Friday, May 24, 2013
Beyond Book Royalties
Subsidiary rights specified in the contract determine, among other things, your share of any money resulting from a resale of the book to a paperback reprint house, book club, or as an ebook. A standard contract usually provides for a 50/50 split between you and a hardcover publisher. But the amendments you're looking for may change the contract to provide you with an increased percentage if the resale exceeds a certain dollar figure—for example, 55 percent for a sale over $50,000 or 60 percent for a sale over $100,000. You may not expect such a bonanza, but neither may your publisher. So nail down your chance at the lion's share from the start.
Every writer dreams of a big sale to the movies or for TV dramatization. While such possibilities are remote or the odds so great for either nonfiction or fiction, neither you nor your publisher may be motivated to bargain for the division of the spoils should there be a miraculous stroke of such luck. But no matter how conservative your expectations, it would be foolish to ignore such possibilities from your contract negotiations.
It used to be that publishers would give you 90-100 percent of all movie rights without much fuss.
But that was before film producers began asking for the rights to non-fiction books—In Cold Blood is a good example—and short stories such as “Legends of the Fall” and even articles. Today, everything depends on the particular book, short story, or article. If you think a filmmaker might be interested in your work, then you ought to make sure you get your share of the film rights.
Since options for possible film use are considerably more common than outright sales, a good contract will spell out not only the percent of the proceeds that you’ll receive from selling the film rights but also whether you or your publisher will have the right to negotiate the contracts with potential buyers.
You should also follow the same process when negotiating foreign reprint rights. Make an educated guess about the potential market for your work in the countries not covered by the basic contract. Ask for anything up to 100 percent of all foreign sales, and be sure the contract specifies who will have authority to negotiate with foreign publishers.
Other subsidiary rights include permission to use all or part of your text in magazines, newspapers, and on the Internet. First serial rights refers to publication in such outlets before the book appears while second serial rights refer to reprint after book publication. You should receive 100 percent of first serial rights.
Most book contracts grant you only 50 percent of the sale price for second serial rights. But when your track record or expertise help gain such a sale, the contract should be amended to provide an escalating percentage for you as sales multiply.
Generally, publishers handle the disposition of subsidiary sales through departments set up to manage them. They especially consider resale for paperback reprint their prerogative, and some may even resent your interference in their transactions. You may or may not be informed of the attempts by your publisher to find secondary markets.
It's important not to duplicate your publisher's efforts to get part of your book into a top selling magazine or to sell the whole thing to a reprint house, even if you believe your publisher isn’t looking out for your best interests.
However, when it's clear that the publisher isn’t pursuing secondary rights as aggressively as you would like, then you might consider pursuing them yourself. If your book has drawn heavily on the expertise you've acquired in the course of writing shorter pieces, chances are you have a network of markets and potential markets for this kind of material. So when your book is in print, you're in a good position to contact other markets that may already know you. Among these may be a publisher who may be familiar with your work but never considered it.
Let's assume your book has received some good reviews—especially on book review or social networking sites. Collect and copy all the good notices as they appear and package them to promote your efforts at resale to magazines or newspapers.
Create a small brochure of quotes from the reviews of your book and mail it along with query letters to a broad range of regional publications. It may bring a number of requests from editors to see a copy of your book, and a good number of reprint sales may follow. However, before randomly sending out copies of your book to editors, see which ones are interested, then mark the section of the book you think particularly suited to the needs of each publication and send them off.
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