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Assessing a publisher

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Jo Zebedee

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So, I have been offered a series' contract. Hooray! It is the series I started writing to do and, whilst they are my first books and all that entails, I'm proud of them.

The contract is with a small publisher and they are negotiable on areas of the contract I am not happy with - right to future works etc - and it's a profit share model. This publisher has signed a lot of authors in the last few weeks and are proactive in their plans. None of their existing books can be found on a Nielson search, although they are on Amazon.

I am well set up to self pub with art work for the first two books and the first book edited by a top sff editor and ready to go, and the second beta read to an inch of its life.

In addition to this, my third book, a YA standalone, is on an R and R with a top agency and the agent of my dreams. But that agent would not rep this series (wrong demograph) so it will always standalone.

I also have a second offer for the series with a start up publisher who is offering an advance, promo etc, but has no experience (but who I trust.)
The book is still in the Harper Voyager window and hasn't been subbed a great deal as it had been in a number of slow, big windows.

To top it all off, the book I have had an offer on, the first of the trilogy, is under full consideration with another huge sff agency, Mira and Crossed Genres.

Any thoughts? Would I be mad to take the offer?
 

justbishop

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What exactly do you mean by "profit share model"? If they want you to pony up cash to publish your book, then do not accept the contract.
 

jvc

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Profit share? Does that mean they want you to pay them money to publish your book? If so, then run. Don't take it. Run. Run, Forest, run.
 

veinglory

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IMHO it is a good idea to pitch to the publisher you want most first. The least desirable presses are often the quickest to respond which leaves you with this dilemma.

Or at the very least, only submit somewhere you know you want to publish.... Other than that, in the absence of the name of the press, there is not much to say.
 
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Jo Zebedee

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IMHO it is a good idea to pitch to the publisher you want most first. The least desirable presses are often the quickest to respond which leaves you with this dilemma.

Or at the very least, only submit somewhere you knwo you want to publish.... Other than that, in the absence of the name of the press, there is not much to say.

I am loathe to name the press. They are on bewares and, but the publisher regularly feeds into the thread and I don't want to discuss it under their overt attention. Plus, I don't think they're better or worse than most small presses.

On subbing to them - they ended their advance payments a few weeks before I subbed which I didn't realise. If I had, I woudn't have subbed.
 

veinglory

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Every publisher is somewhere on the better-worse scale, of which maybe the top 5% are going to earn you enough to buy more that a steak dinner and maybe a cup of coffee.

What is you goal?
While they meet it?
Are they asking for money?
 

gingerwoman

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IMHO it is a good idea to pitch to the publisher you want most first. The least desirable presses are often the quickest to respond which leaves you with this dilemma.

Or at the very least, only submit somewhere you know you want to publish.... Other than that, in the absence of the name of the press, there is not much to say.
This.
Plus I don't get why they call themselves a profit share?
 

veinglory

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The use of that phrase suggests to me a publisher where looking at the other books they have put out, their packaging, and sales levels should help you answer that question (assuming one of your goals is are to sell books)
 

justbishop

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No, they cover all upfront costs - artwork, editorial, and have a publicity plan - but there are no royalties and profit is shared. Author gets 15percent on net book sales, 50 percent net on ebooks.

Correct me if I'm not understanding things correctly, but the author receiving a percentage of sales is the definition of a royalty (at least for our purposes), is it not? Not being snarky, I'm really asking for clarification here so that I'm not walking around thinking these terms mean something they don't.

And from what I have understood in my time here, percentage of net is not a good thing, as net can be creatively calculated.
 

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I am loathe to name the press. They are on bewares and, but the publisher regularly feeds into the thread and I don't want to discuss it under their overt attention. Plus, I don't think they're better or worse than most small presses.

On subbing to them - they ended their advance payments a few weeks before I subbed which I didn't realise. If I had, I woudn't have subbed.

I know who this publisher is. I went round and round with them over eight or so emails trying to hold them to an advance when they offered me a contract. They also wanted VERY significant changes in the storyline, albeit with a lot of enthusiasm. I can't see where you're willing to write a series for them with no advance, or any other publisher, for that matter. They don't have proven sales--their anthology has had a very weak debut with lackluster sales. I don't think they've proven themselves.

