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I have an offer from a small press and I have no agent. The publisher is a nice guy, I don't think he's trying to rip me off or anything but how do I know if what he says about the number of copies sold is right?
Ahhh...this is why you want your contract to have an audit clause
The audit clause generally comes right after the clause about how they'll pay you. It needs to contain a couple things to give it some teeth.
1. Make sure it says "The Author or the Author's designated representative
may examine the books" Unless you're a CPA you won't know how to audit anything.
2. The publisher will limit the number of times you can audit to once a year, ask for reasonable notice, and probably limit the audit to information about your book (not the company as a whole.) Those things are reasonable to agree to.
3. The cost of the audit falls to the Author. However, make sure you include language that says if there is a discrepancy of more than 5% to the author's disadvantage, the cost of the audit is borne by the Publisher.
4. And make sure that if there is ANY discrepancy to the author's disadvantage that the Publisher has to pay the sum due within a certain amount of time.
I ask for 30 days, and I've settled for 60. What I do NOT agree to is "next royalty statement" because in some cases that's a year away.
Without the audit clause you have no way to verify royalty statements are accurate. Most publishers are not trying to lie/cheat/steal or any other kind of chicanery. In most cases small publishers are people doing a LOT of jobs, and numbers and bookkeeping isn't one of the jobs they trained for.
We find a lot of errors on royalty statements but we rarely need to audit. Most of the time, you can find the mistakes yourself because they're things like a royalty rate is wrong, a credit wasn't properly recorded, or the reserve for returns is too high.
Why does it take so long after acceptance to get your contract?
If you are interested in corporate writing, read today’s tip of the day from 102 Ways To Earn Money Writing 1,500 Words or Less by I.J. Schecter. Before accepting any writing assignment, you should know what your rate is and have a freelance writing contract ready for each client/project.
Determining Your Freelance Writing Rate
When your work is accepted by newspapers, magazines, or literary journals, you’ll have little say about what you’re paid. Once you become established, you’ll earn a bit of wiggle room when it comes to negotiating rates upward, but only a bit. For the most part, rates are set. But when you write for the corporate market, it’s you alone who determines what to quote for a given assignment or project, and this will be based on the hourly rate you determine for yourself. Writer’s Market lists low, high, and average rates for every type of writing you can think of. Base your hourly rate on this data. When people ask what you charge, don’t be sheepish. Answer quickly and firmly. The more you sound like you believe in the value of your services, the more potential clients will believe it, too.
Refer to the What Do I Charge? chart in Writer’s Market and notice it talks in terms of hours, not dollars. This is because (a) every writer’s rate will be different, so it isn’t fair to assign a blanket dollar amount to a specific type of project, and (b) within the same type of project there will be different sizes of projects.
A presentation might be five slides long or fifty; a speech might be three minutes long or thirty. So when you quote on a project, do it based on a fair assessment of how many hours of your time you think it will require. Don’t approach a project thinking “How much money do I want to make off this?” because you’ll inevitably skew your own estimates according to a number of factors, including how much money you do or don’t have flowing in at a given point. That will lead to inconsistency in your quoting, which clients will come to recognize. But quote according to a true projection of the hours you’ll need to do the project and do it well, and clients will come back again and again.
Create a Standard Writing Contract
Develop your own standard freelance agreement so you’re never in danger of doing a project without having something in writing. (No pun intended.) Companies are often rushed to complete their projects, and the last thing the middle manager assigned to find a writer wants to do is go through the extra step of having to prepare a formal agreement just to allow you to edit his marketing brochure. Send him your own agreement instead, outlining clearly the nature of the project, the expectations on your part, the agreed fee and deadline, and the set number of rounds of revisions before extra time kicks in. This document doesn’t have to be long—mine is barely two pages. The important thing is that you get a signature. You may be reading this and thinking it’s a giant pain in the rear end to create a contract every time you get a corporate assignment.
