New Pub Date for Dragon’s Mate

Dragon's Mate, book 4 of the DragonFate series of paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke

I’ve moved the publication date for Hadrian and Rania’s story to November 24. Dragon’s Mate has been challenging to write—these two characters have run off with the story multiple times and made it into their own. I love when this happens because it creates a better book, but I also want to ensure that the book is published as it should be. This extra month will give me time to think about the story and ensure all the ends are tucked into place. I’ll be able to get the print edition published in advance of the ebook, and will be able to give my ARC reviews more than a heartbeat to read the book.

How this will shake down for you varies by portal. Apple and Kobo allow me to change the publication date and I’ve done that already. Nook had some issues this month, but I’ve managed to update the publication date there, as well. There isn’t a pre-order at GooglePlay, so there’s nothing to change or update there. I asked Amazon if they’ll move my pre-order by a month and they agreed so pre-orders there will remain in place.

If you follow me on Amazon, you will likely get a release announcement for Dragon’s Mate next Tuesday, even though the book won’t be published. It appears that the dates on those announcements can’t be changed or updated.

I appreciate your understanding and support on this. 2020 has been quite a year so far and not an easy one for creative endeavors. I hope things settle down soon. In the meantime, I’m thinking about changing my processes for the future. More about that in another blog post, coming soon.

Missing NINC

This week, I should be at the Novelists Inc conference at St. Pete’s Beach in Florida, learning so much about publishing and promoting that my To Do lists have To Do lists. Instead, I’m home, thanks to Covid-19, and missing the conference, with reps from the portals, my writer friends and that beach.

One of the things that’s valuable about attending a conference is that I step away from my day-to-day rhythm and look at the broader picture of my publishing and writing goals, as well as learn about possibilities I’m overlooking (or haven’t explored yet). There are always a lot of those.

The Beauty Bride by Claire Delacroix in audio

Here’s an example of one thing I might reconsider after attending a workshop or having a conversation at NINC – audiobooks. I recorded a dozen audiobooks 2015-2017 (mostly historical romances) and haven’t done any since. So, if I had gone to NINC, finding out more about where the audiobook market stands right now might have been one of my action items. (I always have a list when I go to a conference.) There’s the industry at large, the trends and patterns, then there’s the strategic question of how to manage my content in that niche. Should I record my contemporary romances? Should I record my PNR? What about more historicals? Should I write and record novellas? In what sub-genre? How is the audiobook market changing? What promotional opportunities exist that didn’t before? How can I improve on what I’ve done before with audio and build for the future? I’m doing my research and considering possibilities. It’s a little harder this way than attending a session or having a drink with someone, but it’s a useful exercise. I should have a new audiobook (or two) contracted for production soon and will tell you about it when I do.

This exercise also means re-evaluating my audio distribution, which I changed in 2019. I’m mostly happy with it, but think it needs a tweak or two. For example, KOBO has opened the option of publishing audio directly to their portal: I’m going to take my audiobooks direct to them instead of using an aggregator. That means lots of uploading for me. The KOBO links for my audiobooks will change as a result. The other change I’m considering will be invisible from your end, but you can see how my To Do list is growing, just from this one item.

There are more ways to promote audiobooks than was the case four years ago, as well, and I’ve added regular promotion of my audiobooks to my monthly To Do list. You might want to follow the Delacroix blog if that interests you, because my audio backlist at this point is pretty much all historical romance. I’m sending some emails and exploring some websites and updating my idea of what’s possible to formulate a new plan.

You can see how my To Do list grew, just from that one item. I’d do the same for translations, for print editions and for getting my work into libraries. I’d probably learn more about subscription services and the exploitation of performance rights, as well as see trends in ebooks. I’d attend workshops about sending newsletters and managing social media and a host of successful marketing strategies—as well as running CPC ads. Watch that To Do list grow, even though I’m not at the conf this year.

I like how conferences like NINC compel me to plan for the future and look ahead. I bought my 2021 planner this week and have started to fill it in, both with writing and with promotion. Another thing I’m going to do this week is review the financial reports for my various book sales over the past year and look for patterns. What strategy works best? Does the answer vary by sub-genre? Does it vary by portal? It invariably does, so choosing the best path forward isn’t as easy as it might sound.

