1. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    Agent or Publisher, again…

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by ojduffelworth, Jan 23, 2010.

    Opinions on submitting a novel to an agent or direct to a publisher have been thrashed out here before, and most people seem to think going through an agent is best.

    But in the unlikely event that a writer was fortunate enough to capture the interest of a big, international publisher, then surely there would be little need for an agent?

    Macmillan New Writing, which promotes new authors, may be a good example of a scheme that makes the role of an agent redundant for anyone accepted into it? What do you think?

    From their websight:
    "Macmillan New Writing pays its authors a 20% royalty on net receipts but does not pay an advance (i.e. an advance payment against future sales). Our contract is standard and non-negotiable and we acquire world rights in all titles, with rights revenue split 50/50. We also reserve the option to publish the author’s second novel on the same terms as their first. If we acquire an author’s third novel it and any subsequent novels we acquire will be published, with an advance, under one of Pan Macmillan’s ‘mainstream’ imprints"

    How does that sound, from a business perspective, compared to what an agent may offer?

    I think Macmillan publish about one in a thousand submissions! So I’m never going to be in the league they require. My question is purely theoretical!
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unfortunately, this paragraph isn't the entire contract. They are far more complex, and issues such as electronic rights and reversion of rights and the like are in flux and unless a writer is really up to date and legalistically adept, signing a major contract without at least a literary attorney's assistance could be fraught with future pitfalls.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with either seeking a publisher independent of an agent, or seeking an agent for representation, to assist in finding a publisher.

    I am not sure what you mean by "agent offer". An agent may get 15% of advance and royaties, but they negotiate contracts with publishers, and don't really offer them in the context presented, or at least as I read the post.

    Good luck.

    Terry
     
  3. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    unless a writer is really up to date and legalistically adept, signing a major contract without at least a literary attorney's assistance could be fraught with future pitfalls.

    Good point, but surely signing a contract with an agent could be fraught with the same pitfalls? So would one seek an independent literary attorney prior to signing with either an agent or publisher?

    I am not sure what you mean by "agent offer". An agent may get 15% of advance and royalties,
    I was meaning is an agent likely to get you a better deal than the one outlined? Surely it would have to be at least 15% better to make it worthwhile?

    I can see the advantage of an agent when using a small publisher, or several publishers in several countries. But if a writer was lucky enough to sign directly to a big publisher, who has the recourses to promote the work and author in a manner that an agent may do, then is there still a role for an agent ( in this scenario?)

    When big publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts by unpublished writers, would it be best to submit first to them and then try an agent if (when!) that proves fruitless?

    Thanks!
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you can catch the interest of a publisher without an agent, such as through a contest like that, you don't technically need an agent, but they handle the business stuff for you, so it's still advisable. And these days, other than through contests and if you have personal connections, you don't get into the big publishers without an agent.
     
  5. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    Well you can get into Macmillian without an agent, or connections, if you suit them. I think they are fairly big. Unpublished writers can submit to them direct.
     
  6. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    this is what I’ve learned so far: the publisher I submitted to does not want multiple submissions. So, for about the next three months, I cannot submit to other publishers, but I can submit to agents. It just makes sense to submit to publishers and agents simultaneously.

    If one snags a good agent, publishers will look at one’s ms more closely – at least that’s what I hear – because it passed under a professional’s eye already.
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you can snag a legitimate publisher without using a literary agent, then do it. Of course, you will need to pay a literary attorney (up front, in cash) to review the "contract" before you sign it. As you say, writers are rarely knowledgeable in contract law. Either way (agent or lit attorney), you pay if you want protection.

    By the way, I do not like the terms shown in that paragraph in the OP. I would not sign that contract with those terms...too much is given away.

    "Macmillan New Writing pays its authors a 20% royalty on net (define "net") receipts but does not pay an advance (i.e. an advance payment against future sales). Our contract is standard and non-negotiable and we acquire world rights (World rights could be very lucrative. I have an aquaintance who is a best seller (20,000 copies) in Europe but not in the US.) in all titles, with rights revenue split 50/50. We also reserve the option to publish the author’s second novel (I don't think so...this right should be negotiated AND the author paid for the concession.) on the same terms as their first. If we acquire an author’s third novel it and any subsequent novels we acquire will be published, with an advance, under one of Pan Macmillan’s ‘mainstream’ imprints"
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    fyi, being signed with Macmillan New Writing is not even close to the same as snagging a publishing contract with one of panmacmillan's 'regular' major imprints... it's been set up to publish only new writers' works, so you're not going to be in the company of big name authors...

    in fact, it's not even a uk-owned company any more, having been taken over by a german conglomerate 15 years ago...
     
  9. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    Hi Mammamia, I knew I could count on you for some useful info!

    fyi, being signed with Macmillan New Writing is not even close to the same as snagging a publishing contract with one of panmacmillan's 'regular' major imprints...

    So in what way would that impede on an author accepted by them?

    it's been set up to publish only new writers' works, so you're not going to be in the company of big name authors...

    I’m sure you have a good point with this (as you always do!), but in my ignorance I don’t get it. Wouldn’t a book by a new author stand on its own—be promoted, sold and read on its own merits? In practical terms, in what way are authors clumped together as ‘big names’ or otherwise by publishing houses?

    in fact, it's not even a uk-owned company any more, having been taken over by a german conglomerate 15 years ago...

    does that matter?

    By the way, I do not like the terms shown in that paragraph in the OP. I would not sign that contract with those terms...too much is given away

    Thanks NaCl. I think in reality I’d take whatever I could get, given the unlikely hood of ever finding a publisher. Still, it’s interesting to get some idea of what may or may not be a good deal.
     