Consider this scenario: The manager who’s contacted you to write a long marketing piece, along with Web site copy, for a total fee of $3,500 has bolted from his company for a position elsewhere. The marketing piece has been handed off to someone else, and this person doesn’t feel that the expense of a writer is worthwhile. If you had only a verbal agreement with the previous person, you’ve just lost $3,500. If you got it in writing, you’ve made $3,500.
That’s the more elaborate scenario. The much simpler, and more frequent one, involves your having to chase a client for payment. It would be nice if this never happened, but any veteran freelancer can tell you more stories than she’d like about delinquent clients. Without signed agreements, getting them to pay is like trying to précis Hemingway. Get all your corporate assignments in writing and you’ll never have to worry.
To learn more about writing for magazines, newspapers, literary outlets and everything else under the sun, get your own copy of this book today!
Ten key points to consider in your book contract.
It takes courage, but sometimes it's in your best interest to reject an offer.
Make sure your contract covers these ten items.
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite independent book publisher? If you've been following this series, then you've already met the key players from our editorial staff, as well as members of our production, publicity, and sales and marketing teams. Today the Overlook employee spotlight returns to catch up with Contracts and Subsidiary Rights Manager Amy Yang, the legal whiz
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By Duncan Calow
It is only March, but 2012 has already seen a series of contract disputes over digital media and technology hit the headlines.
First, rock star Peter Frampton announced he had filed a lawsuit against his record label for half a million pounds worth of unpaid music royalties and other damages. Frampton claimed he was contracted with A&M Records to receive a 50% royalty for the use of “licensed” music but had not received payment on any digital sales.
Then there was news that book publisher HarperCollins had filed a lawsuit against digital publisher Open Road for copyright infringement in relation to e-versions of the children’s book, “Julie of the Wolves”. HarperCollins claims its author contract gave it the exclusive ability to publish the work in any format but Open Road claims to have been granted the e-book rights.
And even ‘new media’ companies have their problems too. PhoneDog.com, an interactive mobile news and review website, was reported to have sued a former employee for £217,000 after he converted a Twitter account, which it was claimed was originally set up on behalf of the employer, for his own use after leaving the company.
Each of the cases involve very different parties with very different facts and very different contracts.
The first is just one of many cases over how revenue in sales of digital music should be split between artists and labels, often with a focus on how physical distribution terms can apply to digital delivery. The second case raises, once again, the crucial question over how far fundamental expectations within a contract about how a work can be exploited can change as technology develops. The final dispute highlights the need for all businesses to keep employment contract and policies up to date to reflect the way in which social media and other technology is adopted in the workplace.
It remains to be seen how successful any of the claims will be as the full circumstances of these cases emerge over time or as the parties reach settlements.
What is clear, however, is that keeping contractual arrangements up-to-date with an ever evolving media and technology landscape continues to be a challenge. It is also a form of challenge that existed well before digital. Legal text books recount the disputes that arose as theatre plays were first filmed for cinema – or when cinema films were first shown on television and released on video.
The pace of change is of course faster now and the inherent nature of digital technology allows greater opportunities for re-use. Accordingly, it is commonly suggested that the best solution is to work with technology-neutral contracts that reflect a ‘converged’ digital media. Yet in practice there is often still a need to main sector specifics and capture particular technical details.
In fact, dealing with digital successfully in a contract is often a balancing act between maintaining familiar structures and form alongside sufficient further foresight and flexibility. Future developments may not always be predictable but contracts can still try to provide for that uncertainty.
Meanwhile, it’s a pretty s
If you sign with a literary agent and have no success placing your novel over the course of a year, what are your options after the official contract runs out? Can you search for a different agent and try again after some serious re-writes and editing? Is self-publishing worth considering? Is it time to give up, even if you believe the novel has potential?
Well, that depends on the contract. We don't have a contract that automatically expires so I'm not sure I'm the best one to answer this question. Our contract, in all jest, is for the rest of your life. What I mean by that is while we have a very easy termination clause, we hope to take on a client for a career and we don't want to be limited by time, either on our behalf or yours.
