Since self-publishing in 2011, most of my books have taken a few months to find a readership, but Abducted, my first thriller, took off immediately. I believe word of mouth helped to propel Abducted onto the Top 100 Paid list on Amazon. The second time Abducted hit the Top 100 list I began to hear from editors. I heard from Alan Turkus of Thomas & Mercer in February. We began to talk about Amazon publishing acquiring my Lizzy Gardner series. Alan had been paying attention to reviews and rankings. He told me he read Abducted and liked it.
He talked about how Amazon could grow readership for the series, bringing the series to a new level of sales with the release of Book #3. To start things off, he sent me a Non Binding Term sheet that outlined the parameters of the initial offer. At that time, we discussed (over the phone and via email) any and all questions I had. I was apprehensive at first. For 19 years I couldn’t sell any of my finished books, but suddenly I was doing well on my own and an editor was offering to pay me to write a book I had yet to write.
Not long after, I was approached by two more publishing houses, but by that time I already felt comfortable with the idea of going with Amazon and the royalties could not be beat. Many people have asked me why I would bother selling to a publisher now that I was making good money on my own. The reason is simple. I want to try everything. I want to see if Thomas & Mercer can bring me more readers. Amazon can promote my books in ways no one else can. My Lizzy Gardner series will be offered on audio and will have a chance to be translated into other languages. Foreign sales and trade paperback sales could skyrocket! Or not. But one thing is certain, I won’t know until I try it. If Amazon can do what I think they can do for my books, I will be one happy author. If they can’t…no regrets.
When I was first approached, I wondered if I should find an agent to help me negotiate my contract. I finally decided to hire a contract lawyer and pay a flat fee. I bought a book on publishing contracts and read everything I could find online. After the lawyer reviewed the contract, we talked on the phone for an hour. I then emailed additional questions, comments, and/or requested changes to my editor. Negotiations lasted about a month. During that time my editor and I talked on the phone at least a few times a week.
Although I would consider working with an agent in the future, I find it very refreshing to talk directly to editors. Doing the negotiations with Thomas & Mercer was a thrill in itself. It was difficult, too, and there were moments where I sort of wished I wasn’t the one telling my editor what I did and didn’t like about the contract. There were times I wondered if negotiating directly with him might ruin our future working relationship. I also thought the whole deal might fall through…but it didn’t and I learned so much. I don’t believe there is an agent in the world who would have believed in my books the way I did while we were in discussion. And I do realize its business, which is why anyone doing their own negotiating should know beforehand what the deal breakers are. Overall, the clauses I have the most problems with are the option and reversion of rights clauses. I’ve seen too many authors fighting/struggling to get their rights back. I don’t want that to be me in ten years. I also don’t want to give away too many future unwritten books when the publishing industry is changing SO fast.
My advice to anyone who is planning on negotiating a contract on their own would be to read as many standard publishing contracts as you can get your hands on. Do your research. Figure out what contract details are worth fighting for. What’s important to YOU? What would be a deal breaker? Once you know what you can or cannot live with, you’re ready to negotiate. While negotiating, I wasn’t worried about the deal falling through because the worst scenario would have been that I self-publish my series on my own. In my opinion, I didn’t have anything to lose. I had options.
On another note, last week I signed a 7 book audio deal directly with Audible and once again I did the negotiations on my own. Audible usually works with publishers and agents and the woman I worked with told me that I was the first independent author she had ever worked with directly. Yay for firsts! My thrillers will be on audio with Brilliance through Thomas & Mercer and my romance novels will be done through Audible. They are hiring narrators and taking care of everything. My romance novels will be available on audio on July 9th of 2012. I am super excited!
The Best of Negotiating Your Own Contract Wishes — Theresa Ragan