  10. Ryan David Jahn
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    Ryan David Jahn New Member

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    I hope this doesn't feel like a stranger tracking mud on your floor, but I have a Google alert for Macmillan New Wiriting, and this thread showed up in my in box this morning. My first book was published by MNW in November,* and I now have a longer term contract with their primary commercial imprint, so I thought I might be able to answer some of the questions in this thread.

    By the way, I do not like the terms shown in that paragraph in the OP. I would not sign that contract with those terms...too much is given away.

    "Macmillan New Writing pays its authors a 20% royalty on net (define "net") receipts but does not pay an advance (i.e. an advance payment against future sales). Our contract is standard and non-negotiable and we acquire world rights (World rights could be very lucrative. I have an aquaintance who is a best seller (20,000 copies) in Europe but not in the US.) in all titles, with rights revenue split 50/50. We also reserve the option to publish the author’s second novel (I don't think so...this right should be negotiated AND the author paid for the concession.) on the same terms as their first. If we acquire an author’s third novel it and any subsequent novels we acquire will be published, with an advance, under one of Pan Macmillan’s ‘mainstream’ imprints"


    Legitimate points. Net in this case is pretty straight forward: 20% of what they sell the book for, period. In most cases this results in royalties of roughly the same amount as you'd get with 10% on cover price. In cases where a book club takes a deep discount, well, so would you.

    World rights can bring some money, indeed, and a 50/50 split ain't great, so that's, of course, worth thinking about. However, I had no contract offer before one from MNW, so it wasn't a matter of choosing the best one. And without a contract with them I doubt I'd be selling any translation rights. So, to me, the trade off was worth it. It might not be for everyone.

    About the option of first refusal: you can negotiate terms at that point (depending on how much they want the book). My contract for the first book is very different from my contract for the second and third books, from advance to royalties to percentages for foreign rights, and so on. Of course, the second contract is with Macmillan, not Macmillan New Writing.

    I was meaning is an agent likely to get you a better deal than the one outlined? Surely it would have to be at least 15% better to make it worthwhile?

    An agent might be able to get you a better contract, yes, and better isn't all about up-front money, so it's hard to quantify what exactly 15% better might be. It's not necessarily 15% more money. On the other hand, an agent might not be able to get you a better deal, or any other deal, for a specific book. R.N. Morris had his first novel published by MNW (as Roger Morris), and his agent at the time looked over the contract and advised him that it was reasonable. (While it was making its way toward publication he got an offer from Farrer, Straus and Giroux, I think, for a series of historical mysteries and MNW let him out of the first refusal option.)

    being signed with Macmillan New Writing is not even close to the same as snagging a publishing contract with one of panmacmillan's 'regular' major imprints... it's been set up to publish only new writers' works, so you're not going to be in the company of big name authors...

    It has been set up to publish only new writers, but it's fully integrated into Pan Macmillan: same catalog, same book designers, same sales teams, and so on, so, contract aside, it's very much like a publishing contract with one of Pan Macmillan's regular imprints. And, later, the paperback release would be through Pan, which is Macmillan's major paperback imprint. (Unless I'm missing your main point, somehow, which is always a possibility. Apologies if that's the case.)

    This is much longer than I expected it would be. Sorry about that. And I hope it doesn't seem like I'm trying to talk anyone into submitting to MNW. They were a good choice for me, and my deal with them resulted in a longer term contract with Pan Macmillan itself and a decent advance, but, if you compare their contract with what is industry standard you will see you're making some compromises, and compromises that might affect your income, if you've written a book that stays in print, for some time. On the other hand, if you don't have an offer from someone else, it's not a terrible contract (my entertainment lawyer said it was fine, R.N. Morris's agent said the same thing), and it's also just a beginning.
     
  11. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the post Ryan—it’s most informative when someone can address a specific questing with first hand experience.

    Do you think a new writer should submit direct to publishers, or do you think via an agent is preferable? I’m just wondering which way to try first.
    As I wrote earlier, in reality I’d take just about any offer I could get, but I may as well aim high before being cut down to size…
     
  12. Ryan David Jahn
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    Ryan David Jahn New Member

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    Well, except for MNW I submitted only to agents.

    In general an agent will be better placed to submit your stuff to publishers. She'll know which editors like what where, where publishers stand financially, contract standards, and so on, so I'd think submitting to agents and letting agents go to editors is probably the best way to go for most people in most situations.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...it wouldn't, if by 'impeded on' you meant 'make it harder to be' accepted... in fact, it would obviously make it easier for new, unknown writers... i was simply pointing out that mnw is not in the same 'status' league as their regular imprints... that fact may or may not affect a writer's decision to submit to them, but it's something all should be aware of, imo...

    the point is what i wrote above... and yes, i assume mnw books would be handled in much the same way as all of macmillan's imprints... and while any book is 'read' mostly on its own merits, those by 'name' authors are much more often sold on the basis of the author's name alone, than by the content... clearly, that is not so with unknown writers...

    it might to some... but it's simply a fact... if one wants to be a professional writer, one should keep up with the business end of writing and publishing... and before signing with an agent or a publisher, it's always a good idea to know something about the entity you are committing yourself and your work to...

    in this case, since macmillan was such a well-known, family-founded and run uk-based firm, it may be of interest to some new writers that it is such no longer... as has happened with most of the major publishers, an old, established, 'local' firm had been bought out by a huge media conglomerate that is based in another country... that may or may not be a good thing... but it's a fact that a wise newcomer to the writing world should be aware of, imo...

    and as ryan noted [for fiction, at least], having an agent is almost always the better path to take... hugs, m
     
  14. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Generally the structure (including length and content) of an agreement with an agent is different than that with a publisher.

    Terry
     
  15. mammamaia
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