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 www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com 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.
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.
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!