Tag s | Contracts

Writers Learn to Wait

Good publishing takes time. Time to write well. Time to edit well. Time to find the right agent. Time to find the right publisher. Time to edit again and re-write. Time to design well. Time to market well.

While there can be a lot of activity it still feels like “time” is another word for “wait.” No one likes to wait for anything. Our instant society (everything from Twitter to a drive-thru burger) is training us to want things to happen faster. Business experts claim faster is better (see Charles Duhigg’s book on productivity Smarter, Faster, Better). Many years ago I wrote about how long it takes to get published which gave an honest appraisal of the time involved in traditional publishing. Reviewing that post from half a decade ago reveals that nothing has changed!

A successful author learns how to wait well.

Waiting for the Agent

Why can’t agents respond faster? Don’t we just sit around all day and read? We try our best to reply to submissions within eight weeks and are relatively good about that. But if your project passes the first review stage and we are now reviewing your entire manuscript remember that reading a full manuscript is much more demanding than reading a few pages in a proposal.

If you are already represented all I can say is that agents do their best to be responsive to your questions and phone calls. Crisis Management is part of our job description. Remember that one of the first things a First Responder must do is triage. Some issues are more critical than others which can create consternation if yours is next in line instead of first.

But if your agent is unresponsive that is a conversation for another blog post.

Waiting for a Publisher

After working hard to get your proposal just right we send it out to a select list of publishers. Then we all sit back and wait. It can take 3-6 months to hear an answer from a publisher. The longest our agency waited was 22 months before we received a contract offer. No kidding. Just shy of two years. [Both I and my client had already moved on, thinking the project was dead.] But that is truly the exception. I believe that if we don’t receive some sort of answer within four months it is probably not going to connect.

That record was recently surpassed by a client who was contacted by a magazine asking to publish a poem she submitted twenty-six years ago…in 1990. You read that right. I wrote about it in October in case you missed the article “How Long Should You Wait for an Answer?” In 1990 I was still working as a bookseller and never dreamed I’d be a literary agent. Evidently this magazine keeps great files and a new editor must have been going through the archives!

Waiting for Your Contract

Once terms are agreed upon it can take quite a while to get the actual contract issued by some publishers. Many can take as long as two months to generate the paperwork. We once had to change the date of the contract because it had taken so long to create the paperwork that the due date for the manuscript was earlier than the actual date on the contract! This delay can be excruciating. Ask your agent what is typical for the specific publisher you are working with. That way your expectations will be set.

Waiting for Your Editor

You met your deadline. And then you wait.

Months.

And you begin wondering if anyone is reading the manuscript at all!

This is actually quite typical. The publisher needs to have the manuscript in hand to know that it actually has been written. But don’t think the editor is sitting at their inbox, on the due date, with rapt anticipation of receiving your contracted manuscript. They manage their time in order to keep things in the queue and moving along. It can very frustrating to wait. The key here is to be in communication with your editor. It is okay to ask! Or talk to your agent to see if they know if there is anything going on that is preventing that editor from working on your book.

Waiting for Your Marketing and Publicity to Kick In

The new author is so excited about their new book that they want to start chatting about it the day after they turn in the manuscript. A great athlete or sports team wants to peak at the right time, never too early. The same with book promotion. If you begin tweeting and creating Facebook posts, without inventory online or in stores, to back it up the window of sales opportunity closes.

“But e-books solves that issue because they can be ready today!” you shout. True. But don’t forget that a lot of people still buy physical books in stores, online, and off your back table at an event. The physical book is still alive and well and must be available if your publicity and marketing is to be effective.

Waiting for Your Money

When I became an agent I didn’t know I’d become a Collections Agent…not just a Literary Agent. Getting paid can take time (i.e. waiting).

Waiting for the “on signing” advance — normally the publisher will take a full 30 days before issuing the check after the contract is counter-signed and officially executed.

Waiting for the “on acceptance of manuscript” advance — this can vary widely. Just because you turned it in doesn’t mean it is acceptable. One publisher we work with will not issue an “acceptance” check until the book has gone through every stage of the editorial process and has been sent to production for typesetting. This can take months. My suggestion is that you take your due date and then add four months…that way you don’t budget for the money to come earlier.

Waiting for the advance to earn out and new royalty earnings to arrive — yes, some books do not earn out their advances. But many do earn out and the royalties eventually start coming, even if in tiny increments. This can take awhile, depending on the advance and the book. We recently had a client’s book with a small advance finally earn out five years after it had been published.

