I've back peddled. After two weeks of deliberation and questions, alterations and confirmations I have signed a contract so the GunBoy gets published.
It's just over three pages long, has some long words but nothing I needed to look up (thankfully). I'll break it down, point by point over a couple of posts so you don't need to hang about reading me waffle on all night.
At the top, you get a paragraph explaining who is whom in the rest of the document. It's pretty standard. It also covers what is being contracted, in this case it's the rights to GunBoy and first refusal on the sequel, should I decide to right it.
Point 1 - Grant of Rights. This is the area you want to take a fine comb to, one of those nit combs your mum used on you when you were at school. Didn't have lice? Then you never washed your hair, dirty child.
This paragraph covers what rights you (the author) is giving up. As I'm a film fanatic, I wasn't about to give up anything which prevented me from selling my book to a movie producer or should I make lots of money, make it myself. Yes, I'm that good, or maybe delusional. It's hard to tell these days.
In this case, I signed my manuscript over to be turned into a book. That is ebook, paperback and hardback, as well as audiobook and only in the English language. If I wanted to, I could still self publish a French version. Or maybe not, let's see how this Brexit debacle pans out first.
The publisher can also sell selected merchandise, specifically limited to the cover image and can only be printed on T-Shirts, mugs, and framed editions. For those with average memory, you may be remember I already have a cover. Well, I don't own the rights to use that spectacular piece of art for anything but the book cover and promotional images. I can make posters, stick it up on Facebook, but I can't make money from it other than on the front of my book. This was going to cause an issue down the line, and a very messy one.
Now I happen to really like my cover, but I took a step back and asked myself is it worth messing this contract up? The answer was no. Of course not, you should have heard 'kill your darlings' a million times by now if you're writing. This is one of my darlings. But it's still mine to use at another point, should I decide to get a graphic novel done I can use it on that.
Check what you're giving up, and make sure your giving the things that the publisher can deliver on. If they can't sell it internationally, ask why - Amazon sells internationally. Is it not going to be sold on Amazon? Likewise, there's no point in selling your audio-book rights if the publisher doesn't have the infrastructure to produce audio-books.
There will also be a finite amount of time the publisher can hold these rights. Typically you're looking at a five year deal from date of publish. After that, the rights come back to you and you can re-negotiate your deal or go elsewhere. If someone is asking for ten years, that's holding you in for a very long time.
Everything I've outlined is what I've been offered. Each contract, while bearing similarities, should be different. As you are signing away rights, make sure you are happy to do so. This is business, don't be afraid to say no and ask questions.
Point 2 - Reservation of Rights. This covers the opposite of the above and outlines what rights you, the author keep hold of. It's not an extensive list, but covers the important ones. I get everything other than T-Shirts, Mugs and Framed prints of the cover art. Yes boys and girls, I get action figures and computer games.
Point 3 - Delivery of the Manuscript. This states when you (the author) delivered the manuscript to the Publisher and confirms it as one of the following document types: .doc, .rtf, .txt or scanned doc requiring proof reading (PDF).
Point 4 - Permissions. This confirms that the work has not been previously published and you (the author) own the copyright. You have the copyright as soon as you write it. It's basically saying that you are allowed to sell the rights to the publisher.
Point 5 - Duty to Publish. This is the turnaround time from signing to publication. With a termination clause should it be missed. Typically with small presses, you're looking at 6-12 months to get it on the shelves. I don't know about traditional publishing, maybe, one day. Anything longer than that probably means they feel that the book needs more work, because within the time there will be more editing, proof reading and cover design with a ramp up in marketing a couple of months out.
If the book is late, 90 days late you (the author) can give written notice and reclaim the rights from the publisher.
Point 6 - Payment. Show me the money.
The publisher will outline whether or not there will be an advance on your royalties. If there is, you only want to take what you need. This is because you will not receive any royalties from the sales of your books until this amount is back with the publisher.
In my case, I didn't get any. It's common with small presses, plus I have a full time job. Don't expect to command Stephen King's advances. You're an unknown property, there's no telling whether you're going to be a hit or not. If you don't need the money, don't take the advance if offered.
It will also show the split. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to reveal what I'm getting, but from what I've read: traditional publishing can be anywhere from 5 - 20% and small presses 20 - 40% royalties. No matter how you cut it, it's not as much as if you were to self publish on Amazon which gets you approximately 70%.
Cost up how much a developmental edit is, followed by another and then a couple of copy edits and a proof read. Throw in a cover and all the marketing you have to do by yourself. If you're happy to ignore these, you better be the next Mark Twain. You should, if you have any respect for your readers, at least do a copy edit. Because you will never find all the mistakes in your own work.
There will be an area which covers costs of printing and postage. Make sure it comes out of gross profit and not out of your cut. Also, if you can - put a cap on how much it can be. You don't want your profits being eaten up by shipping charges. The good thing is, if it's out of the gross profit, it's also in your publishers interest to keep it low. Also, most of your sales are going to come from ebooks or at least Amazon which has Print On Demand.
That's the first page and a half of the contract, I'll add the rest onto the next one. I'll make sure it's out mid week, as I'm already behind and apologies for any typos. I have an empty glass of Inkeeper's Tipple next to me.