Just One Fake Date, book one of the Flatiron Five Fitness series of contemporary romances by Deborah Cooke

Another big responsibility for me is managing my backlist, to ensure that it continues to perform in a changing market. I repackaged three series this year—The Champions of St. Euphemia, Flatiron Five Fitness and Flatiron Five Tattoo. I rewrote the series starter for Flatiron Five Fitness, giving Tyler a new story. How did those efforts influence results? Was it worth doing? (Yes, it was.) If I intended to repackage another series, which one would it be? If I was going to rewrite a book, which one would it be?

One Knight's Desire, book #3 of the Rogues & Angels sereis of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix

Which series do I need to complete next? I already made a move on this one and set up a pre-order for book 3 of my Rogues & Angels series of medieval romances, One Knight’s Desire.

Which new project should I undertake next? How do I take what I’ve learned and apply it to future efforts?

You can see that my list of things to do and explore has grown by leaps and bounds, just by composing this post—and compelling myself to take the time to take a bird’s-eye view, just as I would when attending a conference. It’s not the same. I’m not hearing the news from the portals or hearing from other authors about what’s worked for them, but it’s not all bad as a compromise. I still miss attending NINC, but these items will keep me busy for a while.

New Contemporary Romance Editions in the Works

Simply Irresistible, a contemporary romance by Deborah Cooke and first in the Flatiron Five series.I’m making some changes to the Flatiron Five series and the Secret Heart Ink series, and I thought we’d talk about that today.

If you subscribe to my newsletter, Heroes & Happy Endings, or belong to my Facebook Readers Group, you know about this upcoming change already. (If you don’t subscribe, why not??? 🙂 )

When I started to write Flatiron Five, I had a plan of what the books would be like, based on what I saw as strong trends in the market. By the second book, though, I was telling the kind of stories I like to tell, which was a little bit different from the original plan. I really like Simply Irresistible and Snowbound – okay, mostly I like Tyler and Spencer! – but the fact is that they’re a bit different from the other books in both series. That makes them less effective as series-starters. In terms of good marketing, a series starter should demonstrate what a reader can expect from the rest of the series.

Snowbound, #1 of the Secret Heart Ink series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeIn addition, the two series don’t look similar in their branding. I like the covers, but they’re not doing their job as well as they should. At a glance, readers may not realize the stories are set in the same world.

I had been mulling over all of this since finishing Bad Case of Loving You and Under the Mistletoe last year, then I went to a conference that offered a lot of amazing workshops on marketing. Wow! I learned so much – and developed a new plan. I need to do a better job of marketing these books, so there are changes ahead.

First of all, I’m changing the covers on both series, both to look more like other contemporary romances and romantic comedies and to look more like each other. I’m working with a new-to-me cover artist with fabulous credentials in this niche and I’m thrilled with our progress so far. (I love even her first draft!) I’ll be revealing those covers first in my newsletter and Facebook group, hopefully later this month. They’ll appear here on the site on April 15.

Secondly, I’m making some changes to the books. Some are small – like fixing the continuity error of Sonia/Sonya/Sonja’s name being spelled differently over the course of the series ARGH! – some are medium – like changing the titles – but one is bigger.

The big change is that Tyler is getting a new story, with a new heroine. He’s still the same finance guy who needs to be nudged out of his comfort zone, but Shannyn is a lot more forthright than Amy was. She’s sure Tyler doesn’t remember her from college, and really hopes he’s forgotten her telling him off at a party. But Ty remembers Shannyn very well – and he’s intrigued by the changes in her. She’s not his type and he knows he’s not hers, so she might be perfect for a fake date to his sister’s wedding. Ty suggests a deal and Shannyn surprises him with her terms. Ty takes it as a personal challenge to surprise her in return – and that’s only the beginning of these two shattering each others’ assumptions….

I’m having so much fun with this new book and I think you’ll love it!

Under the Mistletoe, a contemporary Christmas romance and #4 in the Secret Heart Ink series by Deborah CookeThis change will have a ripple effect and create some smaller continuity changes through the other books. For example, one of the things that I wanted to address was that Amy doesn’t have much of a role in the later books. There’s not much for her to do at F5, since she’s a writer. Shannyn, though, is a photographer and the whole idea of the billboards for the club is now her idea. She’ll be more actively engaged in the promotion plans for the club, which I like. She also has tattoos, so we’ll get to meet Chynna sooner. There are a lot of small tweaks like this that will add to the cohesion of the books in the series.

