Tuesday, January 28, 2014

DO THE MATH: Choosing a Publishing Deal

This post is Not about Megan Erickson's soon to release novel DO THE MATH. It is a post about why authors need to Do The Math when considering publishing deals. Far too many authors are unaware of the fact that the Publishing Model has changed significantly. Advances are not what they used to be, unless you're a Best Selling author or have a huge platform; and that even the top 5 publishing houses now have e-imprints that offer no advance at all. 

Many authors get hung up on the traditional publishing mode and can't accept the fact that a contract may be a great deal even if the advance isn't what they expected. Unfortunately it sounds to me like no one is doing the math. Sarah Negovetich, of Corvisiero Literary Agency, just posted a wonderful post about Authors needing to learn math. I loved her post so much that I've 'borrowed part of it'. To see her full post and her other musings click on her name.

Sarah Negovetich Wrote:
"In publishing, you can't take anything for granted. There are no guarantees or absolutes. So, it's no wonder that the idea of an advance is the jewel in the corner of every writer's eye. If you haven't dreamed of announcing a six-figure advance on Publisher's Marketplace then you're lying. Who wouldn't want cash money in the bank that's yours to keep no matter what crazy winds blow in the book world?

But if you've been paying attention, you know that the big advance is not all that common anymore, especially in the growing segment of small to mid-sized independent presses. Of course, the trade off is usually a higher royalty rate. The question then becomes, which one is the better deal? And this, my right-brained creative friends, is why all writers still need to know math.

It's important to understand your earning potential when considering contracts. Before you ask your agent to push for a bigger advance, you should know what you're really asking for. You might be surprised to know that taking a smaller advance in exchange for a higher royalty rate is usually going to be the better way to go.

And just in case you don't believe me, I've done the math for you.

Let's take a look at two different options. In option A the publisher is offering a $1000 advance and 7% in royalties. In option B the publisher is offering only a $500 advance but is willing to give a 10% royalty rate. For this example we are assuming a $10 cover price because that makes all the numbers nice and neat.

You can see that because of the difference in royalty rates, it will take much longer to earn out the advance in offer A, 1429 books versus only 500 in option B. If we assume the author can sell 5K books with their first print run, the total royalty earnings for option B are $1500 more than option A. That number will only continue to increase as additional books are sold. 

Offer A
Offer B

Assume $10 cover price
Royalty Calculation
Royalty per book sold
# of books to earn out
# of books to reach 5K
Revenue post earn out
Total revenue for 5K

Now, let's say the author can't sell 5K books. Would it be worth it to take the higher advance if the author was only able to earn out?

Offer A
Offer B

Assume $10 cover price
Royalty Calculation
Royalty per book sold
# of books to earn out
# of books to reach 1429
Revenue post earn out
 $          -  
Total revenue for 1429

The answer: No. Even if the author is only able to sell enough books to earn out the advance, they still would have made more revenue with the higher royalty.

Now, obviously, there are a lot of factors that go into this. The cover price, the difference in the royalty rates, and the difference in the advance. However, in most cases, the higher royalty is the way to go."

After reading Sarah's post you're either saying 'I knew that', in which case kudos to you! Or you are surprised to actually see how the numbers work out. But some of you may be wondering if this makes sense at all if you don't get an advance, or if the numbers are larger... 

To that I say Do the Math! and see what works out. If you want to play around with some figures Sarah created a "handy dandy Contract Revenue Calculator for you to plug it all in. Just enter the royalty rate, advance, cover price and anticipated book sales. The worksheet will automatically calculate the number of books you need to sell to earn out and the total anticipated revenue.

I realize math isn't the most fun subject for a lot of people, but as an author, you are also a business owner whether you go with a traditional publishing house or go it alone. You need to know what you are worth, how much you should be making and when a bird in the hand is not actually better than the two in the bush." (Sarah Nego Writes)

And since I couldn't have said it better myself, I'll leave you with that! 

