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News: Press Releases and Media

Here’s where we’ll be posting the latest news about us, including our press releases, stories about us in the media, and presentations to different groups.

We can also help you in getting media exposure for your own projects by writing releases, sending out press blasts, and referring you to the PR firm we work with in L.A., Jones & O’Malley, for a hands on media campaign for 1 month or more.

Contract Terms to Avoid or Negotiate with Publishers

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The last few sections described the various contract clauses you might encounter and what to do about them. Here is a summary of the major clauses to ask the publisher to delete or change (or ask your agent to make the request on your behalf, if your agent doesn’t already plan to suggest these changes). In many cases, publishers will readily make these changes; in some cases, they will offer a compromise; in other cases, they will say they can’t make the change.

Editors commonly have a general idea of what changes they can make, and they might be able to agree to some change on the spot. In other cases, they will have to ask the senior, managing, or executive editor above them or the publisher. Sometimes they will simply say no, because they know they can’t do something. Then, it’s up to you to decide if you can live with the changes the publisher agrees to make.

In general, if you see a lot of changes you would like to request, ask for the changes or deletions which are most important to you, and don’t ask for minor changes, so you don’t come across as difficult to work with. Following are some of the major contract clauses to ask to include, delete or change if they appear or don’t appear in a contract offered to you.

  • Ask that the copyright be registered in your name (or your company name), whatever the arrangements for registering or paying for the copyright fee. (It’s only $35 to $55 and takes about 20 minutes to register online, so whoever files the registration shouldn’t be a big deal. Many publishers register the copyright in the author’s name as a matter of course, but to be sure it gets filed, you can check the record of copyright filings, or do it yourself.
  • Indicate the approximate length and delivery date of the manuscript, based on what is realistic for you to do. Ideally, ask to submit the manuscript by email only, but agree to provide one or two hard copies if requested.
  • Ask that you can keep any advance paid to you if the publisher decides not to publish the manuscript for any reason after you deliver it, or alternatively that you only have to return the money if you find another publisher. (However, if you don’t deliver the manuscript, then you do have an obligation to return the advance).
  • Ask to exclude from the grant of rights the subsidiary rights which are unrelated to the actual publication of your manuscript, if you are able to exploit these rights yourself. If you aren’t able to do so, leave them with the publisher, or ask for a non-exclusive arrangement whereby you can initiate agreements as well as the publisher. If so, see if you can negotiate a higher percentage of these subsidiary rights paid to you (such as 75-25 or 60-40 to you and the publisher respectively).

In particular, some of the rights to exclude if the publisher is agreeable are:

  •  foreign language rights
  • film, TV, and dramatization rights
  • commercial and merchandising rights

 