If I were you, I'd wait on all agent submissions before I sign any contracts. Exhaust your agent search first. That's just me.

tri
 

Jo Zebedee

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Correct me if I'm not understanding things correctly, but the author receiving a percentage of sales is the definition of a royalty (at least for our purposes), is it not? Not being snarky, I'm really asking for clarification here so that I'm not walking around thinking these terms mean something they don't.

And from what I have understood in my time here, percentage of net is not a good thing, as net can be creatively calculated.

Tbh, I don't know ref the royalty, but I think it is a royalty agreement. I am very new to the contracts stuff.

I am loathe to name the press. They are on bewares and, but the publisher regularly feeds into the thread and I don't want to discuss it under their overt attention. Plus, I don't think they're better or worse than most small presses.

On subbing to them - they ended their advance payments a few weeks before I subbed which I didn't realise. If I had, I woudn't have subbed.

I know who this publisher is. I went round and round with them over eight or so emails trying to hold them to an advance when they offered me a contract. They also wanted VERY significant changes in the storyline, albeit with a lot of enthusiasm. I can't see where you're willing to write a series for them with no advance, or any other publisher, for that matter. They don't have proven sales--their anthology has had a very weak debut with lackluster sales. I don't think they've proven themselves.

If I were you, I'd wait on all agent submissions before I sign any contracts. Exhaust your agent search first. That's just me.

tri

Thanks, Tri. Your advice is spot on, as ever.

I wonder, how long is realistic to make a decision? Should I be rushed, or do I have a grace period that is a norm? Does anyone know?
 
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kevinwaynewilliams

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I wonder, how long is realistic to make a decision? Should I be rushed, or do I have a grace period that is a norm? Does anyone know?

The willingness to let the other party wait to come to a decision is one of the hallmarks of a sane business deal. If someone is harping at you to make a decision now it is nearly invariably a sign of someone you don't want to do business with. That doesn't mean you have license to drag your feet and waste months of people's time, but if someone is saying "sign in 48 hours or the deal goes away", I'd let the deal go away.

Caveat: my advice is based on years of general business experience, not on detailed experience with publishers.
 

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I'll speak for the publishers, then: I've seen one week, two weeks, three weeks and 30 days--the time frame for making a decision before the offer is null and void. The problem even with this is, is that your email (communication) with them can get buried and really screw up the works. It's a really fine balancing act, trying to keep agent vs agent, agent vs publisher, agent vs agent, or publisher vs publisher content and interested while you weigh all your options. If the parties agree, do this by phone!

I've had the publisher vs publisher thing just happen to me and it resulted in a tangled mess. However, I did come out on top. It was more about the advance amount and we really couldn't hold an auction since this was small press. Six publishers were involved and we had to cut them loose one by one until we came to the highest bidder. All the while, the highest paying house had given us three weeks to accept or decline. We had to ask for an extension of another two weeks, which we got, just to make sure we didn't miss out on an offer that might have come in late.
 
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Polenth

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Why do you trust the start up with no experience? You need evidence that they're able to produce the book at a high standard and market it. If they've not produced any books yet and have no other experience, you're their guinea pig. Nothing they can say makes up for that lack of experience. If it goes badly, that series could be tied up for years in a contract you don't want.

The same is true for the 'profit share' publisher. If it goes badly, that's your series done until/if you can get the rights back. As this appears to be your favourite project, this would be even more soul-crushing than usual. That they've signed up a lot of authors in a few weeks is not really a good thing, as how much attention will your book get?

Don't be in too much of a rush to publish. It's not the case that any publisher is better than none. Many of the small presses that go through here really don't do a better job than the author could with self-publishing. Only with self-publishing, the author wouldn't have signed a bad contract and have to chase up payments. Which isn't saying you should self-publish. Just that when you submit to publishers, you want the ones who offer you a lot more than you could do yourself. You don't want the ones who are basically providing you with a publisher name, so you can feel warm fuzzies at being accepted (and those warm feelings won't last very long if the deal goes sour).
 

Jo Zebedee

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I think the getting buried in a lot of other authors is a real danger.

Um, the small publisher - they're not rushing me and are happy to allow me the time to work through agent listings first. The contract is all negotiable and won't include lifetime rights. I know it would be a risk, but it will ne a transparent one, if that makes sense?
 

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Correct me if I'm not understanding things correctly, but the author receiving a percentage of sales is the definition of a royalty (at least for our purposes), is it not? Not being snarky, I'm really asking for clarification here so that I'm not walking around thinking these terms mean something they don't.