Happy Computing! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Authors Behaving Badly Part III: Good luck with your project and the bridges you're burning!

The other day I received an e-mail from a writer who is 100% sure that his project is the next blockbuster project for Stephen Spielberg. He sent me a long explanation of the reasons why he couldn't get the project onto Stephen's desk... 

I admit that I liked his initiative, some of the things he said, and the fact that the story is about time travel... one of my favorite things to read, write, watch and even discuss. So of course, I told him to send it to me for review and then we would chat. I mean really, how can I possibly pass up a project that Spielberg is 'craving'!? So much potential right? 

Well, when I received the project (sent 5 times complete with cast, music scores, and FBI warnings) and read it, I was disappointed to say the least. 

In short, the synopsis, which wasn't even properly translated into English, basically described a time travel story about a man who transforms his classic vehicle into a time machine and accidentally goes back to the exact time when he made the one mistake that he believes ruined his life. 

What a lucky coincidence for the time traveler! 

I read on and realized that the rest of the story in the first installment of the trilogy is about the protagonist choosing the right girl to take to the dance. After he makes the right decision, he's of course still stuck in the past and has to figure out how to replicate the results of the time jump to get back to his present time. When he finally gets home, he realizes that his whole life has been fixed! He then soon finds out that something terrible will happen to his daughter in the future... and so begins the sequel... Gees, does this sound familiar? 

So I responded to this sweet author telling him that I regret to have to pass on this project because it sounds too much like Back To the Future and it is unfortunately not unique enough. I also included what I thought would be encouraging words and praise for his efforts, and some tips on putting the package together. 

To say that this author was pissed off by my rejection is like saying that Niagra Falls is dripping water. 

I've been a literary agent for a number of years now. I've seen my share of disappointed queriers, but the response I received from him floored me. 

I've always been an avid reader and probably watch more movies than the books I read. I would like to think that I know the difference between a good story and one that .... lets just say is neither unique nor well written. 

I will not post his ridiculous full response here for many reasons. I will however share a redacted version (redactions are in black) of the relevant part.

"It’s seems to me that you have misunderstood me all the way down !

Since you don't have a clue of [XXX] neither of who the hell you’re talking with, Mrs. CORVISIERO, let me tell you this, Madam:
I am the F*****G screenwriter/director who got the last F*****G project his currently working on, [really? Then why is he looking for an agent who can get his work to Spielberg's desk?] to be done with… [terrible actress], her [XXX]  and, last but not least, the ‘[someone I never heard of] himself, in partnership with [XXX]  (France) and [XXX]  (that has been recently sold by [XXX]  to [XXX]  , what allowed [XXX]  .);  For your info, Mrs. CORVISIERO, the aforesaid F*****G project, which called ‘'[Title that I've seen on two books and at least one movie in the last 10 years]’, is expected to bring the international box office down;
Just in case you got 15 minutes of your ‘precious’ time to waste, Mrs. CORVISIERO, here I send you a copy of the 57-script entitled ‘[overused title again -- as if I want to read anything he wrote now]’,"

With my connections in my hometown, [XXX]  (which means to [XXX]  what Beverly Hills means to North America) and in Paris (where, unlike Hollywood, you ain’t need to be represented by an agent to get your talent considered by the biggest names in the trade, such as Canal Plus/Studio Canal (which is the biggest French network and film company, also present in Hollywood…),
it only took me a couple of weeks to get my project considered as it deserves to be…   

I’m really disappointed in you, Mrs. CORVISIERO !
I saw a video of you on Youtube [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0gVWXuTxnU ],
and I think it’s such a shame that an agent, what’s more a lawyer, as beautiful, as smart and as clever
than you look to be, Madam, be also that… DUMB n’ STUPID !" 

I'll stop there. *Taking a deep cleansing breath* 

The rest of the e-mail was a lengthy version of Spielberg's bio sprinkled with unfounded rumors about what he's 'craving,' quotes from trade publications, and some more poorly written nonsense about me loosing the 'opportunity of a lifetime' in equally dysfunctional phrasing and format. He didn't even get punctuation right. 