Indie Authors Wait Too

For those of you who are publishing independently you may feel like you’ve skipped most of these stages. And that is partially true. But a wise writer won’t put their book out into the market before it is ready. This means taking the time to write the best book possible. Taking the time to have the book edited professionally…not by just anyone who took an English class is school. Taking the time to find the right book cover to represent your book. Taking the time to create and execute a strategic marketing plan (a plan that is more than simply uploading an ebook and charging 99 cents). Taking the risk of investing enough money in the right places for the right results.

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At each stage the writer chaffs at the process. This is quite understandable. I once read an author’s angry screed (on their blog) criticizing their publisher for the excruciating process of getting their book out. The problem, as I see it, is that the author’s expectations were not in line with reality. Much of a writer’s angst can be avoided by understanding the process and modifying their expectations to match.

Therefore my encouragement for you is to learn how to wait. Some scientists even claim that it might be good for you (click here for the article). It is to your benefit to accept the nature of this process and embrace the agony of waiting. Anticipating the result can be as fulfilling as holding the finished product.

[A version of this post first ran in 2011.]

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Defusing Contract Landmines

by Steve Laube

During the last six months we have run into some landmines buried within some small press contracts. In each case it was the author’s relationship with the publisher that helped land the offer, and so we proceeded to review the paperwork in order to protect the author’s interests.

In one case the small publisher was very grateful for our negotiations and contract changes. They plan to change their contract for all authors in the future. We were glad to help our client form that new partnership.

In two cases the publisher said they could not afford to hire a lawyer to review our requested changes to the contract and thus were unwilling to negotiate. We recommended the author walk away both times.

In yet another case the publisher wouldn’t negotiate and said, in essence, “take it or leave it.” We walked away. Our client terminated their relationship with us and signed the deal on their own.

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I is for Indemnification

by Steve Laube

Publishing is not without risks. Plagiarism, fraud, and libel by an author are real possibilities. Thus within a book contract is a legal clause called indemnification inserted to protect the publisher from your antics.

The indemnification clause, in essence, says that if someone sues your publisher because of your book, claiming something like libel (defamation) or plagiarism etc., your publisher can make you pay the fees to compensate for their losses. This is to “indemnify” which is defined as “to compensate (someone) for harm or loss.” Bottom line: The publisher has the right to hire its own attorneys (at the author’s expense) to defend against these claims.

Doesn’t sound like a happy clause does it? But you can understand why it is there. This clause and the Warranty clause are notoriously difficult to negotiate. (The Warranty clause is where the things the author guarantees or warrants are listed; i.e. the book is original, it is not libelous in content, etc. This clause will be more fully covered by me at another time) The language has been written by the publisher’s attorneys and are usually set in stone.

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D is for Dispute Resolution

by Steve Laube

Pray that it never happens to you. But if there is a situation where you find yourself in a legal battle with your publisher regarding your book contract there are terms that will dictate how that disagreement is handled.

Here is one version from an old contract:

Any claim or dispute arising from or related to this Agreement shall be settled by mediation and, if necessary, legally binding arbitration in accordance with the rules of a mutually agreed upon alternative dispute resolution service. Judgment upon an arbitration decision may be entered in any court otherwise having jurisdiction. The parties agree that these methods shall be the sole remedy for any controversy or claim arising out of this Agreement and expressly waive their right to file a lawsuit in any civil court against one another for such disputes, except to enforce an arbitration decision.

Regardless of the place of its physical execution, this contract shall be interpreted under the laws of the State of XXXXXXXXXX and of the United States of America.

If you read this carefully you’ll see it lays out the rules that keeps a dispute out of the court system and forces the two parties to use binding arbitration instead.

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Review Any and Every Contract You Sign

by Steve Laube

Today’s headline sounds like a blinding flash of the obvious but you’d be surprised how many writers are not careful about the agreements they sign. Those with a literary agent have that business partner who will review their book contracts, that is a given. But what about their magazine article or online article contracts?

Earlier this month the Condé Nast organization, which includes Wired, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, surprised their freelance writers with a new agreement that has Condé Nast controlling the film and television rights on articles published by their magazines, with a cap on the revenue paid to the writer. Why? Because past articles turned into big box office hits like “Argo,” “Eat Pray Love,” and “Brokeback Mountain.”

This contractual assertion has put writers in a bind because they do not want to lose the chance to writer for these prestigious magazines.

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News You Can Use – Oct. 2, 2012

Why is the new J.K.Rowling e-book priced at $17.99? – This brief article presents some succinct economic details to help you further understand how this industry works.

Penguin Sues Authors for Advances Paid – There are at least two sides to every story, but this appears to be a number of cases where a writer signed a contract, accepted a sizeable cash advance, and never delivered the manuscript. There must have been previous attempts to get the money back for Penguin to resort to the court system to collect.

