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  1. #1
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    Selling the copyright of your book

    Dear Published Writers,

    I am working out what would be a good rate that I should expect for my book as a first time author. I am very new to the industry. My first book (a non-fiction book) is complete and I am looking for a good publisher. I have written to a few publishers and few have responded.

    One of them who read my book is offering to pay me some $ 4500 for the book (80,000 words). According to this agreement (ie if I sign it), they will owe me nothing more irrespective of the sales. Is this a good amount? I am very dissapointed at this for this is peanuts compared to all the hard work I did. Even if the amount is 100 times more than this, it would still give me a feeling of loss. My book is dear to me.

    I am confident my book will sell well. But then, all authors will have the same thing to say about their book, I suppose.

    I have always heard people talking about getting a percentage of the profit made by selling a book. This is the first time I have heard of a fixed amount for which the entire copyright of a book can be sold.

    What would be a good rate that I can expect as a first time author?
    And if I am to sell the entire copyright of my book, what would be a good amount?
    Where can I find information on this?

    Any advice or any experiences shared would be appreciated hugely.

    Thanks in advance. Thanks also for all the information I've got from this website.

    Kind regards,

    Little Swallow



  2. #2
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    You aren't selling your copyright to a publisher; you are assigning (more like renting) specific rights from a large bundle of rights you own--e.g., first publication rights, U.S. print rights, foreign rights, serialization rights, translation rights in various languages, electronic rights, etc. And these can come with time limits and they can be exclusive (only the publisher has the rights) or nonexclusive (the publisher can publish but so can you separately). Taking care of these rights is high on the list of way having an agent is advantageous.

    As far as assigning all rights forever to a publisher for your first book (which, in essence, is what you seem to be talking about), what you should anticipate depends on the potential marketability of your book, which no one here (or likely even in the publishing house) can divine. But $4,500 profit on your first book (with publication making it easier for you to find a publisher for subsequent books)? Let's just say that most people don't make a dime on the first, second, or third manuscript they write--and many take a loss.

    As far as the work-to-profit quotient, there probably aren't more than a few hundred authors in the world making more than minimum wages when they stack the hours they've worked against the monetary profit coming back to them.

    If you're any good as a writer at all, books are much more than just dear to you; they are a renewable resource for you. If you keep it held close to your bosom, you make nothing off it. The goal is to get it into the hands of buying readers who than will expand in number as you continue putting out those good books.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Kessler View Post
    Let's just say that most people don't make a dime on the first, second, or third manuscript they write--and many take a loss.
    I'm sorry, Gary - what are you talking about? I believe that Little Swallow is talking about a contract with a traditional publisher. Getting paid (not paying them) is the whole basis of that relationship. If you're saying that most authors don't sell their first few MSs, that's fine, and often true. But that's not the question at hand. As I see it, the question is:

    Should I hand my book over to a publisher for $4500, flat, no royalties?

    Little Swallow - I think something stinks here, but I'm not published. Royalties, to my knowledge, are pretty standard parts of a book contract. Do you mind mentioning the name of the publisher? Have you looked them up on Preditors and Editors?

    There are a lot of sharks out there. The fact that they're not asking for money is something of a good sign, but ignoring royalties seems off to me.

    If this is a good contract, then congratulations. Just don't sign anything until you're sure you're not getting ripped off.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emily MacGowan View Post
    I'm sorry, Gary - what are you talking about? I believe that Little Swallow is talking about a contract with a traditional publisher. Getting paid (not paying them) is the whole basis of that relationship. If you're saying that most authors don't sell their first few MSs, that's fine, and often true. But that's not the question at hand. As I see it, the question is:
    I'm talking about expectations of profit from a first book. I don't understand what you don't understand. There aren't many authors who cleared $4,500 off their first book--no matter how much effort they put into it.

    And buying a book outright isn't unheard of. Royalty payments are only one option. Another option is work for hire, where an author is paid to write a book on salary or agreement flat rate, and the copyright is owned by the publisher. There isn't just one way of getting book profit to a writer.

  5. #5
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    To pin it down, Emily, my point on the price was that no one can say whether this is a good price or not based on the information given. And that it isn't automatically a bad price just because a lot of work was put into the book. Most folks don't sell their first book at all and for those who do, most don't make over $4,500 on it. Just a touch of reality here. Again, who can say how much an unidentified property is worth?

    I didn't make over $4,500 on my first published book. Did you?

  6. #6
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    Alls I'm sayin is, it sounds a lot like Little Swallow is being lowballed. $4500 isn't a huge amount for non-fiction, certainly not a lot if it's not an advance. But, like I've already said, I'm not published. Just chipping in.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emily MacGowan View Post
    Alls I'm sayin is, it sounds a lot like Little Swallow is being lowballed. $4500 isn't a huge amount for non-fiction, certainly not a lot if it's not an advance. But, like I've already said, I'm not published. Just chipping in.
    So you must know what Little Swallow's book is then, right? That's the only way you could have any idea that it was worth more than that as a author's share in the marketplace. I at least put it into context of what can generally be expected out of a first book--practically nothing for almost every author. The big payoffs for a first book are few and far between.

    Again, did you make more than $4,500 on your first book? Anyone you actually know personally make more than this? So, without further information, the probabilities are . . . what?

    I don't see the constructive activity in revving Little Swallow up to assume she's getting a bad deal offer when most writers don't get any offer for their first work. We don't have enough information to be ginning her up to lose out on her opportunities to start getting established.

    You have expertise in this area, do you--to the point of being willing to take responsibility for your advice?
    Last edited by Gary Kessler; 09-16-2011 at 11:23 PM.

  8. #8
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    Whatever Gary. I don't see any constructive activity in telling her she's lucky to get a deal at all. That's bull. Of course very few people make it, but that doesn't mean they're supposed to bend over and let a company screw them when they're given a contract. Writing isn't charity, it's business. If her contract is solid and competitive, great. From my knowledge, the industry norm includes royalties, and my constructive input was: Look up the publisher on preditors and editors. Try and find horror/praise stories online from writers who've published with them.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emily MacGowan View Post
    Whatever Gary. I don't see any constructive activity in telling her she's lucky to get a deal at all. That's bull. Of course very few people make it, but that doesn't mean they're supposed to bend over and let a company screw them when they're given a contract. Writing isn't charity, it's business. If her contract is solid and competitive, great. From my knowledge, the industry norm includes royalties, and my constructive input was: Look up the publisher on preditors and editors. Try and find horror/praise stories online from writers who've published with them.
    I work in U.S. publishing and see contracts in the three ways I noted. You know U.S. publishing from Australia how again?

  10. #10
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    I'm not sure how non-fiction works, but with fiction you generally get an advance plus royalies. And I got much more than $4500 for my first one.

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