I’ll also make some revisions to Snowbound, to make it more similar to the other books in that series. (I’m still deciding whether I’ll lengthen the books in the Secret Heart Ink series to make them more similar to Flatiron Five. I need to finish Ty’s new story before I can think about that.) Those new editions will probably be available this summer.

And this will all set things up well for me to write a new series set in the same world as Flatiron Five. Yay! That will mean that some of the existing characters will make cameo appearances in the new books and is part of the reason I’m working on the Character List here on the site. I’ll tell you more about that new series later this year, once all these changes are published.

Addicted to Love, a contemporary romance by Deborah CookeIf you’ve bought the books, you’re probably wondering how the mechanics of all this will work. Don’t worry! It’s pretty simple. Simply Irresistible will be unpublished and become unavailable. The new series starter will be published and will be a free download. If this doesn’t happen immediately at the portals, subscribers to my newsletter will be able to download a free copy from BookFunnel.

The new versions of the other books, with their new covers, new titles, and slight content changes, will be published under the same ISBN#’s and ASIN#’s, since the changes are minor. This means you’ll be able to download an update free of any of the books you’ve bought. It also means the buy links to the portals will remain the same. I’ll add a note to the metadata of the revised books of their previous titles, so their history will be clear on the portals and at Goodreads.

But if you want any of these books in their current print editions, you should buy them now, as those editions will soon be going away.

Phew! That’s my big news! To be the first to see the new covers, and to have a chance to download Tyler’s new book free, please be sure to sign up for my newsletter, Heroes & Happy Endings!

Welcome to 2020!

It’s a brand new year! What will you do in 2020? What will you change? What will you accomplish?

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions but I’ll take any opportunity to review and revise. The start of a new year is a good time to do that. First, let’s take a look at things I learned in 2019.

Bad Case of Loving You, book #6 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeAccomplished in 2019
• I published four new books last year: Bad Case of Loving You, Under the Mistletoe, Maeve’s Book of Beasts and Dragon’s Kiss.

• I also published revisions of three titles: One Knight’s Return, Unicorn Bride and Pearl Beyond Price.

• I published four new Dragonfire boxed sets: Dragonfire Quest, Dragonfire Elixir, Dragonfire Reunion and Dragonfire Triumph.

Under the Mistletoe, a contemporary Christmas romance and #4 in the Secret Heart Ink series by Deborah Cooke• I started to initiate translations of my historical romances and published my first two Italian translations. (You can find Claire’s translations here.)

• I attended two conferences, a reader conference (Romancing the Capital) and a writers’ conference (Romance Mastermind). I taught a workshop at RTC.

Lessons from 2019:
Unicorn Bride, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix, 2019 new edition• A year ago, I was wondering where my days were going. It seemed that I didn’t have much time to write, even though I planned to do so every morning and spent all day at my desk. So, I started a spreadsheet, documenting exactly what I did every day and how long it took. The answer became clear very quickly: I knew that being my own publisher took time, but those publishing jobs were taking a lot more time than I’d realized. Part of this was because I’ve republished a lot of older books in the last couple of years. I’ve been streamlining my publishing processes, experimenting with timing – either a publishing day per week or a few publishing afternoons in a row seems to work well.

Dragonfire Quest, volume one of the Complete Dragonfire Novels digital bundles including Kiss of Fire, Kiss of Fury and Kiss of Fate from the Dragonfire novels series of paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke• I experimented again with KDP Select and was underwhelmed again by results. Switching between wide distribution and exclusive-to-Amazon distribution is a lot of work, so I’m sticking with wide distribution for the foreseeable future. I may write some projects specifically for KDP Select, but we’ll see.

• Recognizing that my focus had shifted from writing to publishing, I started a creativity journal last winter. I bought a planner and a lot of stickers, then tracked and celebrated how much I wrote each day. Having it open on my desk helped me to write first, then turn to the other jobs after the writing was done. I really like the stickers, which is silly but it’s effective. I wrote 700K words last year, which is really a lot for me. I’ve already set up my new journal for 2020. (And it has stickers in it already!)

