View Full Version : SECOND BOOK OPTION - How Does this work?

03-10-2008, 11:29 PM
Greetings fellow writers,

I've just sent in a proposal for my second book. (I was only under contract for one, but my publisher has the right to see the second.) My editor says she loves the idea, and she's already sent it off to the powers-that-be without asking for any changes. It's been a nail-biting week.

Now for my questions: How long do decisions for proposals usually take for novels? Also, will I get rejected off the bat, or will the Acquisition Editor work with me if she sees potential? In other words, when you're under contract, they have to work with you. But when you're just an option will they dump you quicker? Hope this makes sense

03-10-2008, 11:59 PM
It all depends, unfortunately. Sometimes your contract has a clause that will state that they have to respond to you within a specific period of time. I'd say check your contract for starters. :)

03-11-2008, 12:14 AM
Gee, I don't understand the contract jargon, and I don't want to bug my agent. I guess I'll just take a chill pill and be patient. Thanks

Susan Breen
03-11-2008, 12:16 AM
I think it would be okay to ask your agent about this. It's the agent's job to explain the contract jargon. Really. I worry about being a pest too, but I think this would be fine.

Claudia Gray
03-11-2008, 12:17 AM
If your editor loves the idea, I would think you would be in at least as good a position as you were the first time around, and probably better, if you have a good working relationship with your editor and the publisher now knows you and your work.

03-11-2008, 12:28 AM
Susan, thanks for the reassurance.
Nope Claudia. Not the case.

My editor is actually an assistant who had to fight for my first book to be published. (I was tottering on the rejection pile and she rescued it from the Senior editor's evil clutches.) hehe.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback.

03-11-2008, 12:32 AM
Definitely talk with your agent, that's what they are here for. In fact I'm kind of surprised you didn't have them submit your MS for you. I know you have a relationship now with your editor, but it is important to keep your agent in the loop. They are after all, there to help you.

03-11-2008, 12:58 AM
Hey Toothpaste!

My agent submitted the proposal, but I'm in contact with my editor. I had to let her know that my first proofs were on the way, and she happened to mention the status of my proposal (but no other details). I didn't want to bombard her with questions, that's why I'm here bombarding you guys! :)

03-11-2008, 05:32 AM
Deep cleansing breaths, Star! Your contract should have a clause labeled "option," which will include language describing two things: when you are allowed to submit your option (which you've already done) and how long the editor has before she's required to give you an answer. These times can vary, but it's not uncommon for the option to say "not to be submitted before acceptance of Book 1" and for the editor to have 30, 45, 60 or even 90 days to respond. (When I negotiate a deal with an agent, I usually shoot for 60 days, and settle at 45.)

It sounds like your book is not yet on the shelves (because you've just returned proofs, right?). Since your editor is still relatively junior, she might have a tough time making the case to re-sign you without having any sales figures for your first book. Depending on what your agent thinks (and what your editor says), she might decide to hold your editor to the period of your option, or to wait and see what kind of print run you get.
On the other hand, the publisher did let the junior editor acquire your book, which means they thought you were worth a shot in the first place. So if you're not in the position to require a bank-breaking advance, they might just chuck a little more money at you now to wrap it up.

Basically, silence doesn't necessarily mean disaster. Your editor knows how many days she has, and sometimes she just can't get to the material right away. And all of this really is why you have an agent...it's perfectly appropriate to ask for some explanation from him/her.

03-11-2008, 06:37 AM
Like others have said, look at your contract. Or ask your agent. He or she should know what the option language says. Mine gives the publisher 30 days to respond.

03-11-2008, 06:04 PM
Thanks guys. I guess you're trying to tell me to be proactive. Just like characters should be in novels. Onwards!

I'll keep ya posted. :)

*digging up contract...hope I can find it*:rant:

03-11-2008, 06:53 PM
I'm not that great with contracts either, but Crinklish is right - it should say somewhere in the 'Options' section a specific date frame.

And honestly? If you are concerned, email your agent. It's a common business question. "Dear agent, I was just reviewing my contract and I'm trying to determine the details on our option clause. Can you give me the skinny on it? Thanks, love ya, currently writing my next bestseller."

