Monday, August 17, 2015

My First Time: Lauren Baratz-Logsted

My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands.  Today’s guest is Lauren Baratz-Logsted, the author of more than 20 books for adults, teens and children. Her latest book is the novel The Sisters Club, which officially hits bookstores tomorrow. Over the years, Lauren has worked as a Publishers Weekly reviewer, a freelance editor, a (sort-of) librarian, and a window washer. Her first novel, The Thin Pink Line, about a woman who fakes an entire pregnancy, was published by Red Dress Ink in 2003. You can read more about her life and work at or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBaratzL.

My First Time Negotiating a Book Deal

They say only a fool represents herself in a court of law and that only a fool represents her own interests with book publishers. Well, count me a fool.

By late 2001, I’d been trying to get published for seven years, when I began reading reviews for books from a new publisher, Red Dress Ink, and I thought they’d be a perfect fit for one of my previous efforts, The Thin Pink Line, a dark comedy about a woman who fakes an entire pregnancy. At the time, I was working with an agent on another book, but I asked him to read my trunk novel with a view toward pitching it to RDI. Long story short, he couldn’t see what set it apart from other novels out there and he told me he knew for a fact that RDI wasn’t interested in books with a London setting, which mine had. I decided he was all wet and decided to pitch it to them myself.

The following May I got the call. Boom! They wanted to do a two-book deal with me.

On the advice of a best-selling publishing friend, I did try to go back and get an agent for it. But the truth of the matter was, most of the agents I talked to simply annoyed me. And the one I really liked? She said, “I can’t say that if I get involved now, I won’t louse things up for you somehow. Because the truth? You’ve done something an agent might not have been able to do for you in this crazy publishing climate: you got yourself a two-book deal. So look out for the option clause, and the reversion of rights, and call me when you’re a bestseller.”

I decided to be a fool. I decided to represent myself in contract negotiations.

While waiting for the contract to arrive, I read 700 pages of publishing law, taking notes all the while. When the contract came, I read every single word, finding 17 points I wanted changed in my favor. I called the editor up and said, “When this conversation is over, we’ll go back to the friends-and-fun of doing books together, but right now we need to talk business.” And then I began going through my list, point by point.

I was met with resistance on some points. Whenever I did, I suggested she ask someone else if what I was asking for was possible. When we got to the part about me wanting greater royalty percentages at appropriate splits for hardcover–mine was to be their first-ever hardcover; they’d only done trade paperback before–her response was, “I don’t think we can do that.” Me: “Ask.” I got it.

Not far into my list, she realized she was out of her depth with the legal language and kicked me upstairs to someone in the legal department. Halfway through my list, she stopped me with: “I’ve never seen an author do anything quite like this before.” Me (worried that maybe I’d sink my own deal by demanding too much): “Do you think I’m being too picky?” Her: “No. I think it’s the most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen. Do you know how often, after signing, authors come back and say, ‘I wish I hadn’t signed away this?’ or ‘I wish I’d asked for that?’ And I always feel bad for them. I wish I could help them out but there’s nothing I can do at that point. So keep going. Now, what’s next on your list?”

By the time we were done, I’d won 15 of my 17 points. And the two I didn’t? They were just pie-in-the-sky anyway. Here’s a rule of negotiating for you: Always ask for more than you need, because then you’ll hopefully be left with what you really want.

The Thin Pink Line went on to sell 170,000 copies worldwide and the points I’d argued in my favor made a massive difference in what I received as a result.

I’m still proud of that contract.

And guess what? I’m a fool again! A year ago January, after spending most of my career with an agent, I decided to go it alone again. I’ve since negotiated the re-release of four of my backlist titles with Diversion Books, including The Thin Pink Line, and two new titles, including The Sisters Club.

Oh, and I also recently sold a new book, acting on my own behalf, to a Big Five. Boom!


  1. Great story. Of course, reading the 700 pages of publishibg law helped. You did the homework, worked hard, and earned a reward. That's the way to do it.

  2. The Authors Guild would save a lot of trouble.