One Knight's Return, book #2 of the Sayerne series of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix• Those are pretty big take-aways from 2019, but there was another big one. A year ago, I thought I could republish some older Claire Delacroix titles easily. I knew I had a full schedule with launching DragonFate, plus finishing up Flatiron Five and Secret Heart Ink, and didn’t want Claire’s readers to be neglected. I chose three books that had been published by Harlequin, blocked in a week to proofread the scanned book files, and scheduled them for publication. That plan had worked well for the Bride Quest and Dragonfire. It didn’t work for these books. They needed revisions to the point that it would have been easier to just write new books. Those revisions added a ton of stress to my year, because I miscalculated and hadn’t left enough time for them. There isn’t a lot of upside to doing these revisions either – while it’s nice to have the books available again, they aren’t the stories I’d write now and they don’t have a huge following. My time really would be better spent writing new books. At this point, four of Claire’s eleven Harlequin Historicals have been revised and republished in new editions, and there won’t be more in the foreseeable future.

Pearl Beyond Price, book two of the Unicorn Trilogy of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix• Another milestone from 2019 was initiating translations of my books. My Italian translator and I are making good progress on the Jewels of KinfairlieThe Beauty Bride is available and The Rose Red Bride is publishing, while she is translating The Snow White Bride. I’m waiting on the Portuguese (Brazil) translation of The Beauty Bride and will have the German translation this winter. It’s been a very interesting process, with lots to learn, and many new connections to make.

The Year Ahead
Dragon's Kiss, book two of the DragonFate novels, a series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeFor the past year or so, I’ve been aware that I’m coming to the end of existing series for each of my author brands. Last year, I launched DragonFate for my Cooke paranormals, and I’m really pleased with Dragon’s Kiss. I’m having fun with that series and looking forward to its continuation. I’m in a similar place with my contemporary romances – Secret Heart Ink is done and after Some Like it Hot, Flatiron Five will be done. (Maybe. I’m not sure where Nate’s story fits yet. It might be a novella at the end of the series.) And Claire needs a new series, too. So, I’ve been planning and dreaming. The hardest part is always deciding between competing ideas.

Here Be Dragons: The Dragonfire Companion by Deborah CookeRight now, these titles are scheduled for publication in 2020:
Here Be Dragons: The Dragonfire Companion – January
Flatiron Five: The First Collection – January
Some Like it Hot – February
All’s Fair in Love and War – March
Dragon’s Heart – May
Dragon’s Mate – October

That’s about 300K of new words right there.

Some Like It Hot, book #7 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeI really want to get ahead of the publishing cycle this year, and get back to having books done and uploaded at least a month or two before their publication dates. I also want to publish linked books more closely together. That means the calendar is going to look empty for a bit as I write and work to get ahead of the curve. (You can see that gap in the schedule above.) The plan is that by the time you see the cover reveal and the pre-order, the book will be complete.

I’ll be filling some of those inevitable gaps with boxed sets. The new Flatiron Five bundle Flatiron Five: The First Collection comes out this month, at a special price. Claire has a new boxed set, All’s Fair in Love and War, coming in March and there will be other trope-based bundles. I’m hoping to write and publish some shorter works, too, to keep you reading while I write away.

Dragon's Heart, book three of the DragonFate Novels, a series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeI’m also revising my schedule to keep my focus squarely on writing. I’m not teaching anymore or making treks to writing group meetings. I attended two conferences last year and while they were great, this year, I’m staying home to write.

This year, it’s all about the words—and the self-care. A year and a half ago, I started walking 4 km every day and that’s become a habit. I really miss it if I skip a day. I’ve added yoga at least three times a week, too. I’m still not very good at it, but it does make me feel better. 🙂 I’ve cut back on social media commitments, too.

Of course, there’s still knitting and crafting. I’ll show you a new sweater tomorrow on Fiber Friday.

I hope you have exciting plans for 2020. Let’s make it a great year!

