Tag Archives: contract

The Fun Begins. . .

The Contract

Immediately after winning the 2014 Memoir Discovery Contest sponsored by She Writes Press and Serendipity Literary Agency, I received a congratulatory email and a publishing contract. Shortly after signing and returning my contract, I received a welcome packet. Today I received a call from the publisher.

Brooke Warner was warm, wise, and wonderfully informative in the twenty minutes we spoke about what to expect. We discussed print runs, release dates, ARCs (advanced reader copies), bookstore placement, and publicity. Luckily, in the midst of all this information, Brooke took a breath and said, “You don’t have to decide everything right now.”

But like a newly engaged woman with an upcoming wedding less than one year away, every moment counts.

I’m excited and overwhelmed. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with you, my loyal readers.

Should You Rewrite for Representation?

open laptop and a personal organizer on an office table

I finally found an agent to represent my crime novel only if I can rewrite the book in the antagonist’s point-of-view.

Ironically, that is the only point-of-view missing from my original 120,000 word manuscript. First, I cut 20,000 words to get the novel within the 100,000 word guidelines most agents seek. Second, I cut the prologue and epilogue since most agents said they weren’t necessary. Third, I added a few flashbacks to fill in the missing pieces to the puzzle that had been deleted by the prologue. Finally, I rewrote the ending to add the symbolism needed to hint at the missing epilogue.

After sending the manuscript to 64 agents over many months and receiving mostly instantaneous rejections, I took a break and focused on other things. I learned about concept writing and rewrote the one line pitch and one page synopsis and gained the attention of my current agent-to-be whose only request was to rewrite the entire manuscript from multiple points-of-view to a single point-of-view.

It may sound like a simple request, but that’s not how I reacted.

After calming down, I sent an email to the agent-to-be requesting a telephone conversation. I woke up at 5:30 am and placed a call to New York at 6 a.m. For fifteen minutes I discussed my concerns, going over my woeful history of almost sales over 25 years writing fiction. “How was this experience going to be different?” I asked. “It’s just another request to rewrite without a contract.”

The agent-to-be listened patiently before she responded. “You don’t have to do anything,” she said. “You may shop the manuscript around and find someone interested in the story as it is or sell it on your own. But if you want my support and expertise, you need to rewrite the story from the antagonist’s point-of-view. She’s the most interesting character, the one I want to know the most about, and I feel cheated as a reader because so many questions could be answered by her thoughts and feelings but aren’t because I don’t have any access to them.”

Hmmm…my beta readers had actually said they liked not knowing what the villain thought and felt.

But here was someone who worked to sell manuscripts to major publishers who had time and money and expertise to expand an author’s readership.

Could I find the time between working six days a week, going to school, and parenting children to rewrite the manuscript from another point-of-view?

If I decide to embark on this task, I do so without guarantees. I don’t have a contract with the agent. I don’t have any promise of publication. I only have one person’s opinion and a dream to be read.

What would you do?

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No Contract Is Better Than a Bad Contract

Know Your Rights

People ask why I haven’t published my young adult novel although the unpublished manuscript has won awards.

The answer is simple: I haven’t received a good contract.

Sure, I’ve had offers, but they’ve all been lacking in one way or another. Because I don’t have an agent, I’ve had to review and negotiate the terms and conditions on my own. Most publishers have been reluctant to address any of my concerns. They prefer not to alter any of their broiler plate language unless agents or attorneys are involved.

Here are the top five contract deal breakers and how to avoid them:

1. No advance. Traditional publishers are willing to pay a sum of money to an author before the manuscript is published. Often they will pay half of the money upon signing the contract and the other half upon delivery of the final manuscript. After all, authors need money to fund research and writing expenses as well as pay their bills. Without an advance, authors must rely on royalty payments, which are often paid only quarterly after the book’s release. With the traditional publishing cycle taking an average of one year between acceptance and publication date, an author without an advance must find another source of income.

2. Exclusive right to everything. Most publishers will want exclusive rights to print and electronic formats of a manuscript for a certain period of time. Some publishers, however, want blanket rights to everything related to the manuscript, from movie options to merchandising rights, often without extra payment. If an author signs a contract with blanket rights, that author could be missing out on additional sources of income.

3. No promotional plan or budget. Even with the proliferation of free online marketing, a publisher unwilling or unable to offer either a promotional plan or budget is setting the author and the book up for failure. Many authors do not have the luxury of spending their advance on book tours, advertising, and a full-time publicist. Publishers need to partner with their authors to ensure the book’s success.

4. One way termination clauses. Many contracts stipulate that if an author does not deliver an “acceptable” final manuscript by a certain deadline, the publisher reserves the right to terminate the contract and demand repayment of the author’s advance. What about the publisher not delivering an “acceptable” finished product or fulfilling its obligations in the marketing plan? Unless an author stipulates in the contract the terms and conditions in which the author can cancel the contract, the one way termination clause does not prevent the fallout that can happen during mergers and acquisitions in which books get canceled before publication because they no longer “fit” on the publisher’s list.

5. First rights to purchase future manuscripts. It can be flattering to be offered a contract in which the publisher reserves first rights to accept the author’s next manuscript. Although this agreement can work well for both parties, troubles exist if the author doesn’t like working with the publisher on the first book and is now obligated to sell the second book to them. More problems arise if the first book does exceptionally well and the publisher refuses to negotiate a more equitable contract.

When I find a publisher willing to accept my deal breakers, then I will sign a contract to publish my young adult novel.

Until then…enjoy the books I’ve already published.


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