Rooting out Evil

1) Pretend you work at one of the big agencies in NYC, some outfit from page one of www.everyonewhosanyone.com , Trident Media or William Morris or whomever. How do you get paid? Are you on a draw? Any rough idea what the split is with the house?

Nope, not a clue. Miss Snark has never worked at any of those places and hasn't yet asked how her friends can afford their bar bill.

2) Talk to me about joint accounting. Only bestselling authors can have each book stand on its own, right? Or does that vary from publisher to publisher?

It varies from publisher to publisher and on how the books are sold. One offs are generally accounted for one by one. That is, I sell a book to Publisher Z and Z sends royalty statements on that book and only that book. If the book fails to earn out the advance, their loss.

Joint accounting is the concept that books are bundled accounting wise: if you sell book A and book B to the same publisher, the accounting is on one page. Most important, if A fails to earn out the advance, and B is making money hand over snout, the publisher can use the revenue from B to "top off" the account for A and make it break even.

As you might imagine, this is not a concept I like. There is no up side for the author. Generally you don't run into this in a contract unless you have a multiple book deal on one contract, or an option. I negotiate them away with vigor. Publishers love them cause it's another shot at not losing money, the greedy beasts.


Carter said...

Is this an example of "creative accounting"? Doesn't that rob the author of royalties that should have been earned on B? Whether they're on the same contract or not, isn't the author (and agent!) supposed to earn royalties based on copies sold of a particular title?

I confrused. Or maybe that's the whole point.

countessolenska said...

Snarklings who aren't represented by an eagled-eyed agent like Miss Snark should note that although publishers will agree to do away with joint accounting on single book deals, boilerplate contracts often include joint accounting clauses. In other words, joint accounting is often the "default setting." So, the language has to be deleted.

For example, the boilerplate of one major trade publisher states: " All payments made by the Publisher to or for the account of the Author pursuant to this agreement shall be chargeable against and recoverable by the Publisher from any and all moneys accuring to the Author under this or any other previous agreement with the Publisher, and all sums owing by the Author to the Publisher under this or any other agreement may be deducted from payments accruing to the Author under this or any other previous agreement with the Publisher." The phrase "or any other [previous]" has to be deleted from the boilerplate each time it appears.

Agents always know this and do this (if possible). Lawyers sometimes know this and do this. Authors rarely know this and do this. Another reason why representation is a good thing.