Sunday, October 18, 2009

My First RWA Meeting: Book Contract Talk

I have to say, I'm a lucky gal. I live in an area thriving with all sorts of writing groups and local chapters of national associations. From the North East Texas Chapter of the SCBWI, to the DFW Writers' Workshop, and now the North Texas RWA, (plus my NaNoWriMo chapter)I have to admit, I'm a spoiled writer. Each group is full of fascinating and amazingly talented writers and published authors who are always friendly and treat me like part of the fam.

So Saturday, I attended the usual 3rd Saturday meeting for the NTRWA and got to hear Shelley Bradley talk about the business, but a part of the business you usually don't hear about at one of these things. The actual publishing process (contract talk) and the difference between it with e-publishers and print publishers. Wow! I learned so much, I swear my brain grew just a little.

Some things I took away with me: E-publishers' turn around time until your book is available online ranges from about 3-9 months, whereas print publishers can take anywhere from 11 to 36 months. She mentioned (with print publishers) how you should never settle on a 36 month contract. A common length can be around 24 months, but can always be negotiated (hence the reason awesome rockstar agents are a must). With e-books, you get no advance, just royalties, and if you ever want the option of your e-book going to print, make sure the word count is 50-55K and over. With print, the common thing now a days is a split advance, and not half split (like it use to be), but 3 or 4 splits. You get a portion when you sign with the publisher, a portion at D & A (delivery) and a portion when the book releases. She mentioned how you really want to get as much up front on the signing as possible, because the time from then until your book actually releases might end up being a year, which is a year of waiting to get paid again.

The Option Clause is another part of the contract she went over. This is the length of time you have until your next novel can be released, and these can be tricky. Be very specific in the contract about the next novel you plan on releasing through that publisher. For example, "contemporary YA" can be any novel falling in that category. But if you put something like "contemporary YA paranormal" then, technically (and correct me if I'm wrong here, published people) if you write a YA historical romance, or anything other than YA, you have the option of going to another publisher instead of being tied up with the publisher that has your first book and waiting on the option clause before your next book can be released. Also, make sure the length of time in which the publisher will accept your Book 2 (contemporary YA paranormal to use the example) isn't a lengthy amount of time. If they put in the contract they won't read the second book until no earlier than 3 months after the release of your first, and their response (with revisions etc.) might not get back to you until 6 months later, you're looking at an awful long time before your second book hits the shelves, and if 18 months passes before this happens, readers might forget about you.

This is all just example, but make sure to understand what the Option Clause means (and again, another reason I strongly urge to have an awesome rockstar agent).

She talked about a multitude of other things like book covers and an authors control (including how it works with e-publishers), Grant & Territory (world rights, foreign rights, etc.) Royalties (print publishers generally give around 4-8% for mass paperback, but not to take less than 6%, and the more common is 8%) until you make USA Today or the Times (which is typically after selling 150K copies. For trade, it ranges around 7.5%), Length of Term and Revision clause and so much more! So, this is another reason I encourage you, aspiring writer, to find a group and join! Your brain will grow amazingly fat!

As well as all of this awesome information, the NTRWA not only has an annual conference, but an annual contest called Great Expectations. I shall be entering, and anyone in the area, you should enter as well!

15 comments:

  1. You are very lucky indeed to be in such a vibrant writing area! Thanks for the info; very, very helpful!

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  2. I envy your writing surroundings, so lucky and thanks so much for the info its going to be I know it is going very helpful.

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  3. I thought your name sounded familiar when they introduced the visitors yesterday. Duh. You're on my blog roll. I attended the meeting yesterday as well. I just recently joined the group and that was the first meeting I attended. Great summary of the information. I found Shelley's talk really helpful as well.

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  4. You indeed are very fortunate, girl!! That's awesome to have so much around you. I'm envious! Great post with tons of great info!

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  5. Wow! You are spoiled! :-) I wish Orlando was as active as your area is.

    Thanks for sharing the info

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  6. I'm so glad it was helpful! Roni, I actually wondered if you were there, but I'm horrible at remembering faces (or names) but remembered you from the book signing. I'm sure we'll see each other again, I plan on joining!

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  7. These sorts of discussions, which I have been through before, reinforce in my mind why the industry could use some simplification. There is far too much contained in the average contract for someone with little knowledge going in to understand. And now when you factor in e-publishers, the traditional houses, and the POD services that sit in the middle, it has become a minefield for writers. We all need to read up as much as we can before entering into any sort of deals, but we are at a disadvantage, since we need them more than they need us.

    Publishing is a depressing world that only grows worse when you understand how it actually works. And yet, we are still drawn to it. It's a drug.

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  8. It was great to meet you yesterday and I hope you come back. I'm so glad you put this up as I was taking notes as fast as I could. Shelly had such great information. It's nice to see what another person got out of it as well. Those clauses were something that really stood out to me as well.

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  9. Christa Carol,
    I also attended the NTRWA meeting, and I'm amazed at how well you summarized all that Shelley Bradley a/k/a Shayla Black spoke about at the North Texas RWA meeting.
    Carolyn Williamson
    Member NTRWA and DFW Writer's Workshop which has an amazing conference in April 2010 with 10 agents

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  10. CM, yes, a drug, but totally worth it! (Um, okay, that sounded bad, but you get what I mean lol).

    Clover and Carolyn, yes, I remember both of you (of course I remember you, Carolyn, I see you almost every Wed night! You, my friend, are one busy lady!) And I read your short story about the eaglekin, Clover, nicely done. :)

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  11. How freakin' cool are you. Excellent summary, I'm So glad you came to the meeting!! I know we aren't having one in November because of the conference, but make sure and come to the December Christmas meeting. It's moved up, going to be the 2nd Saturday in December (So as to give all of us a breather before Christmas) but Totally such a fun meeting to attend. That's when all the prizes are handed out, all the "most edited, most written" awards. Such a fun meeting. I'll keep you up to date until then. *muah*

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  12. Not as cool as you! And thanks, I would've shown up (well, probably not since I'd be talking to you before then anyway). Looking forward to joining in December, then!

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  13. Christa - Thanks for the great recap of Shelley's amazing talk ... And welcome to NT! Sorry we didn't get a chance to meet/chat at the meeting, but like Mary said, the December meeting is a must. I'll look for you there!

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  14. Glad you to come to the meeting and you got something out of the talk. Trust me, I could have said more but we ran out of time! The business is complicated, and it pays for every author to know all they can. Good luck!

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  15. Thanks Wendy and Shayla/Shelley for stopping by! And it does pay, very much, to know all you can. Hope to see you guys in December.

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