by Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam BarryJune 2012
Practical advice on writing & publishing for aspiring authors
TIME TO REGROUP
Dear Author Enablers,
I simply don’t know what to do. Schocken published my first novel here and Grasset in Paris. It got rave reviews in Le Monde and the New York Times Book Review. The last manuscript is stuck. A contract for it collapsed at the University of Nebraska Press. This has been going on for 10 years and I am afraid my poor book will never get out.
No matter how unfair it may be, the publishing world sometimes slams doors in an author’s face for no apparent reason. When this is the case, we believe an author must move in a new direction.
Does this mean abandoning your book and starting a new one? Perhaps. Could it mean a complete rewrite? We don’t know. Another option might be to look into one of the many new alternatives that don’t involve traditional advances and contracts. This could mean a tiny press that will offer you no advance but higher royalties; or it may mean an experimental online format; or something else altogether.
We do know one thing for sure—anyone in your position has to find a way to a fresh start. The old battles will only frustrate you and drain your creative energy.
SLICES OF THE PIE
Dear Author Enablers,
I have just read your book [Write That Book Already!] with great interest. However, I wish you had included some more specific information about how royalties are determined by the publishers and what range of percentages of wholesale or retail price they are based on.
San Mateo, California
There’s no real standard for domestic royalties. Hardcover royalties on the cover price usually range from 10 to 12.5 percent, with 15 percent for superstar and celebrity authors. Paperbacks usually range from 7.5 to 10 percent. The remaining cost of the book goes toward production, overhead, booksellers and profits (if any) for the publisher.
However, the eBook revolution is changing everything. Royalties for eBooks were set at 25 percent when they represented a fraction of book sales. As eBook sales climb, the question of royalties has become a contentious one, with many authors and agents arguing that the author should receive a higher percentage, since production costs have shrunk.
We recommend that authors have agent representation so that they get a fair shake in the contract, or if they are unrepresented, at least have an attorney with knowledge in the field take a look at the contract. We also believe every author should become a member of the Authors Guild, an advocate for authors in the ever-changing world of book publishing.
CRAFT OF WRITING SPOTLIGHT
Meredith Maran’s latest book is A Theory of Small Earthquakes. Here she recommends a book that’s guaranteed to inspire writers of all genres:
“You may never have heard of A Seahorse Year by Stacey D’Erasmo, but it’s the best book I’ve ever read. Period. It’s a prose poem of a novel that’s packed to bursting with psychological and social insights as well as, incredibly, action. Every character behaves badly and every character takes you down, hard. The day I finished it, awestruck by the power of fiction to change the reader and thereby, the world, I (a) positioned it permanently on my writing desk, and (b) started writing my first novel. Eight years later, it remains my go-to source for an envious sigh and a writerly kick in the ass.”
Email your questions about writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and hometown.