More Paperback Editions

Bad Case of Loving You, book #6 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeUntil about two years ago, I was creating two editions of each of my paperbacks. One was published through Createspace (an Amazon company) and made available to Amazon stores. The other was published through Ingrams and made available everywhere else. The two editions were the same, except that there were slight differences in the width of the cover spine, probably because the two print-on-demand outlets use different paper for the interior pages. (At one point, I also created editions at Nook of some books for B&N stores, which also have slightly different spine widths, but don’t see enough sales on those editions to justify paying the designer to tweak the spine, so I’ve stopped doing them.)

About two years ago, Amazon began merging Createspace (the POD publishing platform) into KDP (the ebook publishing platform) which made a lot of sense. Many indie books are available in both POD and ebook, and creating both through the same portal, with the same metadata, and reporting sales for both in the same place was a good plan IMO. Also the Createspace interface was older. The KDP interface was being updated, so the print update was rolled into that. Authors could migrate their titles from Createspace to KDP. There were some (inevitable, in such a big transition) hiccups, but ultimately, Createspace was closed to new content.

Unicorn Bride, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix, 2019 new editionSince then, I chose to create my print-on-demand editions only at Ingrams, and have them distributed everywhere. Another variable was that I’ve been creating mass market sized paperbacks and during the initial transition, KDP didn’t support this format although Createspace had.

Recently, writer friends have shared that their Ingrams-print edition is showing a delayed delivery on Amazon – of about 60 days. Also, the Ingrams editions aren’t eligible for free shipping through Amazon Prime, which is a big deterrent to Amazon Prime shoppers. So, this week, I added KDP print editions for the books that didn’t have them before, just for the Amazon stores. They’re all going live now, and as they do, the Amazon edition will replace the Ingrams edition on the same link in the Amazon store. (This is because they have the same ISBN.)

So, if you’re an Amazon Prime customer and you’ve been holding off on buying print copies of these titles for your keeper shelf, now’s the time!

Under the Mistletoe, a contemporary Christmas romance and #4 in the Secret Heart Ink series by Deborah CookeBad Case of Loving You

Snowbound

Spring Fever

One Hot Summer Night

Under the Mistletoe

The Mercenary’s Bride

The Runaway Bride

Unicorn Bride

Maeve’s Book of Beasts

 

Hard Cover Editions with Cloth Covers

Ingrams, the supplier I use for printing my books, has announced that they will be discontinuing their clothbound books. From their email: “On October 22, 2019, we will be retiring our blue and grey cloth covers and gold foil spine stamping in favor of a blue and grey digital cloth image with linen textured lamination.”

I really like the clothbound editions so am disappointed by this, although I understand that it must be a more complicated production process.

Right now, I have the Flatiron Five series and the Dragonfire Novels available in these clothbound hardcover editions. Both have blue cloth. The interiors are the same as the trade paperbacks and the books are just a little larger for the case. Here are my Dragonfire editions beside each other on the shelf:

The Dragonfire Novels by Deborah Cooke, in their print editions

If you’d like any of these books in the clothbound hardcover editions, you should order them soon. You can order them from the usual online portals – there are links on the landing pages for the books – or you can order signed copies directly from me.

Here’s a link for ordering the Dragonfire Novels in hardcover from me:

The Dragonfire series of paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke in Kindle Unlimited

Buy Signed Hardcovers of the Dragonfire Novels

Buy directly from Deborah and get signed copies of all eleven Dragonfire Novels in hardcover collector's editions – Kiss of Fire, Kiss of Fury, Kiss of Fate, Winter Kiss, Whisper Kiss, Darkfire Kiss, Flashfire, Ember’s Kiss, The Dragon Legion Collection (which includes Kiss of Danger, Kiss of Darkness and Kiss of Destiny, Serpent’s Kiss and Firestorm Forever – as well as some swag. The price is in US$ and includes $40 US postage from Canada.

$324.99

If you’re interested in Flatiron Five, please add a comment and I’ll email you. 🙂

 

Workshop at RTC

Romancing the Capital 2019This morning, I’m teaching a workshop at RTC (Romancing the Capital) called A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing Options. I have two hours. The workshop clocks out at an hour and twenty minutes. I have over 100 slides! I hope the projector works. I hope I get through the whole talk without getting derailed by questions and we can have questions at the end.

Fingers crossed!

