Friday, February 29, 2008

Royalties, Word Count, Marriage, and Orphans

Jennifer Jackson does it again, this time with a great breakdown of royalties.

Nathan Bransford talks about word count. I'm praying that the guy who keeps querying me about his 20,000 word mystery reads this.

Curtis Brown UK and ICM are getting married, or dating, or something.

Finally, a word about orphaned books, the term we use when the editor that acquired a book for a publisher leaves the company. It's actually happening today to one of my clients, as an editor I sold a book to is leaving her company for family reasons. It's usually not a big deal unless your book hasn't been delivered or published yet, or if it was just published recently.

If you're a huge author with a long-term relationship with a well-known editor (imagine Michael Korda), you can negotiate into your contract specific language that allows you to terminate your contract if your editor leaves or retires. Alternatively, if the editor ends up at another house, the two publishers might be able to negotiate a transfer of the title.

But in most cases neither of the above is an option, and you just have to move ahead. The first thing you should be aware of is that there will be a significant delay, as a new editor must be hired (unless the editor's assistant moves up), who must then read all the material and familiarize themselves with the details of each publication plan.

Next, assuming that the publisher still wants to proceed (and they typically will, since the book has been discussed in-house and been approved), you'll need to try to make the new editor feel as committed about the book as they would if they had acquired it themselves. Otherwise, this is when those nightmare stories can occur - the new editor doesn't care about the project they inherit and the book is published without any backing. The book doesn't get any reviews, there's no placement in the bookstores, and no publicity support at all. Speaking from experience, this is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a book.

There are some things you can do to combat this. If my client is good on the phone, I like to have them speak with the new editor a few times almost immediately. Better yet, I'll try to schedule a face-to-face if the author is going to be NYC. I'll also make sure that the editor is getting updated frequently by email about the book so that it stays on their radar, and I'll gently harass them if it falls off of it.

But at the end of the day there's only so much you can do, and with the increased movement of editors between houses over the past ten or so years, this is not a problem that will be going away either.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post. I've kind of been wondering about this lately for some reason. (Which is stupid since I don't even have a book deal yet.)

Heidi the Hick said...

It happens in the music industry too, especially with the way labels are imploding lately.

But it is possible, you're saying, to keep the book going? The author and agent have to do a bit more gently persuasion to convince the new editor to work the book?

(there really are no guarantees in life, eh?)

Adaora A. said...

Mr. Lyons I have a 10,453 word thriller about an wizard girl who goes to the mall, gets lucky, and gets a life. Would you be interested in offering me representation. ::snickers::

ICM and Curtis Brown UK are - as we say - seeing eachother. Their probably not quite serious or married but they're equally not offically dating either. You could call it 'dealing,' too.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm the only one, but this makes me wonder..."If my client is good on the phone..."