Get Paid More for your Freelance Work! – This article has 37 negotiating tips to improve your freelance editing income.

Congratulations to our clients Aaron McCarver, Diane Ashley, and Susan May Warren for winning the Carol Award for their fiction category. Click here for a complete list of winners and their book jackets. Well done!

The Accidental History of the @ Symbol – The origin of things like these is always fascinating to me. This article is from the Smithsonian Magazine.

The Importance of a Good Contract – “I Love Lucy” is worth $20 million annually…sixty years after the show aired.

My father, Roger G. Laube, passed away on September 15th and we recently held the burial and memorial services with family gathered from six states. He was a remarkable man who had an unwavering faith in God and a vigorous life in business, church, music, and family. He served as an incredible model for all who were touched by him. We love you Dad. You will be missed. An online memorial can be found at this link (http://bit.ly/QCg6tc). Included there is a full obituary and a “more photos” section. (Memorial gifts should be sent to Gideons International.). Picture to the left is from his 90th birthday, last year.

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Goodbye to Traditional Publishing?

by Steve Laube

Recently Ann Voss Peterson wrote of her decision to never sign another contract with Harlequin. One major statistic from the article is that she sold 170,000 copies of a book but earned only $20,000.

Multiple clients sent me Peterson’s “Harlequin Fail” article and wanted my opinion. My first thought is that this was typical “the publisher is ripping me off” fodder. But that would be a simplistic and knee-jerk reaction and unfair to both Peterson and Harlequin.

Yes, Harlequin pays a modest royalty that is less than some publishers. Since when is that news? That has always been their business model because it is the only way to create and maintain an aggressive Direct-to-Consumer and Trade publishing program. Their publishing machine is huge and they are a “for profit” company. For Profit. If they are unprofitable, they go away.

If an author is uncomfortable with the terms, then don’t sign the contract (which is Peterson’s decision going forward). I urge each of you to be careful not to sign a contract and then complain about it later. Unless you were completely hoodwinked you agreed to those terms and should abide by them.

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What if You Get a Book Deal on Your Own and Then Want an Agent?

One of our readers asked this via the green “Ask us a question” button.

What happens if you get a book contract before you have an agent? What if, by some miracle, an editor sees your work and wants to publish it? (1) would having a publisher interested in my work make an agent much more likely to represent me, and (2) would it be appropriate to try to find an agent at that point (when a publisher says it wants to publish you)? My fear is that querying an agent and receiving a response could take several months, but I’d need to accept a potential contract with a book publisher right away (I would think). Is it appropriate to ask the editor to speak with an agent on your behalf to speed the process?

This is a great topic but there are a few questions within the question. Let me try to break it down.

Many times have had authors approach us with contracts in hand and seeking representation (happened just last week). Of course this will get an agent’s attention immediately. But there are caveats:

a)      Who is the publisher? There is a big difference between a major company and your local independent publisher. Not all publishers are created equal (see the Preditors & Editors warnings).

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News You Can Use – Feb. 7, 2012

Author Says McGraw-Hill Cheats on Royalties – Details of a pending lawsuit.

What is Pinterest? –  The latest craze in Social Media Networks. AuthorMedia shows you the simple steps to sign up and tips on how to use it in the next article below.

Three Ways an Author Can Use Pinterest – Last week an editor told me how she was following a couple of her authors on Pinterest and how much she liked it.

5 Ways to Break Out of the Social Media Doldrums – Well said by Aubre Andrus.

10 Ways to Ensure No One Will Read Your Blog Post – Ali Luke give great insight

How Hard Can it Be to Write a Kids Book? – Sally Lloyd-Jones helps dispel a common myth.

A very cool six minute video envisioning a future technology. Imagine computing being done on glass walls, desks, and even National Parks. From Corning. By the way, Corning makes the “Gorilla Glass” that you find on the iPad2.

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Deadlines and Taxes

Two certainties in the life of a writer. Deadlines and Taxes.

You know what a deadlines is. It has the word “dead” in it for a reason. And intrinsic to the reality of taxes is that April 15th filing deadline.

But what about those taxes?

Many articles appear in early April about taxes when approaching the filing date. But I thought we should explore a couple items now so there won’t be any surprises come April.

First, the obligatory disclaimer. I am not a tax attorney or a tax accountant. I am merely discussing concepts and ideas which you may or may not use in your situation. And, as always, when it comes to your taxes, make sure to consult a professional.

Some of you may roll your eyes and say, “I already know this.” But remember there was a time when you did not. I get many “beginner” questions each year from debut authors who are discovering much of the business side of this industry for the first time.

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