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Um ... You guys ... someone is offering to publish my book.

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knikkki



Joined: 13 Jun 2005
Posts: 3145
Location: Davis, CA
Um ... You guys ... someone is offering to publish my book.  Reply with quote  

Which, forget how fucking stoked I am that somebody in the book business is willing to publish it.

Let me get to the reality of the situation, which is this ... (from the editor.)

If you have visited our website, you probably know that we are a small publisher, publishing "bizarro" material--surreal, experimental, and for us, we tend toward the absurd. I think your novel fits well into this category. Because we are a smaller press, we work more cooperatively with our authors. We would expect you to do a lot of your own publicity, and to also include material about our other books and authors in what you do. In return for this, we'll offer you a much higher percentage than the usual. Here is how we work. We put out all the initial costs to get the book out there: editing, formatting, printing, etc. We'll get the book listed at Amazon and mainline sources, so that bookstores and libraries can easily order it. We also use a variety of online speciality stores, such as shocklines, project pulp, and genre mall. All the first profits go to cover these costs. When those costs are paid, then we will split profits with you 50-50.

----

Which sounds a little like self-publishing and POD only, I don't have any initial costs, right? What do you think? If it sound too good to be true, it is? [/quote]
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Post Mon Jan 16, 2006 4:15 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
palmer



Joined: 30 Mar 2004
Posts: 1324
 Reply with quote  

Speaking from a point of ignorance -- I don't know.

It does sound unorthodox, but that might not be a bad thing, especially if your fiction falls into a "niche" category.

That said, there is what I think is important information missing here. For instance, is it POD? I can't tell from what you posted, and it looks like you don't know either. Also, a more precise costing is important -- "Expenses"? They have more than a little wiggle room there!

Contact them, which, if they're offering you publishing, is utterly reasonable, and ask them for more information.

I'm only posting this because no-one else is -- I really don't know very much.

Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 7:14 am   View user's profile Send private message
FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
Posts: 6381
Location: Michigan
 Reply with quote  

I agree with palmer.

Quick, call the cops!
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Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 9:20 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Lauren



Joined: 07 Mar 2004
Posts: 1582
Location: Massachusetts
 Reply with quote  

First off - congratulations! I've been following along with your posts.

That said, it kind of throws up a red flag for me, knikkki.

Money flows towards the author. If you aren't self-publishing, that is your golden rule.

May I ask what the percentage is that they offer? Industry standard from commercial publishers is based on 10-12% of the cover price (I'm double checking this number, but it's pretty close). Cover price, not price after bookstore/wholesaler discount.

Next, I'm going to line-by-line quote this, so you can see what makes me a little nervous.

Quote:
We would expect you to do a lot of your own publicity, and to also include material about our other books and authors in what you do. In return for this, we'll offer you a much higher percentage than the usual.


Even small presses have catalogs. Do these guys? If bookstores don't know about your book, neither will the general public. What a lot of authors don't realize is that a huge portion of advertising for books is never seen by the public. Most of what publishers do is try to convince bookstore buyers to put a book on their shelves. Convince the bookstore people, and you've got your book into the public's hands. Making your own bookmarks, or putting ads in your local newspaper, or setting up a website, etc, does NOT make booksellers see it. Sure, some of the public might see those marketing materials, but how many of them are going to remember to ask for it next time they go into a bookstore or browse Amazon? People buy books that they can see.

And you shouldn't have to advertise other authors' works. They seem to be asking you to make a catalog for them. I don't like it.

Quote:
Here is how we work. We put out all the initial costs to get the book out there: editing, formatting, printing, etc. We'll get the book listed at Amazon and mainline sources, so that bookstores and libraries can easily order it.

This is exactly what any publisher should be doing. The fact that they have to tell you about it in their email? Like it's a big favor to you? Makes me nervous. It's like ordering something from a restaurant and having the waiter say "Oh, and we'll even COOK it for you!" Editing/formatting/printing should never be something an author pays his or her publisher to do. Never. Never. Never. Same thing with "getting the book listed." That is what publishers do. What good is it to publish a book if they're not going to make money on it by selling it?

