% between author and source

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Maze Runner

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I'm sure there was a better way to title this thread, so my apologies. I've never written a non-fiction book, but I might be in a position to do so. So I was wondering, if you were to write someone's firsthand experiences, what would be a customary split in advances and/or royalties between you and your source?

ETA: I would think that it would be customary for them to get something, but I really have no idea what. If I were to take a stab at a guess, it would be anywhere between 10 and 50%. So I'm really just looking for a more specific range to go on. Any ideas on this would be greatly appreciated--I'm supposed to speak with this guy over the next few days, and I'm sure he'll want to know.

Thanks so much in advance.
 
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Siri Kirpal

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Someone will come along with more experience, but I know it varies wildly. If you're ghosting someone else's story, they typically get the royalties and advance, but pay you a goodly set fee upfront. If you're including someone else's story as a few paragraphs in a longer work about something else, you give them thanks and complimentary copy and that's it. (This one I've done.) If it's a collaboration "as told to" or "with Maze Runner," then it'll be split with them getting the slightly figure, assuming they're the one with the name draw. If it's your book, you will need their express written permission and you'll need to give them something, but how much I am not sure.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Maze Runner

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Ah, thanks Siri, that is very helpful. Not ghosting, my name would be on the cover. "As told to," or "with", I would think. No, this would be their story, not a bio, but as someone who had a unique, inside view of a very specific time and place in entertainment history. But, is that "split" w/ them getting the slightly lower or higher figure? Thanks again.
 

Maze Runner

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Oh, sorry, you're saying slightly higher figure. Truth is, neither one of us has any "name draw" but he should still probably get the larger % because of all other things considered.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Yes, since it's his story, his cut of the royalties/advance would be higher. (And my apologies for not catching the typo.) Also, if he knew big name people in the entertainment industry, he's the one with the built-in platform.

You and he may wish to write up a proposal and see if you get any takers before you commit to a long term project.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Maze Runner

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Yeah, my understanding is a proposal (which of course I've never done) and a few sample chapters. Will do. Thanks, Siri.
 

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Any suggestions on how I get the information he has to offer when he's on the other side of the country, doesn't do emails, refuses to even own a computer, and wants to do the entire thing over the telephone? He's been interviewed before, by other writers and they did it all by phone, and so he wants to do it the same way with me. I told him that was when he was only to be a small part of a book, but he's stubborn and I don't think I can budge him on this point. This is gonna be a bear. He's sitting on what could be a great book, but I'm having a helluva time figuring how I'm gonna do this. He talks a mile a minute, rambles from one (admittedly interesting inside experience--like the time he alone saw one superstar musician beat the hell out of another superstar musician because he was killing himself with dope) to another, and I am a slow typist. I guess I could record our telephone conversations--actually, maybe that would be the best way left to me. It would have just been so much easier, and structured, if I could have just hit him with directed questions by email. Had one thread open for our Q&A, and another for us to discuss everything else. I want to do this.
 

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I wouldn't do that except on the phone -- I don't really see how you could. It'd be so stop-and-start, and close to him writing the thing anyway, if you just had him like, write down experiences. I've never done this kind of research, or heard of it being done, except in person or on the phone. Not that people don't also email and stuff but the bulk of interviewing I can't imagine any way but live.
 

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But, why though? After all, emails can be live (in real time, I mean). I just don't know how I lasso all this stuff. And, trust me, this guy is all over the place, and at breakneck speed. I do hear what you're saying though. You're saying the spontaneity would be lost, and actually, that is a very good point, and with this guy, it is right on point, because that's the type of person he is. I guess my desire to do it by email was partly to control and structure the conversation a little. Hmm, I don't know, you could be right, now that you make think of it.
 

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I think you're right. That's what I'm gonna do. Maybe I'll record the conversations. Thanks, cornflake.
 

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I'm sure there was a better way to title this thread, so my apologies. I've never written a non-fiction book, but I might be in a position to do so. So I was wondering, if you were to write someone's firsthand experiences, what would be a customary split in advances and/or royalties between you and your source?

ETA: I would think that it would be customary for them to get something, but I really have no idea what. If I were to take a stab at a guess, it would be anywhere between 10 and 50%. So I'm really just looking for a more specific range to go on. Any ideas on this would be greatly appreciated--I'm supposed to speak with this guy over the next few days, and I'm sure he'll want to know.

Thanks so much in advance.

It depends.

If it's going to be your name on the book, and your name alone, then you would usually get all of the money. Reporters don't share their pay with the people involved in the stories they report, and neither should you.

If you're going to ghost-write the book for this person then yep, they would get all the income from the book but you, as the ghost, would usually get a flat fee paid by the publisher. If you don't have a deal for the book, and are agreeing to write it without that deal in place, be very very careful. I have heard of far more disasters under these circumstances than I have heard of successful collaborations.

Any suggestions on how I get the information he has to offer when he's on the other side of the country, doesn't do emails, refuses to even own a computer, and wants to do the entire thing over the telephone? He's been interviewed before, by other writers and they did it all by phone, and so he wants to do it the same way with me. I told him that was when he was only to be a small part of a book, but he's stubborn and I don't think I can budge him on this point. This is gonna be a bear. He's sitting on what could be a great book, but I'm having a helluva time figuring how I'm gonna do this. He talks a mile a minute, rambles from one (admittedly interesting inside experience--like the time he alone saw one superstar musician beat the hell out of another superstar musician because he was killing himself with dope) to another, and I am a slow typist. I guess I could record our telephone conversations--actually, maybe that would be the best way left to me. It would have just been so much easier, and structured, if I could have just hit him with directed questions by email. Had one thread open for our Q&A, and another for us to discuss everything else. I want to do this.