For simplicity’s sake, I created a page here on the site with hotlinks for all the portals and services I’ll mention in the talk. Their logos go past on the slides, but the links are on the RTC Links page under the Author Resources tab.

After the workshop is over, it’ll just be fun. I’m participating in several panel discussions and will be hanging out, talking to readers. There’s a huge booksigning on Saturday afternoon – which is open to the public, if you’re in the area – and I loaded the car up with books. It sounds as if this will be the last RTC, which makes me sad because it’s a terrific reader conference, but I know it will be a particularly awesome one this year.

Wish me luck with my workshop!

TRW’s Northern Hearts Conference

Northern Hearts conference, hosted by Toronto Romance Writers, September 2019I’ll be attending the Northern Hearts conference hosted by Toronto Romance Writers, which will be held at the North York Novotel from September 20 – 21, 2019.

There’s a booksigning on Friday night to launch the conference and I’ll be signing there.

I’ll also be teaching a workshop on Saturday (time TBD) called “Ten Reasons Why Traditionally-Published Authors Stumble When They Go Indie.”

I hope to see you there!

Schedule Updates

Some Like It Hot, book #7 in the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeI’ve been moving my schedule around to accommodate the new publication date of Bad Case of Loving You. I also want to start some new projects.

One of the results of this reorganization is that Some Like It Hot has been moved to a February 2020 publication date. That will take my contemporary romance publication schedule back to two titles a year. (Theo and Lyssa messed me up, but in 2020 we’ll be on track again.)

Under the Mistletoe, a contemporary Christmas romance and #4 in the Secret Heart Ink series by Deborah CookeThe contemporary romance after that (summer 2020 pub date) will be a Coxwell book. I also want to set some romances at Flatiron Five West, and will be attending RWA National in San Francisco in July 2020 with the plan of doing some research there.

I’m planning to finish up Under the Mistletoe and publish it this fall, so it will be my 2019 holiday romance read. First, Theo and Lyssa, then Chynna.

Unicorn Bride, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix, 2019 new editionAs for Claire’s books, there will be One Knight’s Return this month, which has proven to be another one of those little republication projects that ended up taking a huge amount of time. (The second half of the book is all new and the first half has significant changes. It would have been faster to just write a new book!) Then there will be a republication of Unicorn Bride in August, which really will be a republication and very close to the original.

That’s where we stand!

A Little Bit About Publishing Contracts

I was asked recently by a new author to have a peek at a contract offered to her and thought that a general post about pitfalls might be welcome. I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve read, rejected and signed a lot of publishing contracts. I’ve made some mistakes and learned from them. I’ve also learned from some generous people who are very experienced in publishing contract law.

Many authors actively express their dislike of contracts. While contracts are not the most riveting reads, I like them – they document the expectations of each party in the relationship. Sometimes you learn things about your proposed partner in a contract. Contracts also specify how the relationship will end and what happens in pretty much all eventualities. They’re maps, in a way, and I love maps.

The first and foremost thing you need to do is actually read the contract. Yes. Read it. Read the whole thing. Then read it again. If you don’t understand any part of the contract, then ask what it means. Research it. Know what you’re signing before you sign it. A contract isn’t like the Terms of Service at a portal – contract terms are negotiable. Everyone doesn’t get the same deal. You need to understand the terms of agreement.

Publishing contracts are negotiable – although how much the house is willing to negotiate with you is affected by how much they want to publish your book. The first contract offered by the house is called the boilerplate: this is the best deal for the house and the worst deal for authors. If you have an agent, he or she may have already negotiated an agency boilerplate, which is offered as a starting point for his or her clients, and is already a better deal. Whether you have an agent or not, there are probably places where you can make improvements to the boilerplate by negotiation. I’ll focus on some areas where you’re most likely to have success. This is by no means a substitute for asking questions and having more experienced individuals look over your contract. It’ll just give you an idea of some things to look for.

A publishing contract begins by listing the parties who are agreeing to do business together. For a book contract, this will be the publisher and the author. Notice that while you as author might be an individual, you’re probably making an agreement with a corporation, not the individual editor who is presenting the offer. If your editor leaves the publishing company, your contract will stand, because it’s with the house. (The same is true with an agency contract, unless your agent is a sole proprietorship.) Be sure that the contract is between the publisher and your legal entity – it might be your name, if you’re operating as a sole proprietorship, and it might be your corporation. If you are incorporated, there might be a rider that stipulates that you specifically will create the work.