Quote:
We also use a variety of online speciality stores, such as shocklines, project pulp, and genre mall.

So...places they advertise? And the payment for advertising this comes out of your pocket? Sure, you might not be giving them a check to advertise in these places, but they're taking it out of your royalties. Same thing. This doesn't sit right. Again, publishers should not be charging authors for advertising.


Quote:
All the first profits go to cover these costs. When those costs are paid, then we will split profits with you 50-50.

So, before they pay you anything, they will take money out of your royalties until their costs have been paid - prices they're going to set. Plus you have to spend money to advertise not only your own title, but also titles by other authors as well.

If they aren't making an effort to sell the book, chances are you're not going to sell enough copies to see royalties on it.

Also, they're saying they'll "split profits" with you - what percentage of your book's cover price is considered "profit"?

Are they asking you to buy a quantity of it to sell yourself? Maybe bring it to local bookstores and ask them to carry it? Again, you shouldn't have to do this if they are a commercial publisher. Even small presses have catalogs, and if they're too small to have their own group of sales reps, are often sold by rep groups. Chances are, if they are asking you to buy and sell your own books, they are a vanity/pod press.

I don't like it. I really, really don't.

Your job as an author is to write more books. Not to spend time when you should be writing your next book advertising your first.

Would you be willing to PM me the name of the publisher or their website? Totally okay if you aren't, but based off of what you've got here, I'd say walk away now before you sign anything. I could be wrong, I've been wrong before. But it smells fishy.

Editing to add - one more thing: What is their definition of "editing"?

If their answer is "Looking for spelling/grammar errors and the like" you are not being edited. You are being spell/grammar checked. As in, load up the file, run it through MS Word's built in function. This is not what a real editor does. A real editor is going to read through your book and make honest-to-god suggestions to make your book better. "Here's a plot hole," "This dialogue is weak" "Can this scene be moved or deleted?" A real editor is going to tighten up your work, help you make it better - NOT just say "You typed 'too' when you mean 'two.'"
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Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 9:55 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address ICQ Number
knikkki



Joined: 13 Jun 2005
Posts: 3145
Location: Davis, CA
Thanks you guys ...  Reply with quote  

Yes, I am treading very cautiously. I'm looking at it from a variety of perspectvies ...

It isn't POD nor self-publishing, but they do want to recoup their costs before I make money. The publisher does have a solid catalog, and their books do sell on Amazon. In fact, I read one of their books which is what lead me to them.

I got the contract, but the questions you pose are valid and the contract doesn't answer them. I told them thank you, that I would like to take a few days to ponder and come up with questions.

The significant questions I've come up with are:
Do they work with literary agents?
How does the "promotion" they reference work?
How many books have to be sold to break even? (Typically)
What types of expenses fall into the pre-sale category? (i.e. is there an allocation of the editors salary, that type of thing.)

They said 50/50 split, but Lauren you are correct, I need to quantify what that really means.

I am a. realistic, and b. pretty saavy in busines, so I'm not just going to leap in. I also wrote to both of the agents who are reading my material to get their input and (hopefully) prod them along.

I'm trying to look at factors that aren't just money ... I have a day job that pays well, so it's not critical. But, I look at this as a possibility to open a door. How much easier is it to get an agent if you have already sold a novel? It's not self-publishing, but it's not Random House either. What am I willing to do to get it out there? What chances am I willing to take? AND ... more important, what if this is the ONLY offer I get?

Thank you all for your input, it's helpful. It validates my concerns and gives me food for thought.
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Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 10:29 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
 Reply with quote  

K:

I don't know much about this, but small presses do what they can to stay in business.


