Book Packager v. Agent
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Mar 28 2011
Help! I feel like a bunny in a lions den! I had an idea for a non-fiction book, not being a writer and knowing absolutely nothing about the publishing industry, I searched for books on similar subjects and contacted them with my idea and asking if they would like to collaborate. One of the authors who replied was a book packager who began working with me on the proposal. We both had the same ideas on what the book should be so I thought it would be a good fit . . . until they sent me the contract. It was a work for hire agreement – no way was I going to agree to it, this was my baby and I was the one doing the work, they weren’t planning on helping me write – just the packaging and finding a publisher, yet here they wanted to pay me a small fee and keep the copywrite. I began to querry agents. In the meantime they agreed verbally to most of my terms but wanted to split any advance 70/30 – net, my cut being thirty and any future royalties 50/50 – net. They wouldn’t budge on this stating that their expenses were going to be high and this was normal for first time authors. Mabe I’m being stubborn but since their expenses are taken out before the split why does their split have to be so high? To make me trust them less, when they sent the new contract they stated that the split for advance AND royalties at 70/30. They have since sent a corrected contract but I just feel as if they are trying to take advantage of my inexperience and there may be something else I am missing. In the meantime, one of the agents I had contacted asked me to send my full proposal. I should be hearing back from her in a few weeks. I don’t know if I can put the book packagers off for that long but there are moments when I think I’d rather not do it at all than get ripped off!
There’s a lot here. In other words, there’s a lot for me to comment on and a lot of different issues to address. I’m going to try to take it step by step.
You started by saying you had a book idea but you aren’t a writer, so it sounds to me like you were looking for someone to write the book for you because you thought the idea was so revolutionary. That might be the case, but the truth is that an idea is nothing without the execution, at least in the book world. I have seen some of the most amazing ideas cross my desk in both fiction and nonfiction, but without the right execution it never made it to publication.
As for the book packager. This is a typical book packager agreement and why I urge all writers to do their research before putting things out there. Without knowing what the book is or what is being done to package the book, I can’t tell you for sure if what they’re doing is fair. It sounds to me like it is. A 70/30 split and 50/50 royalties is far more than most authors receive from packagers. Do you know what they’re doing for you? Is this a heavily illustrated book and are they supplying the illustrations? You claimed earlier you are not a writer and were looking for a writer, but now you say you are the one doing all the work. I’m a little confused by this. Are you actually writing the book or is someone else? Are they doing a lot of work preparing the package and editing or are you expected to do all of that yourself?
Here’s the deal. Here’s what a book packager typically does. If what you want is to keep the majority of the money and hold on to the rights, you need a literary agent. To find one, however, you need to be prepared to write the book proposal yourself (or pay someone to write it for you) and submit it to agents for consideration. If illustrations or art are required you will need to be the one to pay for and supply those.
As for what you should do? I can’t tell you that. I don’t have enough information for one thing, but I also don’t know if you’re getting ripped off. That depends on what the packager is doing to make this a project that can be sold.