Tag s | Contracts

Audio, Audio, Wherefore Art Thou Audio?

“I’ve heard that audio rights are never given to the author in the contract because that is how the publisher makes more money. Is this true? And if you lose the audio rights, do you lose all control? Let’s say for instance, do you have any say in who reads your story or is that completely out of your hands? Do your writers hold onto their audio rights in your publishing negotiations?”

Thanks to Holly for the great question!

Audio rights are part of the subsidiary rights negotiated in every contract. In some cases we negotiate the author to retain audio rights, in other cases the publisher wants them to be included in the total deal. Each case is different. There are a number of great audio publishers who license the audio rights from the original publisher.

How Does it Work?

For example, let’s say your book My Soul Can’t Handle the Truth is contracted by Big Kahuna Publishing for a $25,000 advance. As part of the deal the publisher negotiates the rights to publish the book and in the subsidiary rights section controls audio, film, and foreign rights.

Because the publisher controls the audio rights they can create their own audio edition. They can hire the voice talent, the studio, and production themselves. Or they can license those rights to a third party. Along comes Big Audie Recording Company (BARC) who wants to license the audio. They pay an advance to Big Kahuna Publishing of $1,500. Then BARC pays for all the costs of creating and producing and selling the audio. Every copy sold earns a royalty that once the advance is earned out money is paid to Big Kahuna.

Big Kahuna takes the $1,500 and keeps $750. The other $750 is placed into your author royalty account to help offset the advance they paid you.

It is very rare for the author to have any say in who the voice talent will be to record the audio. There have been a couple isolated cases where the publisher asked the author to help select the voice.

I’ve also had a few clients who have on-air talent and we negotiated to have them do the audio recording. This is rare, and usually has to be the publisher’s option since not everyone is as talented on-air as they claim, so the publisher can be a little reluctant.

I heard of a situation where an author insisted on using their own hand-picked actor to do the audio edition. Unfortunately the actor had no experience doing audio recordings. The actor was not a good “sight reader” since he was trained to memorize short lines for scenes, which is a completely different skill set. It took a month to edit the final audio because of all the mistakes in the recording. Over 3,000 edits. Obviously creating a professional audio is not as easy as it sounds!

Back in my Bethany House days, on multiple occasions, I accompanied an author to a recording studio to oversee their audio recording. The author was to be the voice talent for their own book. It was grueling for them to be “on-stage” for so many hours at a time and keep the recording at a top level. One time, around 2:30pm the first day the sound engineer turned to me and said “Let’s call it a day.” The author’s voice had begun to change as the strain increased. The author could not hear it until we played back two sections for comparison. The difference sounded like two different people talking.

By the way, a good reader can record a little more than 9,000 words per hour. A 90,000 word book would take three hard working days to record and another few days to properly produce. This is not an inexpensive process. It can cost $200-$500 per finished hour of recording. (Your mileage may vary.)

The trouble for the author comes when no one wants to license the audio and the publisher doesn’t want to spend the money and time to create it themselves. But the audio rights were made part of the original contract. The audio languishes in Neverland. Now the author is frustrated because they have a reader who prefers audio, but no one wants to do it (meaning, pay for it). Then begins the struggle to get those rights back after they have been granted. Some publishers are agreeable to revert those rights after a period of time. Others remain reluctant.

If You Retain Audio Rights

If you keep the audio rights your agent can license them for you. We’ve done it a number of times. Or you can self-publish.

Amazon created the ACX (Audio Creation Exchange) to help Indie authors and small publishers create audio editions. It is a fine program worth investigation. Amazon owns Audible.com and is the largest online sales vehicle, which makes integration with ACX a snap. Jane Friedman wrote about alternatives to Amazon on her informative blog: https://janefriedman.com/acx-alternative-2/

One of our clients was a voice talent for years. You can find Kim de Blecourt’s “audition” over at Voices.com, a site for voice talent. ACX’s site has over 52,000 audio samples to choose from.

Your Story

If any of you have had experience self-producing audio, let us know your story. And how easy or hard was it to sell the audio version once it was available?

 

 

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Writers Learn to Wait

Ours is a process industry. Good publishing takes time. Unfortunately time is another word for “waiting.” No one really 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. Awhile ago I wrote about how long it takes to get published which gave an honest appraisal of the time involved. Below are some of the things for which a writer must learn to wait.

Waiting for the Agent

We try our best to reply to submissions within 6-8 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 short proposals.

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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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