Thursday, January 21, 2010

DIY Book Contract Negotiation

Coffee by the Window, 1945--Konstantin Gorbatov (1876 - 1945) I had a few comments yesterday on my slush pile post that asked for more detail on how I negotiated my contract with Midnight Ink in 2008. At the time, I didn’t have an agent, so I just did the best I could.

I’ll quickly point out that I would never choose to negotiate a contract without an agent. Here is an excellent blog (written by editor Moonrat) explaining why having an agent is essential.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out the way we’d like.

The best information on Do It Yourself Contract Negotiation was on two different agent blogs: the "Agenting 101" series (look for it on the right hand side of the page. There are eleven references) on the Pub Rants blog by agent Kristen, and a blog entry called "Ten Things to Know if You Go Commando" on agent Janet Reid's blog.

Another site I found helpful showed a sample author contract, just to give you an idea what the document may look like:

The Absolute Write writers’ forum also ran an interesting couple of articles: and .

A guest post by agent Holly Root with Waxman Literary Agency on negotiating contracts: .

A series called “Contracts 101” on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog:

What I did on my end:

I told them right away I wasn’t represented. They offered to wait a few days to see if I could get an agent to help me with my contract. At the time, though, every agent I was waiting to hear from was on summer vacation.

I didn’t accept their offer on the phone and they didn’t ask me to. I just very politely thanked them for being interested in Pretty is as Pretty Dies. They emailed a contract and asked me to take a look at it.

I asked good friends who write for Midnight Ink what a fair advance might be. They gave me what they thought might be a range. Since they’ve been established writers for a decade, I looked at the lowest part of that range when coming up with a fair advance for a newer author, like me.

I checked online resources where genre authors had disclosed their own advances, etc.

Everything I read said publishers expect a counter on different points. They likely don’t expect it as much from authors, but it wasn’t going to be like they were going to say, “Actually? Never mind.” if they were presented with a reasonable counter. I didn’t double the amounts or anything crazy like that.

They came back meeting me halfway with most everything.

Negotiating your own contract still isn't the way you want to go if you have a choice. I wouldn’t want to do it again! But if you’re in that situation, don’t sweat it. There is information readily available online—do the best you can.