Literary agent and publishing attorney Joseph Perry has already offered tips on negotiating a traditional publishing agreement. But what if your route to publishing isn’t the traditional track? Here are 5 tips on negotiating a hybrid publishing agreement.
Welcome to part two of publishing agreement negotiation tips. The tips I gave in October’s article also hold true for hybrid publishing (e.g., representations and warranties, grant of rights, etc.)
However, there are some unique aspects of hybrid publishing that you’ll need to watch out for as well.
If you’re using a hybrid publisher, you’ll want to confirm their fees. Some publishers will have you pay a lump sum upfront, while others will stagger their payments during the publication process. Since you are paying the publisher to produce, market, publish, and sell your book, make sure to have the publisher list in the contract the fees involved in publishing your book. In addition, do some research as to how much similar publishers charge. You want to avoid vanity presses that only care about receiving your money.
Along the same lines as fees, make sure you embed a refund schedule into your contract for different stages of producing your manuscript. If you’re not happy with how the publisher is handling your manuscript, you should reserve the right to walk away. Granted, it may become more difficult once the book is already produced, but you should nevertheless carve out language to get your money (no matter how small) returned.
Ask the editor about the publisher’s editorial process. If they don’t want to make any edits, that may be a red flag. You’re paying the publisher thousands of dollars. Surely, there is room for improvement.
Ask the publisher to state in writing when your manuscript is accepted, so that the publisher can’t arbitrarily hold onto your manuscript. In addition, paying your fee may be tied to acceptance. Since this may be the final fee you pay (if you haven’t paid everything upfront), you want to make sure that you’re satisfied with the publisher (this is where manuscript delivery and the refund language above are connected).
If the publisher blindly accepts the manuscript, you’ll want to seriously consider whether the publisher is worth your money. With that said, you’ll want in writing that your manuscript is accepted (but with the caveat that you can still get your money back if you’re not satisfied).
Hybrid publishers have much higher royalty rates, akin to self-publishing. I have seen ranges of 60% to 85% net (there may be higher). Since you’re likely paying thousands of dollars, make sure the royalties are the standard for hybrids. Do your research.
Make sure to ask how long the contract term is. I’ve seen some publishers insist on five to 10 years, which in my opinion is entirely too long. The shelf life of most books is only a few years. You should be able to reassess the book’s success (or lack thereof) at that point. Some publishers may argue they need time to see the return on their investment (for example, for audiobooks), but it should not take five to 10 years to see that, in my opinion.
(Disclaimer: This article concerns itself with US law only and is for informational purposes. It is not intended to be legal advice. If you have a legal issue, contact a lawyer near you.)
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