Here are my questions, which should be your questions:

How are costs calculated? You have to have the right to audit them, otherwise they could sell a hundred-thousand copies and still claim that they are recouping their costs. It's standard in a literary contract to have the right to look at their books or have an accountant examine thier books. They may be right up front and say, "We're spending five grand, we're printing 2,000 copies, and when we get that back, you start getting money.

Do you get the book back if it's out of print, and when is it out of print? (definitions)? You'll want to be able to get your book back if your career takes off.

Do they have a right of first refusal on your next book, or any rights at all? It's standard for a publisher to have this, but you should be able to seek a higher offer.

You absolutely should contact the agent who was looking at your book and inform him/her of this offer. They may think you can get more.

Other than that, congrats.

Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 2:36 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
knikkki



Joined: 13 Jun 2005
Posts: 3145
Location: Davis, CA
thank you ...  Reply with quote  

How are costs calculated? You have to have the right to audit them, otherwise they could sell a hundred-thousand copies and still claim that they are recouping their costs. It's standard in a literary contract to have the right to look at their books or have an accountant examine thier books. They may be right up front and say, "We're spending five grand, we're printing 2,000 copies, and when we get that back, you start getting money.

---- I just wrote that exact quesiton. Clearly there needs to be some limits.

Do you get the book back if it's out of print, and when is it out of print? (definitions)? You'll want to be able to get your book back if your career takes off.

----- Yes, this is what the contract says The Author shall have the right to terminate this Agreement by written notice if the Work goes out-of-print and the Publisher, within ninety days of receiving notice from the Author that the Work is out-of-print, does not place the Work in print again. A work shall be deemed out-of-print if the work is not available for sale in reasonable quantities in normal trade channels. This Agreement shall automatically terminate in the event of the Publisher’s insolvency, bankruptcy, or assignment of assets for the benefit of creditors. In the event of termination of the Agreement, the Publisher shall grant, convey, and transfer all rights in the Work back to the Author.

Is that too vague? Should I ask for definition of "normal channels?"


Do they have a right of first refusal on your next book, or any rights at all? It's standard for a publisher to have this, but you should be able to seek a higher offer.

---No, they don't, and in this case I think that's good. I hope that I have a better chance of getting an agent with something published, no matter how small the press.

You absolutely should contact the agent who was looking at your book and inform him/her of this offer. They may think you can get more.

--- Have done!

Other than that, congrats

---- Thank you.

And thank you all for your help. It's such an emotional thing and it would be very easy to get carried away. Your comments are helping me keep my head wrapped around the business side of this thing, and not off in the dream of being a published author.
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Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 3:01 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
y



Joined: 22 Mar 2005
Posts: 3858
 Reply with quote  

k- i'm a little late to this one too - congrats on having someone interested! That's awesome! Just keep in mind what the rest of the folks in here have said - make sure you watch out for you first.

Congrats and best wishes!
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Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 4:10 pm   View user's profile Send private message
chris
Site Admin


Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
Re: thank you ...  Reply with quote  

knikkki wrote:
How are costs calculated? You have to have the right to audit them, otherwise they could sell a hundred-thousand copies and still claim that they are recouping their costs. It's standard in a literary contract to have the right to look at their books or have an accountant examine thier books. They may be right up front and say, "We're spending five grand, we're printing 2,000 copies, and when we get that back, you start getting money.

---- I just wrote that exact quesiton. Clearly there needs to be some limits.

Do you get the book back if it's out of print, and when is it out of print? (definitions)? You'll want to be able to get your book back if your career takes off.

----- Yes, this is what the contract says The Author shall have the right to terminate this Agreement by written notice if the Work goes out-of-print and the Publisher, within ninety days of receiving notice from the Author that the Work is out-of-print, does not place the Work in print again. A work shall be deemed out-of-print if the work is not available for sale in reasonable quantities in normal trade channels. This Agreement shall automatically terminate in the event of the Publisher’s insolvency, bankruptcy, or assignment of assets for the benefit of creditors. In the event of termination of the Agreement, the Publisher shall grant, convey, and transfer all rights in the Work back to the Author.

