There's an interesting discussion over at JA Konrath's blog about contract negotiations. Since it's a problem I hope to be facing soon, I'd like to get as many opinions as possible.

Any Crimespacers care to join in?

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Hi Jack. As long as you and your agent are happy with that decision, I think it's perfectly okay. Every writer has to follow his/her own path, and there are certainly no guarantees no matter which avenue you choose. Best of luck!
Publishers Weekly had a very interesting article about small press authors publishing their second book with a larger press (can't find it right now!). But the gist of it was that writers were able to publish their edgier debuts with a small press to great success, actually helping them to later secure a deal with a "NY biggie." A good small press can probably handle niche marketing much better than a larger one. And I think publishers are savvy enough to realize that 5,000 books sold with a small press is not the same as 5,000 books with a larger one. (In other words, size of the publisher is taken in consideration.)

Your agent is experienced, so I'm sure that you will get good direction from him. I frankly got scared when my agent started negotiating--I feared that the publisher would just walk away--but she knew what she was doing!

Good luck and take deep breaths. And work on the next project!
Thanks, Naomi! I appreciate your insights.
I think, in the end, that a lot depends on what you want out of your writing career - some writers are hoping for just one blockbuster to put them on easy street. Then they'll never have to go through the chore of writing again (and there is a lot to writing that is a chore). Others are looking for a longer term career. Assume you're going to make a half million dollars in your career - would you like it in one lump sum for one book with the proviso that you can never sell another? Or spread out as payment for a career worth of books? Many of those who get huge advances for their first book have a hard time earning out and getting a second book deal.

Also, there is definitely the idea of handling or growing a career. Others have talked about it. Even the biggest names in mystery don't start out on the NYT bestseller's list. Laura Lippman just made it after about ten books.

While Joe is generally correct, publishers are hoping for the bestseller or the newbie, they also fill their catalogs every year with authors who are neither. (I'm one.) As Sandra said. People move up and down the ladder. Getting an agent is very important to making sure you move in the right direction.
Thanks, Steven. Laura Lippman is a great example of someone who built on steadily increasing sales.

I guess we all dream of getting a huge advance and having a runaway bestseller with a big movie deal...

Might as well think big, huh?
Hi Jude, when Sandra says you should talk to me she's quite rightly pointing out the other side of the equation. I was paid six figures in the UK for my first two books, and the company threw a lot of money at them too, but by their own admission they got it all badly wrong. I haven't been published in the UK since (five years). Now, would have I been published again even if I'd had a small advance or been published by a small press? Hard to say.

In the US I've had decent advances from Simon & Schuster and the books haven't set the world on fire (yet) but the publisher has been supportive and is confident the book due out in November will break through to the next level.

My advice would be to look at your book - is it very noir or off the wall, something that a small press often manages to turn into a big seller but that big presses often get wrong. Is it mainstream (be honest with yourself) - in which case, maybe better to hold out for the majors.

And whatever happens, once you get a deal, the lesson I learned too late in the UK is to take as much control of the process as you can. Ask awkward questions, demand answers - as one of my agents said to me recently, "It's the squeaking wheel that gets the oil".
In the US I've had decent advances from Simon & Schuster and the books haven't set the world on fire (yet) but the publisher has been supportive and is confident the book due out in November will break through to the next level.

NEVER underestimate the value of a publisher who actually believes in you. You can't really put a dollar figure on that, because that's what will keep them behind you for a few books as you grow.

The recent deal where a debut author got $1.25 million was (to me) the example of all the wrong reasons to end up with a publisher. Insiders admitted people were negotiating for the bragging rights to publish the book, despite the fact that some editors who'd read it said it felt "forced". I don't know about that - I read the description and had no interest in it at all, but there's a lot to be said for having an editor who gets behind you. I would take less money (how much is hard to quantify) to work with an editor I admired.
Hi Sandra. Wow, it would be hard to turn down seven figures. That kind of money in the bank would give you a lot of freedom and options, even if the book flopped. You could pretty much write your own creative ticket from then on.

