Saturday, June 30, 2007

Update on the Simon & Schuster Issue

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to speak to someone from Simon & Schuster, and asked his side of the story on the issue discussed in the previous post, about their contract revision.

His argument was that the writer's business is to write and the publishing company's business was to make sure that writer got published and got the money from their writing, and that was what they did, to put it simply, and wanted to continue to be able to do (Most publishing companies do stay in business because of their backlist).

The main group that raised issue with S&S was the Author's Guild, which he said was heavily associated with agents as much as actual writers. Eventually they did reach an agreement, which led to a re-revision of the contract, which said that if S&S was failing to make a certain amount of money for an author by publishing their book per year, the rights would then revert back to the author. It was a high amount for author royalties, too, something over a thousand dollars (which, by the way, the majority of authors will not see in a year). In other words, if Simon & Schuster fails to do its job in selling the book, the author can get out of contract and seek publication elsewhere.

The issue remains complicated, but there are two sides to every story, and that was one of them.

25 comments:

Gina Black said...

Thank you! This is really good to know.

Jordyn said...

Wait.
If the majority of authors don't see even A THOUSAND dollars a year from royalties, how can anyone afford to write full time? Or did I misunderstand that statement? In any case, I'm very interested as to what you have to say about this, Rejecter.

The Rejecter said...

Almost no one writes full time. Most full time writers are people who have a bestseller a year, like James Patterson or Dean Koontz.

Anonymous said...

The Rejecter is right. Most pro authors supplement their income by teaching, editing, and doing speaking engagements. When a book's published, usually about 90% of the money you will see will come from the advance. Royalties are like icing on the cake, not an actual source of steady payment.

ORION said...

This is the hard dose of reality. Thank you rejector for pointing this out. Even an author friend of mine who three years ago got a 6 figure 2 book deal in Germany and sold her book to other countries including getting a good North American publisher would not be able to support herself only from her writing. She is on her third book and is getting royalty check for around $700 twice a year for the first book.
And she is doing well.

writtenwyrdd said...

I had heard I shouldn't give up my day job, but didn't realize that a couple of grand a year was really good royalty money.

Thank goodness I never planned to give up my day job.

My question, though, is that if the writing income is so limited, how can you manage to convince the IRS that they should accept your write offs? I mean, they told me that unless the income I earned writing was enough that I obviously depended on it, I couldn't write off the expenses.

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

Great info, thanks for posting! I just got my first deal (not w/ S&S) but this is definitely an issue I am going to be on the lookout for in book deal contracts.

Catja said...

the writer's business is to write

Then why do we hear that the writer ought to have a platform and needs to do their bit promoting the book and can't just expect to sit at home in their garret with the next book?

Why are writers told they need to know the market and write what is publishable?

And shouldn't the publishing company make it their job to not only publish a book (= make available to the world) but to market it and thus make sure the author gets as much money as possible?

David said...

catja,

It's pretty much always the case that it's all or mostly up to the writer. Even the biggest publishers don't spend much on promoting their non-major writers. (The obvious irony being that that their major writers are the ones who need promotion the least. But publishers also pay those writers the biggest advances and want to be sure of not losing money on those books.)

Perhaps S&S really does intend to change that pattern. That would be nice, if it happens.

ORION said...

Writtenword --
That is why you need a CPA when you start earning income from your writing. Depending on your circumstances (LLC, sole proprietor) of course you can deduct reasonable business expenses. You do NOT have to be entirely dependent on your writing. My husband and I still file jointly. The five year rule of making a profit does not (at this time) apply to artists and writers-- you have to show effort to market your work and the creation of new work but it is like everything else - you have to be reasonable about your deductions. If you are paid for what you do and this income is declared then of course you can deduct the expenses -- I think the point that is being made is that it is inconsistent and undependable income and may not be enough to live on-- that is why many authors branch out to teaching and workshops OR they don't quite their day jobs.
As successful as James Rollins is -- he still works as a Veterinarian.

Anonymous said...

It is true that for most authors a majority of their money comes from the advance.