  • Limit the non-compete clause by asking that the contract specify exactly what types of subjects are considered to be competing, and keep this list as narrow as possible, such as specifying that you cannot write a book for another publisher on problems with drugs and addiction rather than writing books on mental health issues or self-help topics generally.
  • Ask to delete any first option on future books or limit any first option to books on a limited selection of topics related to your book. If the publisher does have the right to look at a future manuscript as a first option, limit the length of time for the publisher to decide as much as possible – ideally 30 days or 60 maximum. If you plan to write or pitch a number of other books on various topics, consider this first option requirement a deal breaker, because it will interfere with your ability to find another publisher on future books.
  • If the publisher indicates that paying for an index is the author’s responsibility, see if you can change this arrangement, so that the index is unnecessary or the publisher pays for it. If you still have to pay, see if you can reduce the price by getting your own quotes for someone to do the index to the publishers specs or by creating the word list for the indexer, so your cost of indexing will be less.
  • While the publisher normally has the right to decide on the title and cover design, ask if you can submit your own suggestions, subject to the publisher’s approval.
  • If the royalty rate is lower than the usual standards in the industry, see if you can increase it to common standards, such as 10% of net on a paperback book with increases to 12-15% of net after 5000 in sales. Likewise, if the publisher is only a 25% royalty rate on electronic sales, try to raise it to 40%.
  • In the case of subsidiary rights that remain with the publisher, if you are in a position to locate potential buyers, try to work out an arrangement where you and the publisher can both pitch these rights. Also, seek an increase in the percentage to you if you initiate the sale, such 75-25 or 60-40 in your favor.
  • Try to increase the amount of the advance, though suggst a reasonable increase based on the original offer. For example, if a publisher is offering $10,000, ask to increase it to $15,000; if the offer is for $5000, ask for an increase to $7000 or $8000; if the offer is for $2000, ask to increase it to $3000; if the publisher is offering no advance, try for a nominal advance to show the publisher is at least serious, such as $500 or $1000.
  • While a common arrangement is getting half up front, ask if you can get the full advance if you have already completed the book. If the publisher is proposing to pay the second half of the advance on publication, ask if you can get this payment on acceptance.
  • If there is a long delay in receiving the advance payment for signing, acceptance, or publication, ask if you can get the time for the payment reduced, say to 10 to 30 days instead of 45 to 60 days.
  • While the advance payment is all you are likely to see unless the book does very well, see if you can get any future statements or payments in a shorter amount of time if there is several months delay between the close of a statement period and the issuing of a royalty check. For example, if there is a delay of several months, see if you can get the check issued in 45-60 days.
  • Try to get more author’s copies sent to you, since you can use them to help with PR (and you can also sell them, though don’t use that as a reason to get more free books). For example, if you are only going to get 2 to 5 books, ask for 10 copies. Or if you are scheduled to get 10 copies, ask for 20 to 25 copies. But only ask if you are realistically going to do something with these books.
  • If there is an option clause on future books, ask the publisher to delete this, or if the publisher insists on including one, limit it to the topic of the book the publisher is publishing (much like in limiting the non-compete clause). Also, limit the time the publisher has to consider the option clause, ideally to 30 days or 60 at most
  • For the reversion of rights clause, if there is no specific indication of the number of sales to trigger this reversion, ask that the publisher put in a certain number of sales per year after an initial publication period (such as after 2 or 3 years). For example, the floor might be sales of less than 100 copies, or even 25 or 50 copies, but include something. Otherwise the publisher could technically have the rights forever, because in today’s market, something may continue to be in print indefinitely, due to the electronic books marketplace, where files of books can live on forever. Whatever the arrangements, the publisher should be allowed to sell off any stock it still has for a reasonable period, say 2 years, and you should get paid the normal royalty on those sales based on the rate already agreed upon for royalties.
  • Make sure that you get the rights back if a publisher goes bankrupt or out of business rather than having the right to buy back the rights and any remaining copies at a value to be determined, which could end up be too high a price for being able to get your rights back and move on.
  • If the publisher has a pay-to-play clause, where you are expected to commit to buy a certain number of books, ask to delete this clause. As long as there is some number of books to buy, you are essentially ending up in a self-publishing deal under the color of the publisher’s brand. But unless you have a way to sell these books through workshops, seminars, or online marketing, you are ending up with a lot of books you can’t do anything with, and even if any advance royalty payment is deducted, your commitment to purchase books could end up costing you $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 or more to buy all of the books.

 

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GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar/workshop leader, who has published over 50 books on diverse subjects, including business and work relationships, professional and personal development, and social trends.
She also writes books, proposals, scripts, articles, blogs, website copy, press releases, and marketing materials for clients as the founder and director of Changemakers Publishing and Writing and is the Creative Director of Publishers, Agents, and Films (www.publishersagentsandfilms.com).
She has been a featured expert guest on hundreds of TV and radio programs, including Good Morning America, Oprah, and CNN, talking about the topics in her books.

Publicity, Book Excerpts, Co-Author & Co-Publishing Deals, & Pay-to-Play

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Some additional clauses in contracts deal with publicity, book excerpts, pay to play, and co-author or co-publisher deals.  Here’s what to expect and how to deal with them

 

Publicity

Often specific details about publicity aren’t included in the contract, but the general idea is that the author agrees to help support the book through PR efforts.  In turn it is to the advantage of the author to do as much PR as possible, and often authors hire their own PR people to supplement whatever the publisher does, which often isn’t very much beyond sending out review copies for a book by a non-celebrity author.

 

Whether the contract calls for it or not, an author is normally expected to provide a photograph and complete an Author’s Questionnaire, which includes questions about personal and social media contacts and suggestions for sources of contacts (such as the members or leaders of organizations in the subject area of the book).   In addition, you will usually be expected to use your best efforts to promote your book through the social media and participate in marketing the book.

Also, the publisher may ask you to be available for publicity purposes, such as being on call for 10 days starting on the book’s publication date or appearing on any and all radio, TV and other publicity venues the publisher feels will increase the book’s sales. The contract may also state that you shouldn’t engage in any actions that will detract from sales, such as getting caught engaging in illegal or unethical activities, which you don’t want to do anyway, since this may subject you to shaming on the social media or arrest.  So if this kind of language is in your contract, there’s nothing to object to, since you want the same results – more sales.