The Grant of Rights is usually the first section of the contract. This part can be quite long as it defines what rights you as author are surrendering to the publisher for the duration of the contract. It’s pretty characteristic for a boilerplate contract to list all rights here – all territories, all languages, all formats and all subsidiary rights – even though in many cases the house only intends to use world English in ebook and print. Ideally, you will narrow the grant of rights to those rights the house actually intends to use. If they want the others later, they can always offer for them then. Any advance payment is, after all, calculated on the basis of what the house plans to do – if you surrender more rights than they plan to use, they’re essentially getting them free. You might make a strategic choice of letting the house “pave the way” for you in new markets – maybe with audio – if they have a strong record of doing that and doing it well. In that case, you might leave audiobook rights in the deal, even though the advance might not be increased. This is a personal choice and you can see an example of that at work below. FWIW, I never leave performance rights in a book deal. The vast majority of the time, they aren’t exercised, but when they are, there’s a lot of money involved and if/when that happens, I’d like control.

The work is defined in the contract, whether it’s one book or a series of books, in terms of length and genre/sub-genre. There will be delivery dates specified for each book, as well as the mechanism for delivery, and an editorial process should be defined, too. The publication date may be defined but more likely, there’s a window defined for publication, such as “within eighteen months of delivery of the book manuscript”. If it isn’t specified, it should be.

One of the things you should be looking for when you read the contract is ways that this deal could be stretched out and leave you in limbo. You’re going to be working with this publisher for several years at least, but if the relationship isn’t a successful one, you don’t want to be stuck in it forever.

There may be a non-compete clause and these clauses always deserve a close review. A non-compete may stipulate that you can’t publish a work elsewhere featuring the characters or the world in this work; it might stipulate that you can’t publish anything under the same author brand, regardless of content; it might declare that you can’t publish anything elsewhere under the term of the contract. This can be a pretty unreasonable condition, especially if the house is offering to publish one book and is paying no advance. If it’s a standalone book under a new pseudonym and you think the fit is perfect, that’s one thing – if it’s first in a series under your main author brand set in a world you intend to spend many books exploring, this clause is probably a deal-breaker for you. The non-compete might give the publisher control over your fictional world and/or your characters even after you deliver the work specified in this contract, which isn’t a concession to make lightly.

It is much cleaner to have an option clause. An option clause gives the house right-of-first-refusal on the next similar work, the next work under the same pseudonym, the next work set in the same world or featuring the same characters. Ideally, what’s due under the option clause should be tightly defined and limited to a single work. (There are perpetual option clauses out there, which allow right-of-first-refusal forever.) There should also be a date for the delivery of the option (within 30 days of the publication of the last book on the deal, for example) and there should be a date stipulated for a response from the house (30 or 60 days after submission). It should be clear that if the house declines to offer for the option book, you can publish it wherever and however you choose. The non-compete and the option clause can certainly work together to protect both the house’s investment and the author’s intellectual property. How much control you want to surrender in exchange for whatever they offer is a personal choice.

The advance will be stipulated in the contract, as well as how and when it will be paid. If there is an advance, there can be some wiggle room here, both in increasing the amount and speeding up the payments. I’ve seen a lot of contracts lately which offer no advance in exchange for all rights and would advise you to seriously consider what a house offering this kind of deal can do for you and your book.

An advance is an advance against royalties, so the contract will define how royalties are calculated and when they will be paid. This can be a huge section that allows for tiers of payment and deep discounting as well as various formats and territories. The big thing to look out for here is “net receipts“. There’s a very old bit of advice to authors that they should always negotiate to be paid out of gross sales when making a movie deal, not net sales, because even blockbuster movies don’t always make a profit. (Scroll down to Author Controversy on the Wiki page for Forrest Gump, for example.) Print royalties are usually calculated out of gross sales – for mass market editions, the author might get anywhere from 4% to 8% of gross sales. It’s common for digital rights to be paid according to a percentage of net receipts, though. At the very least, net receipts should be defined in the contract – are expenses deducted or not? If so, which ones? Even so, it’s much cleaner to be paid out of gross sales (although you may have a battle to get that.) Net receipts is often explained as “you’ll get X% of whatever we get”, but again, this is squishy. I got caught by this recently in a distribution agreement that I signed to get my work into libraries. It turned out that one of the portals delivering content to libraries was owned by the distributor with which I had the contract. On roughly $1000 of gross sales, the subsidiary reported net sales of $10. My share came out of the $10, i.e. “you’ll get X% of whatever we get”. I don’t do business with those people anymore.

