Don’t sign a contract at a Writer’s Conference

How often have you heard of someone who knew someone who signed a book contract at a conference for their debut novel. They walked into the conference, pitched a story and signed on the dotted-line. It has happened,its  rare,  And I don’t recommend it unless… you and the publisher planned to do the signing at the conference, and you’ve had your agent, or a lawyer look over the contract.

Why?

Don’t misunderstand I’m not cautioning you because I think publishers are going to give you a terrible contract. Although some authors have told me their tales of woe from now defunct publishing houses. But the simple truth is:

You don’t know what you don’t know

I signed my first contract without an agent. I was so starry-eyed over being published. The contract was good, fair and pretty boilerplate for the industry.  My second contract I had an agent. Here’s where I didn’t know what I didn’t know. He negotiated a few extra things I had no idea I was entitled too.  He also perused the contract to be sure my rights could be easily returned if needed. Here’s a link to explain the parts of a contract. It reenforces my statement: you don’t know what you don’t know.

Read every word and ask questions

Are you aware publishers can withhold your first sales for ninety days before paying you? This is normal industry wide because book stores have a 90 day return option and they charage a restocking fee and it eventually can trickle down to the author needing to return royalties. Some publishers pay every quarter rather than monthly. Some insist that you must have a minimum sales dollar amount before you receive your royalty check. A few publishers i.e.… academic publishers only pay once a year.

Read every line and ask questions. If you haven’t read your contract carefully you’ll be anxious for no reason.  Of course, a lawyer or an agent will know what kinds of questions to ask. Be sure you hire a contract lawyer familiar with book contracts. It’s worth the fee for peace of mind.

Talk to other authors

If a fellow-author is willing to share ask them about their contract experience. That will help you know what kinds of questions to ask.

It’s great PR to have your picture taken signing a contract at a conference. And if you’ve done your due diligence enjoy the spotlight.

Anyone care to share about their contract experience?

My latest contracted book comes out August 15th. Preorder link here.

 

Ten points to consider before signing a book contract Part 1

Meme for contract blog

You’ve worked hard and now a contract offer looms before you. The first book contract is the most exciting. So much so you might even sign it for free. But please, don’t.

I’ve signed two so far and I did my research first. Both contracts were with reputable small publishing houses. That helped me feel more comfortable. Before the first contract was offered I got to know the editors from the house through conferences and became a fan of authors they published. I was confident when I signed with them and pleased with their author care. The second one I got through my agent and he negotiated the contract. But I still did some homework myself.

Below are ten things I feel are important before you sign not only the first but any contract. Especially with small publishing companies because they come and go. But traditional house should still get the same scrutiny. Small publishers are a great way to start your author career. They are usually more open to debut authors. And new authors can get so excited and in a hurry to see their name on a cover. Here are some things to consider before signing on the dotted line.

  1. What percentage do you receive as the author for each sale? (royalties) Those percentages can range from 10% to 50%. Most small publishers don’t give advances and often the first royalty check doesn’t come for 90 days. Any paperbacks you wish to sell you purchase for an author’s discount.  If your goal is to get your first book out there, the royalty amount may not matter. The smaller the company the smaller the royalty. (There may be exceptions.)
  2. Number of titles the publisher has? Go to their website and check out their volume. A brand- new publisher may have ten. A more established will have hundreds.

While you’re on the website check out a few other things.

  1. Cover designs Are the covers appealing. Are you drawn to the covers? The first thing a potential reader notices is the cover.secret-charades-front-cover

 

  1. Do they have any best-selling or award-winning authors under contract? This is not a red flag, merely a hopeful consideration. They look for quality and if they are offering you a contract, you can feel comfortable they consider your work quality.
  2. Sales ranking Choose a book in your genre and search for them on Amazon. What do the sales rankings look like? Do this with a few or all the books in your genre. There are millions of books on Amazon so if their numbers are over 500 in specific categories or over 50,000 in the whole pool of books that is a good thing. These numbers give you a good idea of sales. However, some some authors refuse to market and their numbers reflect that.

Next week I’ll share the second half of my list. If you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them. These tips are things I find helpful. You may have some other ideas.