 

The publisher may also ask for the right to publish without any payment a short excerpt from the book (say up to 2000 words) to help promote it, and you will normally have this right, too.  Many contracts won’t have these specifics, but if it does, it’s fine, since such efforts will help the book.

 

Book Excerpts in the Publisher’s Other Works

In some cases, generally for non-fiction books, the publisher may ask for a non-exclusive right to use brief excerpts from your book in a compilation it creates or hires a writer to compile and edit, or which is written for it by another author.  Then, the publisher will typically indicate a price you will be paid for an excerpt, such as for $100 for up to 15 pages, $200 for up to 30 pages, and $300 for up to 45 pages, and you will get all of this money, without a percentage to the publisher.  Since this payment for excerpts is basically found money, should the opportunity arise, such an agreement is fine.

 

Co-Author and Co-Publishing Deals

If you are writing the book with another person who is named as a co-author, normally all of the authors will be asked to sign the agreement.   This clause simply restates the obvious, that it is assumed that all of the authors equally share in the rights and responsibilities, although if the contributions and royalty shares in the book aren’t equal, this should be spelled out, such as indicating that a certain percentage goes to each author (or if you have an agent, the agent will commonly receive the payments and pay the amount due less the agent’s commission to each author, though sometimes you can arrange to have the payments sent directly from the publisher to you, any co-authors, and the agent – which is ideal, since you get your money right away.)

 

In the event you are have set up a corporation and the contract is with the corporation, you normally have to agree that you will be personally responsible for any obligations of the author.

 

Sometimes the agreement will specify how the author’s credits should be listed where there are two or more authors, such as stating they will be credited alphabetically. But if there is one lead author, that name should go first; if more than two, the other authors can be listed alphabetically or in an order based on the relative contributions of each author to the book.  If this clause is included, revise it to indicate the way in which you are apportioning credits or leave it open, so you can later work out the specifics with your editor.   If there is only one author, the clause won’t apply.

 

Still another clause in some contracts will indicate that you agree that the publisher publish this book under an imprint or with another publisher or entity, if the publisher wishes, but the publisher will remain responsible to fulfill all of the terms and conditions described in the contract.

 

The Pay-to-Play Clause

So far only a few traditional publishers have a clause which commits you to buy a certain number of books, but this clause can be a problem if the purchase commitment far outweighs the amount you get up front as a royalty.  Commonly, such a requirement is only imposed on new writers or writers who have had a small number of sales on past books with that publisher or with other publishers, based on the rationale that the publisher wants to limit its risk if the book doesn’t sell as well as expected.

Another reason is that this requirement might motivate the author to do more promotion and publicity to sell more books or well more books through speaking engagements, workshops, and seminars.  The publisher may also describe this as a “win-win arrangement for both the writer and publisher,” as one publisher’ rep told me, since it helps to motivate the author to more actively market and promote his own books.

 

But whatever the publisher’s rationale, this is a bad deal for a writer, unless you are already doing a number of programs where you are fairly confident you can purchase and sell the number of books required.  For example one writer who made most of his money speaking, normally sold at least 2000 books a year, so this purchase requirement was fine, though the publisher didn’t do anything else to promote his books beyond sending out some review copies. But if you are not in a position to sell all of these books, you can end up with hundreds or thousands of books you can’t sell but are obligated to buy.

 

Thus, if there is such a clause, do the math to determine exactly how much the publisher expects you to buy at what price.  Then, you can deduct that from any future royalty payments to determine the balance payable to you, or more commonly, the balance which you now owe to the publisher.

 

For example, a typical pay-to-play clause may say something like: “The author agrees to commit to purchase at least 2500 books at the wholesale price of 50% off.”  The specific number may vary, but generally ranges from 1000 to 10,000 books.  In some cases, you may be able to get the clause eliminated, as I was with one publisher that initially wanted a commitment of 1000 books.

In other cases, you may be able to get it reduced, such as when one publisher reduced the number required from 3000 to 2000 books but wouldn’t go any lower, while offering me an advance of $5000.  Even so, since the books were priced at $29.95 retail and I could buy them at 50%, that’s $15 a book or $30,000 for 2000 books, or $25,000 after deducting the $5000 royalty.  So no deal.