So I guess what I would ask you is what does that contract say. Does the expiration date mean automatic cancellation or does the expiration date only mean that you are now allowed to terminate? Once a contract is terminated, however that happens, you are allowed to do whatever you want. You are allowed to search for another agent, self-publish, or even quit and do something different. You know, you are also allowed to take a new project to your agent and continue with that. Many of my clients were signed with one project and first sold with another. Just because you sign with a project doesn't mean that's the one you're going to sell. Signing that contract should be a commitment on both sides to venture forth and build a career together, not just sell a book.
What I would say is that if the book has already been around, and a year has passed, I would hope that you have something new and fresh to take back to your old agent or to new agents. It never does a writer any good to spend a career focusing on just one book.
It's important that you have a non-ambiguous reversion of rights clause in your contract.
Do You Have to Sign One?The short answer is no
In my May 3 post, “Will Your First Book Be Published?” I mentioned multi-book contracts, and blog reader Marion asked: “Do you have to sign for a multi-book contract?” Her concern was mainly that she wasn’t sure she wanted to be locked into deadlines since her first book took her ten years to write.
, you definitely don't have to sign a multi-book contract, and you may not even be offered one. (You certainly won't be offered one if you don't have more than the one book.)
There are some cases in which you wouldn’t want to sign a multi-book contract even if offered one and you wouldn’t have any problem delivering the manuscripts. This has to do with specific publishers and the terms they’re offering. For example, if the publisher insists on joint accounting or “cross-collateralizing” all books within a contract, you might be better off only signing for one book at at time with them. (See this post
from agent Kristin Nelson.)
But there is a larger issue here: It's not usually good business for an agent or a publisher to commit to an author who may only have one book in them.
There is a huge investment of time and money, especially when it comes to building an audience. We would hope that audience-building would be for the long haul... that your fans would follow you through multiple books. The publisher wants to build a following for you that would extend to many more books down the line (that’s their hope), basically amortizing their costs over multiple books. It takes a lot of effort to launch a new author, so it makes sense that you'd want that effort to benefit the sale of multiple books.
So, while you may only be offered a single book contract to start with, be aware that agents and publishers typically are looking for authors
, not just books. They're hoping you'll have something else for them after this one.
Of course there are bestselling authors who are famous for a single book, and that's a possibility, of course. I think that one book would have to be so good and have such amazing potential that the agent and publisher aren't concerned about subsequent books—they believe the first one will be worth the effort in itself. The literary world would certainly be poorer without To Kill a Mockingbird
(Harper Lee), Gone with the Wind
(Margaret Mitchell), or Dr. Zhivago
(Boris Pasternak). But those authors are the exceptions. For the most part, we’re looking for writers with more than one book in them.Q4U: How does this "multiple book" goal serve you as a reader? Do you search for books from authors you like, or do you just look for good books regardless of the author?© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
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Yesterday I signed the contract for my latest book project, the one I told you about a while ago, that I have written as well as illustrated. Hurrah!
It's taken about a month to get it sorted, because there were various negotiations to be done, emailing backwards and forwards, sorting out the fine detail of the contract.
For anyone who has never seen one, picture book contracts are a nightmare, bursting at the seams with clauses and subclauses, percentages and rights, territories and timescales. I don't pretend to understand it all, that's why I am a member of the Society of Authors. They are brilliant, and essential for anyone who doesn't work through an agent. You can send them the proposed contract and, within a day or two, a specialist will have gone through it with a fine tooth-comb, ensuring it is fair and suggesting any changes that it would be wise to press for.
My hot tip for any new authors or illustrators, getting signed up for their first book: don't assume that, just because a contract looks all official and is in fancy, legal lingo, it's set in stone. You can ask for things to be changed: the worst that can happen is that they will say 'no, we want to leave it as it', but publishers are often more flexible than you would think.
I'm really glad all that hard-nose bit is done and dusted now though, and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the roughs. I've done quite a lot of the drawing already, but have to turn my big planning sheets into something more precise and ordered, fitting the picture book length and format.
7 Comments on All Systems Are Go!, last added: 6/28/2011