Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Burning Question

What factors should a writer consider in deciding whether or not to accept an offer from a publisher?

When you make decisions on offers/contracts, do you think more about the money offered or about intangibles like where they can place you on their list, publicity and marketing plans, how soon they can put your book out? What other factors contribute to your decision to take or reject an offer?


Betina Krahn said...

Money and when-you-get-it is always the first concern in contract negotiations. But there are other things. . . like what kind of sales force and distribution a house has. Sometimes this makes a HUGE difference in sales and can decide the question between two offers. Also which imprint at a house will the book be released in. Some houses-- ahem-- clearly favor one imprint over another and sell more of that imprint.

Also-- an intangible but important one is how much clout an editor has at a house. . . if she can pull weight and interest to your book. At entry levels, this isn't usually a consideration. But as an author rises through the ranks, it's a very real concern.

Also, lol, whether the editor is young and fertile and interested in bearing offspring in the near future. During the contract, how likely is it that you'll be abandoned for the thrill of poopie diapers and domestic bliss? There aren't many long-term authors who haven't been affected by this at one time or another and it's been a real and detrimental factor in some writers' careers.

:) Betina

Helen Brenna said...

Obviously, I'm at that entry-level point you're talking about, Betina. I only had offers from 1 publishing house for my book, so my only option was sell or not sell. And I'm with Harlequin which means boiler-plate contracts.

The only change I've gotten in 2 contracts is an increase in author copies of my books. I'd love to know if anyone out there has negotiated other terms in their Harlequin contracts. Anyone?

I do understand what you mean, Betina, when you talk about how an editor can have a huge impact on your career. My editor just moved to a different line a few weeks ago. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I find out she's taking me with her. I'm hoping this means it's a promotion for her and could mean good things for my career, but who really knows?

Candace said...

LOL at Betina's comment about young, fertile editors. I've lost three to the siren call of motherhood. And a couple to outright firings.

They're there at the end of the phone one day and then gone--poof! without a warning!--the next. Talk about making a writer nervous about her place on the house's publishing ladder. Your first thought (okay, my first thought) is always, "Did her firing have something to do with MY book?" and then, "Am I going to get 'fired,' too?"

None of which answers the burning question before us. To whit, since the great bulk of my fiction career has been with Harlequin my primary concern has always been money--as in, how much will they give me up front in the advance 'cause that's all you can really count on getting. In my experience with them, pretty much nothing else is negoitable (except for the number of author copies)--and the money isn't really negotiable, either, come to that. You are raised XX amount of dollars with each book until you reach the ceiling amount and that's it. (Sorry, Helen.)

Michele said...

Been there, done the pregnant editor thing. It was never the same for me at that house afterwards. So yeah, I like 'em old and frigid. :-)

MOney, oh yeah, money is good. I've sold 16 books thus far, and have mostly been concerned about money, but I"m starting to look at other things as well, like:
-is the editor heavy handed, or not so much
-if it's a series, is the print run considerable
-advertising. Are they going to do any?
-deadlines. Does this editor follow them?
-as well, does the editor get back on proposals in a reasonable time?
-what markets will they book be marketed to? Foreign? Electronic? Other?
-what rights should I retain?
-can I have cover consult?
-publication month


Debra Dixon said...

It's almost impossible to generalize about what factors to consider in accepting an offer because it all depends on where you are in your career, who the publishing house is, what kind of book it is, whether you have multiple offers or only one publisher interested, your previous sales or new author status, your ability to deliver more books, the book's subrights potential and whether that house can successfully peddle subrights or foreign rights...

The list goes on. Michelle, Helen and Betina have given some great specifics to think about.

A good rule of thumb is that "what you know" factors into the decision. So you should know a lot. Most first time unagented authors don't know enough. This is the time to pick up the phone and call the dream agents you've researched and say, "There's some money in the street. Would you like to pick it up for me?"

If you have serious interest, your chances of finally snagging a good agent go up. But even with an agent the author should still do the homework, find out about publishing, contract clauses, distribution potential, etc.

Helen Brenna said...

There's some money in the street. Would you like to pick it up?

LOL, Deb!

anne frasier said...

i don't think i've ever known about many of the things mentioned. with my current house things like what imprint, publicity, marketing aren't known until long after i've finished the book and turned it in. even after the books comes out i don't know what was or wasn't done. but i've never had more than one house interested in me at a time.