 

In effect, such an arrangement is akin to a self-published book, where a traditional publisher is trading on its name to get writers to agree to this expensive deal, where you could well end up with thousands of books in your basement or garage.  But if you decide to self-publish, there are much less expensive paths to that end – from free to about $1000-1500 for design and set up; and you buy as many books as you want.  There is no large upfront commitment.  Thus, if you can’t get this clause eliminated or get the number of books reduced to the number you might realistically sell or give away for promotions, consider this clause a deal-breaker and walk away.

 

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GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar/workshop leader, who has published over 50 books on diverse subjects, including business and work relationships, professional and personal development, and social trends. She also writes books, proposals, scripts, articles, blogs, website copy, press releases, and marketing materials for clients as the founder and director of Changemakers Publishing and Writing and is the Creative Director of Publishers, Agents, and Films (www.publishersagentsandfilms.com). She has been a featured expert guest on hundreds of TV and radio programs, including Good Morning America, Oprah, and CNN, talking about the topics in her books.

Future Books, Revisions & Updates, & Getting Rights Back

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If the book does well, your publisher may want revisions or updates to keep the book current.  Also, the publisher may hope for future books from you.  On the other hand, if the work doesn’t do well or the publisher has financial difficulties and declares bankruptcy, you may get your rights back under certain circumstances.  These contract provisions deal with these topics, and this is where you should ask for changes if you are dissatisfied with these clauses, and publishers may be quite open to these changes if requested.

 

An Option for Future Books

Sometimes publishers will include an option clause, which provides for the right of refusal on your next book or next two books at the same terms as your present contract, and commonly the publisher will get 60 to 90 days to exercise this option.  This clause can be fine if you really like dealing with this publisher, like your current agreement, and don’t want to go anywhere else.  But however you feel about your publisher and current arrangements, this option can be a trap, so ideally, get this clause removed, and you can always continue to work with this publisher on future books by mutual agreement.  For some writers who write many books on different topics, such as myself, this option would be a deal breaker, because it can conflict with making deals with other publishers.

 

It is reasonable that a future book you write not conflict with your book which the publisher is currently publishing, but this situation is already covered under the non-compete clause, so there is no need to tie up your next books under this agreement, and I have found that most publishers will willingly remove it.  After all, they want a harmonious future arrangement, where you mutually agree for them to publish your next book.  Also, it is possible for a dissatisfied writer to defeat such a clause by submitting one or two terrible proposals or book manuscript that they have no intention of writing, whereupon the non-compete clause will expire anyway.

 

Alternatively, if the publisher does want a future books option clause, it is easy to make this restrictive, as in making the non-compete clause specific to the type of book you are already publishing with that publisher.  For example, if you have a self-help book on overcoming alcohol abuse and addictions, you could specify that the future option will only apply to books dealing with alcohol and addiction problems.

 

However, the simplest arrangement is to remove the clause, which a publisher might do by taking it out of the contract and renumbering the following clauses, or by writing the number and name of this clause (i.e.: Option Clause) and stating that it has been “Removed by agreement.”

 

Revised or Updated Editions

This clause describes what you can do if the publisher wants an update or rewrite after the publication of the initial edition, say after two or three years.  Typically, this is an offer for you to update, edit, or revise the work for an additional payment (such as $500 or $1000), which will be considered an additional advance against future royalties.  However, you can choose not to do any further work on the book, and in this case the publisher has to right to hire someone else to make the change or can arrange for someone to do the work in house.  In either case, the publisher can charge the reasonable cost or value of that work against future royalties.  Presumably, that should be the same amount as the publisher is offering you, so you might get that amoun spelled out in the agreement, so the publisher can’t pay someone else much more than you would be paid and charge that against your future royalties.

 

In some cases, the publisher may bring in another author to share the author’s billing with you on a future edition, in which case, that person will not only get an up-front payment but will receive a share of the royalties on future publications of the book.  The publisher might even revise the credited authors on the cover to reflect this, such as happened with one of my books on a legal topic: collecting on a judgment.  While I wrote the first book and the publisher revised the book in-house for the second edition without any charge to me, for the third edition, the publisher brought in a lawyer to share the credits and royalties with me, resulting in 25% of the payments on the third edition going to him and 75% to me.  Eventually, after another round of revisions, the publisher gave me a payment to buy me out from future editions completely, since I was no longer contributing anything to these revisions, nor did I want to.

 

In any case, if you want to remain the sole author and retain control of future changes, by all means agree to do the revisions or updates.  Possible, though, you might be able to negotiate a higher advance than the publisher originally offers – or make the amount contingent on the number of pages that require revisions or the number of words you will be changing or adding to the text.

