edits before it went to layout, and after that, there were serveral rounds of the post-layout live-to-dead edits before it went to press. (I worked in-house on the edits and then got to be a contributing author, when we lost one of the authors.)

SHB: So when are you going to write it? (LOL)

Thanks everyone! At least I have a few days to prioritize my needs and requests and can speak intelligently about it to them on Thursday. Hopefully, I'll see something from them in writing by Wed. as my aq. ed. suggested. I did start writing, but I agreed to doing that more for my sense of sanity and time budgeting. I won't tell them this, but if I keep to my daily writing goal of 1500 words per day, sure, I can bang it out in a month, but that wouldn't include my own edits before sending them copy or any additional research involved. And that kind of schedule doesn't allow for the realities of life that can come up, such as a sick kid or a sudden death in the family. So there's no way that I'm going to agree to a month this time. The only good thing about this rush is that I can add it to my platform for my other WIP (especially if it gets good reviews), which I plan to propose to agents.

Sorry for the long-winded reply.

10-01-2007, 05:55 PM
Wow, that was incredibly helpful. I love the nonfiction family on this board! *snif*