Tag Archives: young adult

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People ask why I haven’t published my young adult novel although the unpublished manuscript has won awards.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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The Manuscript Monkey on My Back

Have you ever heard of someone dying a week after retiring? That person lived for work. It wasn’t just a part of their identity. It was their identity. When work died, they died.

That’s the way I feel about The Take and Go (formerly Our Summer at No Name Beach, a novel, and before that Red Eggs and Good Luck, a memoir). Since the manuscript was written in 1992, it has gone through various incarnations so that it no longer resembles anything it once was.

In college, I wrote a piece from my childhood and tried to disguise it as fiction. It failed. Once I restructured it as memoir, the piece sold. I was encouraged by a literary agent to expand it into a full-length memoir. I did. Excerpts won numerous local and national awards for adult nonfiction. The manuscript gained the attention of an executive editor of a major New York publishing house. The executive editor championed the manuscript from start to finish. She presented the polished manuscript to the editorial board, the sales and marketing committee, and finally the attorneys. When it was determined the publisher didn’t want to risk publishing the memoir without liability releases from all parties mentioned in the manuscript (this was right after the James Frey scandal for A Million Little Pieces, which turned out to be a million little lies shortly after Oprah endorsed the book on her show), I was asked to turn the book into fiction. My first attempt failed. My second attempt failed. My third attempt is stored in the safety deposit box of my bank. I didn’t have the heart to bring it out again. But last week, a reader who had read an excerpt from one of the book’s various incarnations asked, “Did you ever publish it? It’s really good.”

That comment haunted me. It’s the monkey on my back, the book that won’t go away, no matter how hard I try to get rid of it. I swear I could burn all the various manuscripts and delete all the copies on my hard drive and still someone somewhere would ask, “Whatever happened to The Take and Go? Or Red Eggs and Good Luck? Or Our Summer at No Name Beach? It’s really good.”

It’s not like I haven’t had the opportunity to publish it. In fact, over the years, I’ve been approached several times by several different publishers to publish the book in one form or another. What I haven’t found is the right publisher for the book.

Why am I so picky? Am I thinking this is another Harry Potter or Hunger Games? Not necessarily. But I do think it needs a wider readership than I am able to give it on my own. I want someone who believes in reaching the widest possible audience—that means foreign rights, movie rights—that means advertising, endorsements, and other marketing strategies I cannot afford. And if this manuscript truly is my magnum opus, I will not settle for less.

On November 6, 2014, the manuscript monkey is no longer on my back! She Writes Press will publish the memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck, on October 6, 2015, as the result of winning the Memoir Discovery Contest.

Book Trailer for The Human Act and Other Stories

Below is the book trailer for my upcoming short story collection from All Things That Matter Press:

Official Book Trailer for The Human Act and Other Stories

Visit my Fan Page for daily updates at Angela Lam Turpin on Facebook.

For more information on the background of the collection, visit my blog on Goodreads.com.