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Book contract help

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Seabasket2, Apr 11, 2012.

  1. Seabasket2

    Seabasket2 New Member

    Hi guys,

    Been a while since I've been on the board. Used to post as "Seabasket" but couldn't remember my password, hence the new name.

    Was wondering if someone could offer some advice. I have been working with a major publisher for a couple months on a project where I would be writing the autobiography of a MAJOR sports figure (credit would be "SUPERSTAR X with seabasket2" or something of the like). This book will guaranteed be a best seller on this person's star power alone. The publisher is sure of that. I wish I could say more but I can't.

    At first I doubted it would happen because this person has been approached about doing a book many, many times and has always declined. But things have progressed and it looks like it may happen. Here's the tricky part: I have no agent and we are getting to the point where we are talking about money.

    I have no idea what I should earn for this. This person may well get a 7-figure advance, but what should I get? And do I ask for royalties as well or just take a straight fee?

    Hopefully someone here has done one of these types of books and can give me a general idea so I don't lowball myself. I guess I can get an agent pretty easily on this but I almost feel like he will not have earned this commission since I'd be handing it to him on a silver platter. Any and all help is appreciated.
  2. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    pm swenk - she is a book agent and a very good one

    but don't expect swenk or any other agent to help you for free. that's not fair to them
  3. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    As Moddy said, paging SWenk.

    I'd get an agent. He/she will earn his commission by navigating the contract and making sure you get what you deserve and aren't steamrolled by either the athlete or the publisher.

    My wife is an agent and spent more than a year with a celebrity (and the celebrity's henchmen) trying to get a deal done with a publisher and the logistics were amazingly horrific, because it of course would have had a ghostwriter or co-writer so there were about four middle men, not to mention the two people on the contract. And I have a friend who's done a couple of books with athletes and he definitely had an agent to guide the way. But I'm not sure what the ultimate breakdown was for him with the advance and royalties.
  4. swenk

    swenk Member


    Happy to help if I can. Whatever you do, don't negotiate for yourself unless you really know what you're doing; there are so many details and ways you can be cheated without anyone intending to cheat you. Lots of ways to handle a deal like this without giving up a whole commission.

    In 25 years of doing deals like this specifically for sports-related books, I have yet to see a writer get a large share of a large advance; they figure they're doing you a favor by letting you write it. Let them make an offer, and go from there. Don't be offended when it's ridiculously low, you can only go up. You're entitled to royalties; if they don't want to offer royalties, use that to bargain for more money up front.

    Hint: Huge advances rarely earn royalties. Take your money up front.

    Good luck, and if I can answer any questions the first three are free. :)
  5. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    So don't call and say, "Hey, how are you??" Because that's one of the freebies.
  6. Seabasket2

    Seabasket2 New Member

    Well, this is why I came here. Quick results. Thanks, all.

    Shari, would it be OK if I contact you? (Damn, one question down!) I will include more specific information, like my actual name.
  7. typefitter

    typefitter Well-Known Member

    I am glad this thread has gone the way it has.

    Because my only advice is: GET A FUCKING AGENT.

    Because an agent, like Shari, will make sure you don't, say, sign a deal for royalties off a million dollar advance, because then you will never see a penny.

    So I guess I have a little more advice: ADVANCE, ADVANCE, ADVANCE.

    But really, that's taken care of so long as you follow the first rule, which is, again: GET A FUCKING AGENT.
  8. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    Or makes sure you don't give away film rights, which no one does. Except someone who doesn't have an agent. Back to hitting myself in the head.
  9. swenk

    swenk Member

    I'll PM you my info, feel free to get in touch even if you just want to talk through it. I think we have a discount for SJ-ers, but I think you need more than two posts to qualify. Better find that old password!

    Separate note to all, because it's on my mind today: If you authored a book a while back and your publisher hasn't issued the title as an eBook, look at your contract and see if you're clear to do something with those rights on your own. Lots of opportunity out there.
  10. geddymurphy

    geddymurphy Member

    I think this deserves repeating. And no, I'm not being sarcastic. Agents can save you from a lot of crap.
  11. Glenn Stout

    Glenn Stout Member

    Agent, always, and generally better to get the agent involved earlier rather than later.
  12. Reuben Frank

    Reuben Frank Member

    S.Wenk was an amazing resource for me when I was dealing with some issues with my publisher on my last book. Went wayyyy above and beyond the call providing me with good info and support.

    She's great.
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