When you create a work, you automatically hold copyright in that work. Copyright carries a number of rights for the creator, including the right to reproduce and sell the work. A publishing contract is essentially a licensing of that right for that work to a publisher. The contract should stipulate that the publisher will register your copyright in the nation of first publication (often the US) on publication, and it should stipulate what name will be used in that registration.

The contract should also define how and when this license ends, which is the moment that the rights to reproduce and sell the work revert to you. This is called the reversion clause. When your rights revert, you can license them to another publisher, or you can publish the book yourself in a new edition. There should be a precisely defined trigger for the reversion of rights. They might revert automatically in a specified number of years after the deal is signed. Foreign language rights tend to be handled this way: they’re often five-year licenses and at the end of that term, the rights revert without any paperwork. Once upon a time, reversion was possible when a book was “out-of-print” but with print-on-demand technology, books are never really out-of-print. OOP is intended as a measure of demand, so a better reversion clause defines out-of-print by sales volume- i.e. rights can revert when unit sales in all formats drop below a defined threshold per year. The goal, of course, is to make this number higher so reversion occurs sooner. Some houses stipulate that reversion can occur when a certain period of time has passed since the house’s last exercise of rights. This used to be the case at Harlequin, because they did very actively produce foreign editions. When I signed with them in the 1990’s, they did buy all rights, but they used them. As a result, when I went to Bantam and Warner, I already had audience in Germany and Italy and other foreign-language markets. The Harlequin editions “paved the way”, even though I didn’t make much money from them in the first place.

There are also a lot of repayment clauses in contracts these days, stipulating that the author must repay the cost of editing, formatting and packaging the book to the publisher in various situations. One situation might be if the book doesn’t sell sufficiently well, which is ridiculously vague, or if the author breaks the deal at any time. For me, these expenses are the house’s responsibility and not earning them back is their risk in entering the deal. After all, they’re the ones who decided to offer a contract for publication for the book. They must have some notion of how well it will sell. I think it is unfair to expect the author to repay the house for any of these expenses, particularly as there is no guarantee of how well any of these services will be done. If you are going to sign this kind of clause, be sure that it has a very tight deadline – if you break the deal before publication, for example – and that it gives you the right (but not the obligation) to use the edited book, the copy, the formatting and the cover as you see fit. (I still wouldn’t sign it.)

The bankruptcy clause is another place worth a closer look. Often in contracts with small presses, the bankruptcy clause allows for the reassignment of rights – this means that if the house goes out of business or closes or files for bankruptcy, they can sell your book rights as an asset to whoever they want. Um, no. You want this clause to say that if the house ceases to do business or files bankruptcy or closes, your rights immediately revert to you.

There are a few areas to examine in any contract that you’re offered. It’s also a good idea to just read the document through and see what impression it gives you of the company that created it (or paid for its creation). Some contracts have a bullying tone. Some contracts put all the onus for success on the author. This should be an exchange: you’re providing your intellectual property to be marketed as a book in exchange for something. Have a very good idea of what the “something” is that you want out of the deal before you negotiate. If a contract doesn’t feel right or fair to you, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts.

If you want to learn more about your publishing contract, you can join the Authors’ Guild. Their team will review your contact and walk you through each clause. When I took advantage of this service, it was free to members – I had to pay for the phone call to New York during business hours. It was a long call (several hours) but incredibly informative. One of the classic references is Kirsch’s Handbook of Publishing Law, if you want to read more. It’s more than twenty years old, but some essentials of publishing don’t really change. Others have, so you’ll want to look for more recent information about e-rights, for example.

But first, read your contract!

©2019 Deborah A. Cooke