03-11-2008, 07:44 PM
I hear ya Irysangel. It's only been a week, so I'm not sweating bullets yet. But I guess it doesn't hurt to ask my agent. So far, I've been a "dream client" in my humble opinion. *giggling*

03-11-2008, 11:25 PM
To take another spin on this, what if the option clause term expires and the editor still hasn't decided. Do you keep waiting, or do ask your agent to start submitting elsewhere?

I suppose this would depend on how well you like the publisher and your patience level!

03-12-2008, 12:04 AM
Hey Erin,

This just in (for everyone here too)

I got off my tush and asked my agent. He told me that my contract says 30 days to decide. Thanks to all who pushed me to ask. :hi:

03-12-2008, 12:25 AM
Star, I don't know the answers, but I did want to say that, at least the 'problem' you have is a GOOD one. LOL

03-12-2008, 07:37 PM
Thanks Doyle!

Sigh. It's been a long time a'coming. From rejection pile to proof stage. :hooray:

03-12-2008, 11:31 PM
To take another spin on this, what if the option clause term expires and the editor still hasn't decided. Do you keep waiting, or do ask your agent to start submitting elsewhere?

I suppose this would depend on how well you like the publisher and your patience level!

Yeah, pretty much. Technically, if the editor hasn't given you an answer (or an offer) by the time the option expires, you are officially "out of option" and can submit wherever you like. That said, if you are generally happy at your house, you and your agent might elect to give the editor more time.

03-13-2008, 09:44 AM
I got off my tush and asked my agent. He told me that my contract says 30 days to decide. Thanks to all who pushed me to ask. :hi:

Good for you for asking! Funny how 30 days can seem like a lifetime in this case, eh?

Good luck with the second book!

As for the contract, I would always use your agent as a resource, but Nathan Bransford had a pretty informative post that broke down contracts into understandable terms for us non-agents pretty well.

I tried to track it down (I think it was back in January of 07) but blogspot isnt' working for me. It's way buried amongst his posts, so I'll try later. If you want to look yourself, he's at nathanbransford.blogspot.com

03-14-2008, 04:42 AM
How strange. Someone else asked about it in the comments of his thread and Nathan provided the link. VERY nice. The post on contract language is here. (http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2007/02/basics-of-publishing-contracts.html)

03-14-2008, 05:27 AM
There is a factor no one has mentioned here . . . revisions to the proposal.

The responses so far have considered proposals as "send it in and get a yes/no decision" types of deals. That's not always the case with second books. If your first book sold well, and established an audience, there may be an obvious demand for a follow on. That's the situation I have with Look Me in the Eye. There's no question there are at least some readers for a second book based upon the response to book #1. The question is . . . . what should book #2 be?

I wrote a proposal for two new books, with the first detailed pretty well, and the second sort of outlined. I sent it to my agent, who sent it to my editor, and we followed up by meeting in person to discuss it.

At the meeting, we concluded the best book was actually a modified version of the second book in my proposal, but that one was poorly defined. So I went home to make a table of contents and shape that book.

My agent had suggested essentially the same thing a few weeks before, but I disagreed, and changed my mind after hearing it from both of them.

I sent that revised proposal back to New York. Meanwhile, an opportunity to work with a major medical school surfaced, along with the possibliity of yet another book. And now that's on the table as a possible book #3.

Three months have gone by as this has unfolded.

My point in telling you this? First, there may be back and forth on a proposal. That can take time. Once that's done, there is some time for the publisher to make a decision. So the "30 day" idea from the contract may be just the tip of the iceberg, time-wise.

At this moment, if you asked Crown, I'm sure they'd say, "John has not given us a proposal to consider yet," and they'd be right because my editor and I are still revising. The editorial board has not yet considered what to do. Handing the first draft to your editor does not start the clock, at least not unless your objective is to beat the clock and change publishers.

So patience is required, even when they say, "I can't wait to get going on your next book!"

03-14-2008, 08:11 PM
Wow John,

Congrats on your book & thanks for the info. :)