by Paul D. Marks
That’s an interesting question. And since I was just going over a contract yesterday it’s definitely timely. As I was going over the contract I was thinking, hmm, I wonder if this jibes with other people’s contracts. Do they have the same terms? Better? Worse?
Of course, if I go there, if I want to see their contracts then they would want to see mine. And do I really want them seeing mine? Whether my terms are better or worse than someone else’s, do I want them to know my personal business?
When I was a kid—and maybe it’s still a thing today—people would gauchely ask how much someone made. And the usual response was “we’re comfortable.” The reason people gave that response, I think, was to deflect from the real and specific answer to that question. People don’t like talking about their finances.
I know that Louise Penny and John Grisham make a HELL of a lot more money than I do as a writer. But I don’t know exactly how much more and I don’t really care to know. I also don’t know the other details of their contracts, but I can certainly imagine they have better terms than I do in a variety of ways.
Would I like to make more money from my writing? Of course. That said, we all have different goals. Sometimes there’s things that are more important than actual money amounts, like being with a publisher that can get you exposure or will promote your work more (which hopefully in turn would mean more royalties). Sometimes we might be willing to sacrifice money for that extra reach. Or you might want more up-front money where another writer may not care as much about that as something else. We’re all different and want different things, so to compare contracts is like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. And again will only create envy. There’s a Law & Order episode where (and I’m trying to remember the details but it’s been a while so I’m making up these numbers but you’ll get the idea) the cops are investigating a murder (so what else is new?). They’re talking to various people in a company about how much each received as a bonus. And each one thinks they maxed out. The guy who got 500K thinks he got the top deal and so does the guy who got 50 or 90K (whatever it was). But if they knew the truth that would only create tension in the company and then there’d likely be more dead bodies for the cops to investigate 😉. So nobody shares that info. The same would happen with authors. Well, maybe not more dead bodies (except hopefully on the page) but more tension.
I’ve given people general advice about certain things to look for in contracts and rights they might want to retain and things along those lines. But I never tell people about my contract specifics. And I don’t want to know theirs. There are places to find variations on standard contracts and I suggest you look them up. See what contracts look like. See what you can negotiate in or out of a publisher’s standard contract. There are some things they’ll give you and some they won’t. So you have to compromise, you have to decide which hill/s you’re willing to die on. If the terms are too onerous go to another publisher. But you need to take responsibility and do some homework and make the best deal you can. Even Brian Epstein didn’t get the Beatles the best contract in the early days and somehow they seemed to do okay in the long run.
Just negotiate the best contract you can, whether you do it yourself or have a lawyer or agent do it. And contracts are about more than just money. They’re about certain rights that you might want to retain, as well as other things. So ultimately I don’t want my personal details revealed nor do I want to know yours.
And now for the usual BSP:
“While The Blues Don't Care is a complex, sometimes brutal, story, it also has its glimmers of beauty and joy. Those glimpses come from Bobby's passion for music, and his awe when he sees celebrities such as Clark Gable and Billie Holiday. Wander into Bobby Saxon's world in Paul D. Marks' latest book. It's a world you won't easily forget.”
—Lesa’s Book Critiques
Click here to: Subscribe to my Newsletter