 

Getting Back Your Rights

This reversion of rights clause spells out when your book is deemed out of print, whereupon you can request back the rights.  This return of rights clause can be written in a number of ways, and you should make sure it realistically reflects the situation where your book is not selling a significant number of copies in any format after a certain time period.  It is important to seek some floor for this determination, because otherwise, your book could conceivably never be considered out of print, because of the potential for e-book sales.

Many clauses about reverting rights do not include a number, but you should seek to add one indicating the minimum number of sales each year after a certain period of time, commonly two to three years after the book has been published.  For example, you might ask that the book be deemed out-of-print where it has sold less than 100 copies a year – or even less than 25 or 50 copies.  Just put in some small number, so you have some basis for claiming the book is now out-of-print to enable you to request a reversion of rights.

 

Normally, this reversion clause will require you to send a written request to the publisher asking for the rights back if the publisher fails to reprint, repackage, or publish a new edition; license the edition to another publisher; or advise you of its plan to do so. Under any of these circumstances, you can send the publisher a termination letter, asking that the rights now return to you.  After receiving this letter, the publisher will typically have an additional time period, such as two weeks to consider your request and decide whether to republish the original book or an update or not.  If not, the rights revert to you.

 

Additionally, this clause will often allow a publisher to continue to resell any books it has already printed for a certain period of time after termination (such as one or two years), with the understanding that it will pay any royalties still due under the original agreement.  In some cases, even if it is not in the contract, if you get a series of statements showing a lack of a sales for a year or so, you can simply write to the publisher to request the return of your rights, and many publishers will agree, since they don’t expect the sales to improve and are already planning to retire the book.

 

Aside from getting a floor to define when a book can be considered out of print after a certain number of years of publication, the rest of the reversion clause is usually fine.   Commonly, a publisher will send you a formal letter advising you that the rights are returned to you, with the provision that any agreements the publisher has already entered into with third parties (such as translation rights to a publisher in another country) will remain in force, along with the right to continue to sell any remaining copies for a specified period after termination. Once you get the publisher’s agreement to revert the rights to you, if it’s not already in a formal letter, such as if the publisher sends you an email, ask the publisher for this letter, since you can then use it to show other publishers who may be interested in republishing your book now that you have the full rights to it again.

 

While this isn’t necessary to include in the contract, sometimes a publisher will decide to remainder a book and get rid of all its stock, and will normally give the author the first option to buy any number of the remaining books.  This is another condition where the book is considered out of print, so once the publisher announces this this sale to sell off its stock, whether to you or another party, you will get the rights back.  In this case, you don’t need to send a request for the rights back or a termination letter, because the remainder sale means the book is now out of print.  Just keep the letter to show other publishers, that the book is out of print and you have the rights back.

 

Finally, if the publisher goes bankrupt or goes out of business, this clause will state that you either get back the rights or are offered the right to buy back the rights and any remaining copies, whether bound or unbound, at their fair market value, as determined by an agreement between the publisher and author. Should you decide not to buy the books back, the publisher can sell its stock for the best price it can without having to provide you with an accounting or any payment.  Preferably, make it clear in the contract that you get back the rights automatically in the event of a bankruptcy or if the publisher ceases operations rather than having to buy back your rights or set a value on the cost of these books, which should at most be a small percentage of the regular retail price.

 

Assignment of Rights and Beneficiaries

Just as the contract will state what might happen if the publisher goes out of business or wants to assign its rights to another entity, so it will provide for what happens in the event of your own death or if you want to assign your rights to someone else.  Based on this clause, you have the right to assign any money due under the agreement, while the publisher can assign its rights and obligations to another party.

 

For example, if you owe someone money or want to give a friend, relative, or spouse a gift, you could assign your right in the manuscript to them.   By the same token, a publisher could turn over its rights in your book to another publisher, such as in the event of an acquisition or sale of the business.  Additionally, in the event of the author’s death, the publisher can agree to pay any future royalties to a beneficiary or the executor of the author’s estate, as long as this party sends the publisher the appropriate written notice and documentation to receive these payments.

 

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GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar/workshop leader, who has published over 50 books on diverse subjects, including business and work relationships, professional and personal development, and social trends. She also writes books, proposals, scripts, articles, blogs, website copy, press releases, and marketing materials for clients as the founder and director of Changemakers Publishing and Writing and is the Creative Director of Publishers, Agents, and Films (www.publishersagentsandfilms.com). She has been a featured expert guest on hundreds of TV and radio programs, including Good Morning America, Oprah, and CNN, talking about the topics in her books.