But I think what the Rejecter means by the $1,000 per year figure is once your book is on the backlist--however you define backlist.

astairesteps said...

Speaking of writing and money and living off both...has anyone seen the movie "Miss Potter"? Thoughts?

Twill said...

writtenwyrdd -

Whoever told you that you have to be able to live on writing income in order to be able to deduct expenses was way off base. You can always write off actual business expenses against income from the business. It's when your business expenses are greater than your business income that you have to justify that you are treating it as a business rather than as a hobby.

The important thing is that you treat your writing like a business. If you want to deduct home office expenses, for instance, you need to keep the home office area dedicated to your writing and free of everything which is not business related.

The Rejecter said...

Jill,

Congratulations on your book deal!

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I'm a fairly active member of the Author's Guild and I can attest that what the S&S person said about it being "heavily associated with agents" is utter bull.
(Not to mention the assumption behind it that agents' interests and authors' interests are widely divergent.)

The Rejecter said...

To be fair, he might not have put it that way, or that might not have been his exact wording. What I think he meant was, there were agents involved in it as well.

Or he could have been full of bullshit. Who knows?

Anonymous said...

Orion - Rollins does NOT work as a vet any longer (except for the occassional volunteer work)......b/t/w congrats on LOTTERY.

Jim Stewart said...

Thanks for getting the scoop on this, Rejecter!

Sadly, all that I and no doubt many aspiring novelists can think of on reading this is, "Gee, I wish it was my problem to decide whether or not to sign that contract."

Which of course is why they can get away with it.

I write a longer response here.

Rob said...

Adding to what Twill said...

I believe there are also limits on how many consecutive years you can claim the net losses (expenses>income) for a hobby, but there are many expenses you may not realize you can claim. Obviously the costs associated with promoting the book, including mileage for your vehicle.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say this, but a thousand a year [or any other amount] is for books that even earn out the advance in the first place and stay in print - I could be wrong but I think most don't earn beyond the advance.

Tena said...

Thanks, Rejector, for giving us a clue and for being so accessible. Your blog is very much appreciated by fan who misses Miss Snark.

Anonymous said...

Here's a reasonable goal. I just sold my first book. My advance is not enough to quit my day job but a nice chunk of change. If my advance were 50 percent bigger, I could quit my day job.

So my goal is to hope my book sells through its advance. If that happens, they will probably pay me to write another book. If I kept on doing that at the rate of one book per year with modest increases in size of advances, I think I could quit my day job.

To summarize: if you can get them to give you an advance each year that you could sell through, I think you could do this for a living.

Of course, I wouldn't be unhappy if my book were fabulously successful and I could live in Tuscany and jet in for my second book's launch party and make unreasonable demands about the brand of the Champagne.

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

The main way authors who write full-time make a living from royalties in lieu of a day job is by being prolific. If you can crank out several books a year (5-10 or more is not unheard of, especially for some midlist genre writers in romance, erotica, and mystery), you can build up a pretty stable royalty revenue stream. This is going to be my strategy, and it seems that I will have 3 deals inked by the end of this summer, all of which should lead to multibook deals with multiple publishers. For authors who write in genres where cranking out multiple books per year isn't absorbable by the market, or for authors who work more slowly, you should usually not assume you will give up your day job. Indeed, many bestselling authors keep jobs teaching at universities, writing for magazines/newspapers, and/or doing lecture tours in addition to their writing work.

Rare indeed is the reclusive literary author who spends his/her days holed up in a private estate, quietly collecting royalties and doing nothing else. A few manage it, though---just ask Cormac McCarthy, J.D. Salinger, or Margaret Atwood.

Kattt9 said...

I should be so lucky to have such a problem. The only hope we have is to attract hundreds of thousands viewers per year to our "blook" sites so that I can take out advertising, or get a paid contract from an E-publisher. Wouldn't it be fucking great to shove it up the publishers' arses?

Virginia said...

The comments on this page were very imformative, as was the blog. It may be the novice in my talking but I hate the idea of losing any rights to my work forever. It's mine. Right?