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Showing posts from August, 2008

When is a Book Acceptable, and Who Says So?

By Richard Curtis

The acceptability provision of a book contract can be summarized as follows: A publisher engages an author to write a book, stipulating in the contract that if the manuscript is not acceptable in the publisher's sole discretion, the publisher may reject it and require the author to repay in full the advance that was paid on signing the contract. Until that advance is repaid, the publisher will not release the author from the contract, thus restricting him or her from entering into a contract with another publisher for that (and perhaps any other) literary work.

Inherent in this provision are three potentially explosive elements. The first is that acceptability depends entirely on the arbitrary editorial judgment of the publisher. The second is that the author is required to repay every penny to his publisher should the manuscript be determined to be unacceptable. The third is that the author is restrained from selling that book to another publisher until the origin…

A World Where All Escalators Go Up - Part 2

By Richard Curtis

In Part 1 of this two-part article, we introduced a term commonly heard in discussions of book deals: "escalator." Escalators are additional advance payments made by publishers to authors if and when certain contingencies occur. What are those contingencies? How much are they worth? And what, if anything, is their real value? We homed in on bestseller bonuses. In this concluding segment we focus on paperback reprint, book club, awards, movie and other types of escalators.

One form taken by escalators is book club or paperback reprint, wherein your publisher agrees to pay you additional advance monies if a book club or paperback reprint deal on your bookexceeds a certain amount of money. As we've seen, such escalators are almost invariably of the pay-you-with-your-own-money variety, because your publishers are guaranteed recoupment of the bonus out of the money they will eventually collect from the book club or reprinter. The only thing they lose is intere…

A World Where All Escalators Go Up - Part 1

By Richard Curtis

A term commonly heard in discussions of book deals is "escalator." For instance, "Her book was bought for an advance that, with escalators, could exceed $1 million." Escalators are additional advance payments made by publishers to authors if and when certain contingencies occur. What are those contingencies? How much are they worth? And what, if anything, is their real value?

Escalators were created, among other reasons, to bridge the gap between author and publisher when negotiations reach an impasse. You strongly believe your book will be a bestseller or will be bought by a major book club or made into a motion picture, and you feel that your advance should reflect the same optimism on your publisher's part. Your publishers, on the other hand, hope and pray you're right, but they've seen many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip. They cannot afford to overpay authors on the strength of hope alone. Of course, if your track record justi…

Payout Schedules

By Richard Curtis

While the size of the advance is the criterion by which most authors measure the commercial value of their books, the size and timing of the installments in which the advance is paid are just as significant, and sometimes more so. Because the "payout schedule" directly affects the cash flow of publishers and authors, it is often a bone of bitter contention in negotiations, and many a player has walked away from an otherwise good deal because a disadvantageous payout schedule nullified advantages gained in the negotiation.

With few exceptions, advances are paid in installments. Part of the total money is payable upon signing the contract, the balance payable on acceptance of partial, complete, or revised manuscript; on certain calendar dates; on publication; and even after publication. Although the payout formula may be fairly simple when the advance is small, publishers and agents devote a great deal of attention to it when the stakes get high, The reason, of…