I know what you mean about working with an editor you admire. Still, why even submit to someone you wouldn't want to work with? If you submit to seven houses, and a bidding war ensues, high bid should get the contract, IMHO.
Well Jude, I think the chances of a new author getting seven figures are pretty slim, so I'm going in the realm of realism here. If one publisher offered $30,000 per book and another $25,000 but there were thing about working with that editor that appealed to me, I'd weigh that as well. There's a lot more to consider than just the bottom line, for me anyway. Distribution, which rights they're taking, promotional things.

Sounds like you've picked the list of editors your work is going to? This isn't about not wanting to work with someone - it's about maybe knowing more about a certain editor, seeing what they've done with a work/author you really admire and therefore wanting to work with them. It doesn't mean another editor isn't a great choice as well, but I don't know all the editors out there. I don't even know half the editors out there. Hell, not even a quarter of them, especially since I've met more editors in the UK than I know in the US.

Clearly, there are some people who are only interested in making big money, it must be a big publisher, etc. Funny, I read a hell of a lot from small presses and UK publishers that you guys don't have in the US, so maybe that explains something about my perspective. The majority of St. Martin's titles don't even get picked up by the chains here, for example, while Kensington has great distribution here. (However, both have publicity departments that are lacking.) That matters to me, because I can market on my home turf easily, but if the books aren't here I can't do that. I also deal with publicists from a lot of major publishing houses through the ezine, and believe me, my impressions of how some of them handle their marketing and promotion would also factor into a decision. I'm not talking about turning down $50,000 and taking $10,000 so please don't overgeneralize it to the point of making it ridiculous. I'm saying that $50,000 from one publisher isn't as good as $45,000 from another that has better distribution and better marketing, IMHO.

I actually wish they'd start giving awards for cover design and really making a deal about it, because some of the cover designs really suck. There's a hell of a lot more to the overall success of the book than just the initial dollar figure, and as Kevin has demonstrated from experience sometimes getting a big pay day doesn't mean your book will succeed. I don't want to feel like I'm building a career and then be dead in the water after two books. IMHO one of the big problems with a lot of new authors is they think they'll start off being Laura Lippman or Ken Bruen or George Pelecanos, and they don't comprehend the years and hard work that went into their current success. Ken and George both started small press. I would never dismiss that.
Good points, Sandra. I was mostly talking about that $1.25 million deal you mentioned. I know it doesn't happen very often.

Let me rephrase: All other aspects of the contract being equal, and trusting your agent to not submit to some jerk who'll leave your ass flapping in the breeze, the house with the most coin gets the book.
Hi Kevin. Thanks for your insights! The book is a hardboiled PI novel. I think it might have some mainstream appeal, though, in the same way James Patterson's Alex Cross novels do. I'm just kind of going nuts here waiting on a call from my agent, LOL!
Steven makes some good points, though anyone hoping for just one blockbuster to put them on easy street is in serious need of a reality check! Like him, I depend on my agent to deal with the contracts. She gets what it's possible to get, and admits to what's not possible.

I think Naomi's hit the nail on the head with the advantage of small presses.

There's another argument that small presses can be more passionate about their books than the biggies, who just have too many books to keep track of. I don't agree with that. I've been with St Martins for 5 books, and have been amazed by their real enthusiasm for my work, and I imagine Steven's in a similar boat.

Does their passion translate into huge marketing budgets? No. Do I make them loads of money? No. But for the moment their passion has led them to keep me financially afloat (just barely!) with their mid-sized advances. That is, I can pay the rent with my novels, which is more than most small presses would be able to do for me, no matter their level of their passion.

That said, I do believe that each writer's path is different. If no big NY house had picked me up, I would've been happy to go with a small press. The difference is that I would have had less time to write, because of whatever day job. Everyone wants to live off of their novels, but the first step is just the first step, as the writers Donna lists will attest to.

Oh, and I just saw Kevin's post...demanding answers may be more effective with a small press, I think. Perhaps Kevin's experience is different, but SMP does have a tendency to leave difficult questions (what is my exact marketing budget? How many ARCs are you printing?) unanswered...


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