If the only way he'll work with you is to talk on the phone then you agree to that. You buy a digital voice recorder and a little gizmo which plugs into the phone socket to connect that recorder to, and you record ALL your phone conversations with him. Then you get hold of a foot-pedal which allows you to stop and start the recording at will, and you listen to it and transcribe, or you listen to it and paraphrase. It works. It's clunky at first but you'll get used to it.

If I were you, though, I'd be extremely cautious. He already sounds like hard work, and you've not even started yet. Get everything agreed before you do any work at all. He might well be assuming that you'll write the book, it will be published, and then he will earn a fortune. Get a good lawyer to draw up a contract between the two of you, make sure you are absolutely clear on his and your expectations, and make sure you are protected. Make sure you have a good lawyer to hand to check over the ms once you've written it, just in case you've written yourself into a dangerous corner. There are more ways for this to go wrong than you can even imagine, and you really don't want to be tangled up in litigation over it, as it could last for years.
 

cornflake

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They're not live though. I mean they're not delayed, but it's not in any way the same as a conversation.

The best stuff I ever got doing this type of thing, longform or short, was always, always spontaneous shit I had no idea was there, that was led to by something I couldn't have forseen. It's a conversation; it has to be. There's no way to do this otherwise. There's no trust, no openness, and no back-and-forth.

I get there's back-and-forth over email but it's not the same at all.

I dunno, maybe someone is about to come along and say they do this over email, but I can't imagine it.

Goes without saying, but everything OH said too. I wasn't sure what you meant by the opening posts tbh, so didn't answer, but... see above.
 
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Siri Kirpal

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Sounds like a phone recorder is the way to go. Although if you could get to the other coast for a few days and videotape him, it might be even better.

Do make up a legal contract and get everything in writing if you decide to do this. He sounds like a character, and I mean that both ways.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

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So, you guys think we need a contract at this stage? We used to be pretty close, but it's been years since we've spoken. At first he said we didn't need a contract, but in a following conversation he said we should have one so we wouldn't have to worry about, which, I would have insisted on if it were to go anywhere. I told him that there was a chance nothing would come of it. That I would write a proposal, and a few sample chapters (I'm assuming these are the first few chapters) and see if there's any interest.

Thanks, everyone. I'm working on getting what I need in order to be able to record our conversations.

As far as any litigation that could come from this, wouldn't the publisher screen the ms for that kind of thing? Not to say that I wouldn't be mindful of it, and we've already agreed not to put anything in there that's too sensitive or embarrassing, or that might incriminate someone. Something he told me just today might fall into that category. Again, thanks very much for the advice.
 

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You don't have a contract?? Oh, no no no no no.

You need to do that first, before anything. You don't know what he expects, what he thinks you expect, what he might think he can ask for or demand, what might happen if you like, have a conversation and decide it's too amorphous and then he decides you promised him something.... no no no no. Contract.
 

Siri Kirpal

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The contract isn't to protect you from outsiders; it's to protect you from each other. (To be blunt.) Or more politely, so you've all got your cards on the table.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Siri Kirpal

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Oh, and yes, it's the first three chapters, if it's narrative. If it's not, then it's the first chapter, a middle chapter and either the last chapter or a chapter near the end.

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Siri Kirpal
 

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So, you guys think we need a contract at this stage? We used to be pretty close, but it's been years since we've spoken. At first he said we didn't need a contract, but in a following conversation he said we should have one so we wouldn't have to worry about, which, I would have insisted on if it were to go anywhere. I told him that there was a chance nothing would come of it. That I would write a proposal, and a few sample chapters (I'm assuming these are the first few chapters) and see if there's any interest.

I would definitely put a contract in place NOW. If you get a publisher but don't have that contract you could well be stuffed. Your friend could go ahead without you, after all your efforts.

It should definitely define who gets final say on publishing decisions, and how payments will be split.

Thanks, everyone. I'm working on getting what I need in order to be able to record our conversations.

As far as any litigation that could come from this, wouldn't the publisher screen the ms for that kind of thing? Not to say that I wouldn't be mindful of it, and we've already agreed not to put anything in there that's too sensitive or embarrassing, or that might incriminate someone. Something he told me just today might fall into that category. Again, thanks very much for the advice.

Yes, they would. But I wasn't sure if you were considering trade or self publication.

If you are already concerned about what to include and what to miss out, then consider how good the final book will be. When writing memoirs there's a tendency to miss out all of the best stuff in order to avoid hurting feelings etc., and quite often the end result is bland. Be aware of this while you're writing. And I would probably write the dodgy things too and let the solicitor decide what's incriminating and what isn't. Often they give advice about how to change it so that it's not a problem, legally, while still being honest and true.
 

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I would definitely put a contract in place NOW. If you get a publisher but don't have that contract you could well be stuffed. Your friend could go ahead without you, after all your efforts.

It should definitely define who gets final say on publishing decisions, and how payments will be split.



Yes, they would. But I wasn't sure if you were considering trade or self publication.

If you are already concerned about what to include and what to miss out, then consider how good the final book will be. When writing memoirs there's a tendency to miss out all of the best stuff in order to avoid hurting feelings etc., and quite often the end result is bland. Be aware of this while you're writing. And I would probably write the dodgy things too and let the solicitor decide what's incriminating and what isn't. Often they give advice about how to change it so that it's not a problem, legally, while still being honest and true.

I admit I hadn't thought of your first point. Am thinking now. Thanks.

I have given thought to your second point. In the exact sense that you mention. I will do as you suggest. Can't thank you, all of you enough.
 

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