Is that too vague? Should I ask for definition of "normal channels?"


Do they have a right of first refusal on your next book, or any rights at all? It's standard for a publisher to have this, but you should be able to seek a higher offer.

---No, they don't, and in this case I think that's good. I hope that I have a better chance of getting an agent with something published, no matter how small the press.

You absolutely should contact the agent who was looking at your book and inform him/her of this offer. They may think you can get more.

--- Have done!

Other than that, congrats

---- Thank you.

And thank you all for your help. It's such an emotional thing and it would be very easy to get carried away. Your comments are helping me keep my head wrapped around the business side of this thing, and not off in the dream of being a published author.




Looks good to me, K. As long as you are happy with the other terms. But before you forgo an advance with a larger publisher, make sure you've been rejected first. Don't reject yourself. By that I mean, if this is your first offer, and you haven't had this out to market that long, you don't want to sell yourself short.

Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 5:38 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
sgt_steve



Joined: 18 Jan 2005
Posts: 5197
Location: Michissippi
Re: thank you ...  Reply with quote  

knikkki wrote:
Do you get the book back if it's out of print, and when is it out of print? (definitions)? You'll want to be able to get your book back if your career takes off.

----- Yes, this is what the contract says...Is that too vague? Should I ask for definition of "normal channels?"
The other professionals on the board have done a fine job of advising you here, but I want to point out a little-known technological detail.

With publish on demand, your book is never out of print. That's good, because it's always available. That's bad, because if it's never out of print, the rights never revert to you.

A second point worth noting:
knikkki wrote:
This Agreement shall automatically terminate in the event of the Publisher’s insolvency, bankruptcy, or assignment of assets for the benefit of creditors. In the event of termination of the Agreement, the Publisher shall grant, convey, and transfer all rights in the Work back to the Author.
These two sentences seem pretty nice, but there are some pitfalls.

First, if the agreement terminates when the publisher goes belly-up, that means you may also lose the good things about the agreement - right to audit being number 1. (Not that an audit right would help you in chapter 7 or 9 bankruptcy; in that case there's no-one to sue to force the audit. But if your audit rights terminate with chapter 11 as well, you're in a really rough place - you can't prove what royalties you're owed, you can't find out, and so you don't have a claim.

Second, you will almost surely get your rights back after bankruptcy, but it can take years. I've seen at least one case (Alan Moore, if I recall correctly) where the bankruptcy judge ruled that the author could not move his material to another publisher because it was an asset of the company, and thereby potentially of value to (I almost wrote 'is property of') the creditors. He didn't get his rights back until the bankruptcy had gone all the way to completion, a process that literally took years due to what a mess the company was. This is apparently fairly common - until things are settled, judges don't like to let potential assets walk away. You can't sue the bankruptcy judge for enforcement of contract, either. You just have to wait.

Which is not to say that these aren't good clauses; they're just not quite as good as they sound.

Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 8:55 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
knikkki



Joined: 13 Jun 2005
Posts: 3145
Location: Davis, CA
Interesting ...  Reply with quote  

You're correct, I hadn't thought of it that way.

Lots to think about
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Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 9:09 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Lauren



Joined: 07 Mar 2004
Posts: 1582
Location: Massachusetts
Re: thank you ...  Reply with quote  

chris wrote:
But before you forgo an advance with a larger publisher, make sure you've been rejected first. Don't reject yourself. By that I mean, if this is your first offer, and you haven't had this out to market that long, you don't want to sell yourself short.


QFTMFT (quoted for the mothereffin' truth)
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Post Tue Jan 17, 2006 9:16 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address ICQ Number
palmer



Joined: 30 Mar 2004
Posts: 1324
 Reply with quote  

If you're going to sign something, get a lawyer.

You can negotiate things, too, don't forget.

Post Wed Jan 18, 2006 7:35 am   View user's profile Send private message
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