Here's a Tip folks: If you want a literary agent to take your insults seriously, you sure as hell better have that e-mail be creative, well written, well formatted, and use spotless punctuation. If you want to insult a lawyer, add in reliable facts... I'm just saying. 

This nimrod did neither. 

I can't say I'm surprised by this reaction. I probably should have seen the hints of instability in his prior e-mails and his lack of formality. So, my bad on that. But he personally insulted me and was out of line on so many levels that I had to at least send him a quick response. 

I'm not mad at him either, but business is business, and authors need to behave in a professional manner.  If I don't think I can sell someone's work, I will tell them. I would think that authors would prefer honesty over wasted time, and appreciate a candid response so that they can improve their work. I understand that it is difficult to deal with rejection, no matter how nicely it's presented. But believe me when I tell you that no agent takes rejecting work lightly.

It's okay to disagree with an agent's opinion and to be disappointed, but it isn't fair to retaliate in reaction to an unwanted result. It may make the author feel better for about five minutes, but the bridge isn't only burned... It's friggen demolished.

In case you're interested in my response... Here's what I sent him:

"Dear [His name], 
In my response to your query, I told you that in my opinion the project is not unique enough because the description resonates with Back to the Future 'all the way down'. Clearly you haven't learned to give people credence for their opinions. Your response really says nothing for your aptitude and professionalism.
I'm happy to hear that your connections will get this project off the ground for you. It seems that you didn't even need to bother with a 'dumb n' stupid' agent like myself, who doesn't know anything about stories.  Just remember that name dropping and the ability to disparage does not a good writer make. 
Good luck with your project and all the bridges you're burning on your way to 'success'. For your sake, I hope that your good luck is as abundant as your ego. You're going to need it."

After sending this e-mail, I blocked him as spam. I never want to read another word from him again. I don't mean to sound indifferent. In fact, it saddens me when colleagues or other professionals share things about clients or potential clients, or even other colleagues in a critical manner.

I always prefer to share things that are constructive and positive, but once in a while even these types of story sharing have some value.

Here's to Nimrod, and hopping that his project gets to Spielberg's desk and proves me wrong!

If it ever does, I'd be happy to print this post on recycled paper, put it in my mouth, chew thoroughly and swallow it... I will not even take an antacid to help me deal with it.

But that will never happen.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year's Resolutions and Goals

Happy New Year! I hope that you started 2014 well. If you're like most people you have set yourself some resolutions or goals to achieve this year. Whether consciously or not, many of us see a new year as a new beginning and a new opportunity for a fresh start. So why not give yourself the opportunity to start a new project or set some great goals to achieve?

Even if you think that resolutions or affirmations are for chumps, I say why not?!
If you don't try, you don't succeed!

I'm one of those people who like resolutions, goals, affirmations, etc. I go for the whole kit and caboodle. I do it because I like to achieve. I also like having my sight set on something to work towards. I think that it keeps me focused and growing.

I however, do believe in being realistic. I'm ambitious, but I don't set myself up for failure. I set goals that are achievable and I give myself wiggle room.

If I don't get there, I don't beat myself up. Instead, I recognize that I'm a few steps closer to where I want to be, and I keep working at it. Sometimes I need to adjust my process or the goal, but I never give up.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I would love to see more people set realistic, attainable goals for themselves, no matter how small, or how long it takes them, as long as they get to feel that sense of accomplishment, pride and satisfaction when they get there.

If you're a writer, your goals may be to write something new, something in a new genre, a certain number of words per day, to finish your novel, to get an agent, to get your work published, to hit the bestseller's list, or even to get your growing behind off your favorite writing chair and get some exercise. I think that these are all legitimate and attainable goals. So set your sites on something you want and get started!

Be realistic, be kind to yourself, and never ever give up! I promise you will get there.

Happy achieving!