And from what I have understood in my time here, percentage of net is not a good thing, as net can be creatively calculated.

JustBishop is correct.

What does it say about a publisher that they don't know how correctly to use one of the most common words in the publishing business?

As far as 'royalties on net', how does the contract define 'net'? That could be the deal-killer right there.
 

Jo Zebedee

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JustBishop is correct.

What does it say about a publisher that they don't know how correctly to use one of the most common words in the publishing business?

As far as 'royalties on net', how does the contract define 'net'? That could be the deal-killer right there.

Thanks, Terie: this is what the contract says about net:


. Royalties on Publisher’s Editions. For each Edition of the Work published by Publisher under this Agreement, Publisher shall credit Author’s account with the following royalties on Net Revenues (all revenues are paid in USD):
6.1 50% (fifty percent) of the Net Revenues on Net Copies Sold of any Edition, not electronic.
6.2 50% (fifty percent) of the Net Revenues on sales of electronic Editions sold.
6.3 United States Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP) defines Net Revenue as the Gross Revenue minus
the Costs of Goods, Services, and Production.
6.3.1 Costs of Goods are defined as: Retailer Freight (Distribution Charges), Copyright Registration, International
Standard Book Number (ISBN), and Barcode.
6.3.2 Costs of Services and Production are defined as: Managing Editorial, Copy Edit, Proofing, Review, Cover and
Interior Design and Typography, Editorial, Marketing, Research, and Sales.
6.3.3 The Costs of Services and Production will not exceed 50% of Gross Revenue after the Costs of Goods have
been satisfied.
 

Terie

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Thanks, Terie: this is what the contract says about net:


. Royalties on Publisher’s Editions. For each Edition of the Work published by Publisher under this Agreement, Publisher shall credit Author’s account with the following royalties on Net Revenues (all revenues are paid in USD):
6.1 50% (fifty percent) of the Net Revenues on Net Copies Sold of any Edition, not electronic.
6.2 50% (fifty percent) of the Net Revenues on sales of electronic Editions sold.
6.3 United States Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP) defines Net Revenue as the Gross Revenue minus
the Costs of Goods, Services, and Production.
6.3.1 Costs of Goods are defined as: Retailer Freight (Distribution Charges), Copyright Registration, International Standard Book Number (ISBN), and Barcode.
6.3.2 Costs of Services and Production are defined as: Managing Editorial, Copy Edit, Proofing, Review, Cover and Interior Design and Typography, Editorial, Marketing, Research, and Sales.
6.3.3 The Costs of Services and Production will not exceed 50% of Gross Revenue after the Costs of Goods have
been satisfied.

Okay, that's a straight-up vanity press. They're going to charge authors for the work that publishers pay for, they're just doing it on the back end.
 
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This is a really bad contract.
 

Sheryl Nantus

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Yep.

"Net Revenue as the Gross Revenue minus
the Costs of Goods, Services, and Production." is the kicker here.

Unless you have an inside contact with the company you have NO WAY to know what the actual cost would be. I'm betting that if you signed up with them that you'd never see an actual dime due to "creative" book keeping and a refusal to show you the costs.

If a publisher believes in you they'll take the risks - not shove them off onto you.

Consider outing this idiot in the Bewares thread - might be good to warn others off this particular publisher.
 

justbishop

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Thanks, everyone, I need to get more savvy, I think. Sheryl, there is a pretty substantial thread on them in Bewares, but it is difficult to assess as the publisher feeds into it a lot.

Well as long as the contract snippet you've shared is factual--and I'm assuming it is--and you're being told by many wise writers that it's shady and to be avoided at all costs, why wouldn't you want to attach it to the publisher's name and help to warn other writers? You don't have to be snarky and accusatory about it, just "this is a piece of the contract they sent me, and this is why I declined to work with them. The end."

:Shrug:
 

Polenth

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Well as long as the contract snippet you've shared is factual--and I'm assuming it is--and you're being told by many wise writers that it's shady and to be avoided at all costs, why wouldn't you want to attach it to the publisher's name and help to warn other writers? You don't have to be snarky and accusatory about it, just "this is a piece of the contract they sent me, and this is why I declined to work with them. The end."

:Shrug:

And if the publisher does reply to you directly, you don't have to respond.
 
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