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Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 73
Experience:  Sworn to the California Bar in 2011. Former staff editor at The New York Times Co. and seasoned news professional of 20 years experience in the U.S. and abroad.
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I have been fortunate enough to have been offered a

Customer Question

Hi, I have been fortunate enough to have been offered a publishing opportunity with an international publishing house. I am in the middle of outlining the terms before any contract is drawn up. I am a first time author/illustrator and was considering using an agent to get me the best deal, since I'm not experienced with this type of negotiation, but just wanted some insight first. They have offered a tempting advance and 5% royalties-I expect this means they are offering me 5% and not meaning they are taking 5%, although I will ask the question. They want world rights and they want to license the work for the duration of the copyright. I think 5% is too low and I'd trade a lower advance for higher royalties or a geared offer. I would want rights to revert back to me if they do not reprint and would not license this for longer than 3-5 years. Can I send you the email to get an opinion & are there agents who can help, I am looking through the Writers & Artists' Yearbook as we speak. Thanks.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert: replied 1 year ago.

Hi! I'm Scott, and I hope to offer some helpful perspective.

Be aware that I am licensed in Calif. only, work as a general practitioner and not an expert in copyright; but before entering law, I worked in news media and have some exposure to publications sector from that side in addition my recent legal qualifications.

First -- congratulations! You have a publisher's offer in hand!
No, as to the matter of rights ...

A lot will depend on the exact nature of the work and its audience and markets, and your objectives.

Unless you are willing to delve into those aspects, on top of producing the work, you should seriously consider an agent. An agent willing to represent you and your work may well prove to be a key to bids from multiple publishers offering a variety of deals, more or less favorable. The agent's job is to sort through for you based on what you have expressed as your goals and priorities.

The fact that you have a publisher's offer in hand should make getting a agent much easier: yes, yo uwill have to cede some money, but the agent will have incentive to sound out other publishers for you to get a more lucrative deal.

Also, keep in mind that it is unusual for books to sell such that their profits surpass the advance -- few authors ever see royalties.

Publishers at least want to recover expenses, which include your advance, and their costs in publishing, distribution and marketing, which takes time (unless it's an overnight blockbuster!).

Also, "world rights" is a bit misleading, because quite a large part of the world does not adhere to international copyright conventions, so don't be too obsessed with that particular.

So, its going to require an assessment of your goals and potential markets now and in future.

Again, this is where an agent comes in handy.

I hope you found this a little helpful & if so, I would appreciate a positive ration. Thanks and good luck!


Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks Scott. Actually, it's an illustration book for an adult colouring book, so I'm hopeful that it will make more than the advance, given the current craze. I understand that illustration books often have different royalities to written works. But would you say 5% is a smaller royalty than what you would expect? I am a first time author. Thanks.
Expert: replied 1 year ago.

Those kinds of very specific questions is where an agent will be valuable.

I just don't have the depth in that sector to offer an opinion.

I do know publisher's vary, and and percentage can vary with format varies -- e.g. higher rates for hardbound vs. paperback, for example, and possibly tiered percentages over time and amount of copies sold.

I'm sure there are resources on the Web -- Authors groups, etc., -- that may prove valuable resource before committing to an agent.

Check out the Websites of publishers to see if they have FAQ pages for new authors that might include some info on royalties.

Also, I know has several groups of authors that might prove helpful by posting a query, and there are probably similar groups on FaceBook.

Good luck!

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks, ***** ***** need to spend some time going through relevant agents, as I have had another publisher come back to me with positive news, wanting to see a final submission. Thanks for the Linked In tip & posting on an author/agents' forum is bound to get some response, since the hard bit of receiving an offer has been done! :-) Are there any IP lawyers specifically for copyrights/illustrators on this site?
Expert: replied 1 year ago.

You can head you next question with a request for response only from a IP/Copyright, but please keep in mind he will not be able to offer legal advice either.

If you found me at all responsive or helpful, I would appreciate a positive rating for them and the time taken -- thanks!