1. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Publishing contract - need help

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Ivana, Oct 24, 2015.

    Hello, fellow writers!
    I'm a Serbian writer who writes in my native language and I always wanted to publish my book abroad (due to the lack of a developed publishing industry in my country). So I stumbled accross a certain German publisher who publishes couple of writers from this part of the world (because they have translator and are willing to translate books they like into German language). Without proper translation (which I can't afford at the moment) I knew I don't stand a chance of finding an agent or a publisher, so I literally put all my eggs into one basket and decided to submit to them (after all, German market is much larger than Serbian). I sent them my manuscript and, despite all the odds, 4 months later I got a positive response and a contract!
    Obviously, I was very happy, and still am, because it showed me that I have a book of a publishable quality, and, the most important thing - they think it's sellable.
    Now, the problem: they are a small publisher and they only sell e-books as well as licences to the other publishers. They exist for couple of years so they don't have many books published so far. And there are some issues I have with the contract. I'll put them here and I would appreciate more experienced, published writers to tell me their opinion about them.
    1. I'd give them the right to publish my book, sell licences etc. for the period of 10 years. So it's not a lifetime contract. Plus, during this time they would try to find a print publisher for my book, as well as to translate it into other languages. They also demand all movie and other multimedia rights.
    2. Now I'll quote the royalties part:
    -The publisher shall pay to the Author a licence fee of 25% of the sale proceeds of all downloads of the work (not sure what this means). Is it a fair amount?
    - For all publications in German thr Author shall receive a 50% share in the net proceeds (after deduction of VAT and the cost of the translation of 7000 euros), for the Author's rights related to the Work, licensed to third parties by the publisher... Regarding all other languages the author shall receive a 50% share in the net proceeds without deduction.
    What do you think of this? I don't particularly like the royalties part, but on the other hand I'm not sure how this works and is this contract a standard in publishing business.
    3. The Publisher shall provide statements of sales to the Author once yearly. - don't like this either.

    So, any thoughts?
    @BayView @TWErvin2 I hope you don't mind me asking you to check this thread, your thoughts would be much appreciated!

    Thanks!
     
  2. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Two things.

    First get a legal guy to look over it. Check the company out with Writer Beware. Maybe contact the SFWA.

    Second why German? If you want to sell your translation should be in English - it's the biggest market and there are English speakers in other countries anyway. I sell in Germany and I don't even do German translations.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  3. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    My gut reaction is that you're giving away a lot of other, profitable, rights to get it epublished. And do you have any way of validating the quality of their translation services? I know your English is good, so I'm sure you could probably tell if an English translation was off, but how's your German? If it's decent, then ask them to translate a sample before you even think about signing.

    I know it's expensive to have it translated yourself, but it may be worth saving up for to broaden your market and strengthen your negotiating position. Or you could translate it yourself into English and then have it professionally edited if you're concerned about errors. There is a bit of crossover between editors and translators in the freelance market, each one borrowing from the other's skill-set, and you may be able to find someone English-Serbian who copy-edits, for instance, and that wouldn't necessarily be as expensive as a full translation... and most freelancers will also do a free sample for you so you can make your own mind up whether it's worth it.

    You're right to keep your eyes open going in though, and don't be shy saying no if it's not what you thought it would be. It's all good experience for when the right contract comes along... not saying that this isn't, my experience is limited, but it does sound like they're pushing most of the risk on to you for not enough of the benefit.
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    How much would it cost for you to have the work translated yourself, with a reputable publisher? 7 ooo euros is a lot of money, probably more than you could ever realistically hope to sell in a fairly small market like Germany, especially just in e-books. (I currently have an e-book in the top few hundred overall at Amazon.de, and it's really not selling many copies in order to be at that rank - I'll probably end up seeing a few hundred dollars from it, maybe a thousand if I'm lucky). So if they aren't going to pay you until their 7 000 euro translation fee is covered, they're probably never going to pay you. You'll have given away world-wide right to all formats of your book and you'll get nothing in return.

    So, it doesn't sound like a good deal to me.

    On the other hand, I have no idea how business is done in Europe - maybe there's some side of this I'm not seeing. I'd agree with the suggestions to check the company out at AW and Writer Beware, but those are primarily English-language resources, so they may not have an entry for this company. I'd check out the books they've produced - look at sales rank on Amazon.de or wherever else e-books are sold in Germany, and contact as many of their current authors as you can find. Ask if they're pleased with their contract, ask if they have seen any money out of the deal or if any of the other translation/print rights have been used, etc.

    So, this is exciting, but don't get carried away - it's better to have no contract than a bad contract. And I agree with Woof that your English is probably good enough to do a creditable basic translation yourself, as long as you're willing to find betas and then probably pay for some editing before submitting. (I have books translated into German, Italian, Spanish, French, and maybe one other language, and all the translations together don't usually sell half as much as the original English version. So I think the English market is really the one to shoot for, if possible.)
     
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  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Quarterly statements would be better. You need to have someone look at this who knows the law where the contract will be performed. There are a lot more issues to consider, and the precise language matters. What rights do they want, exactly? Are they also taking an interest? What happens if they're not performing satisfactorily - do the rights revert or are you locked in for ten years? Are they taking an option on future works? Etc. Etc.
     
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  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    After what Psychotick, Bayview and Steerpike have said, I will only add that contracts can and should be negotiated. You do not have to accept what they initially offered.
     
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  7. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Thanks a lot, guys!
    I think you're right and this probably isn't the best way to go. I'll tell them that I'm not happy with the certain parts of the contract and we'll see if they'll be willing to negotiate.
    Anyway, I think the only option I have is try to translate it myself, and then give it to the professional translator (native English speaker) for corrections. This translating by myself part scares the hell outta me, but I know that without doing that, I'll condemn my book to sit in some drawer for a long, long time.
    Thanks again for your time, you confirmed what I was already suspecting myself.
     
  8. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Hey guys! There's been a new development and I thought I should share it with you.

    First of all, they seem to be really interested in this book, and they are willing to change some terms. I told them that I don't like the terms and they explained things a bit:
    I would be receiving 25% of their income coming from German e-book sales. I guess this will be a small amount.
    For every other right they sell licences. They would incorporate those 7.000 eur translation into the deal with print publisher. So they would offer the book to all major publishers in Germany. Everything they get over those 7.000 Euros we would split in half. After those 7.000 Euros are paid, for every other licence they manage to sell we would share the profit equally.
    Also, for licences in every other language, we would share profit 50:50.
    As far as the subsidiary right are concerned, they would last for 1 year. If they don't use them in 1 year (for example, they don't manage to make a deal for movie rights), those rights would be automatically returned to me. This is also the case for selling rights for other languages (other than German).
    Important thing: they can't sell any right or licence without my consent.
    Also, they are willing to negotiate some smaller things, like giving me a bit higher percentage of sales, making contract time shorter (8 years instead of 10) and paying me more often (I'd like quarterly statements, as Steerpike suggested).

    So, what do you think now?
     
  9. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am not sure what you mean by 'incorporate the 7000 into the deal' with the print publishers.

    In essence it is you, the author, who is paying for the translation. Not the publisher. Also, is it the first 7000 earned overall that will be used to 'cover the cost of translation,' or 7000 euros out of your 25% (meaning the book would have to sell retail 28,000 euros before you would see any royalties)?

    What track record does this publisher have of selling rights? Of getting books published (via other/print publishers). Is it a realistic expectation, or more pie in the sky, hoping it will happen? How well do their other titles sell?

    With this set up, it may be that your book will be published in German, but you will never see any income from the venture, even if it sells moderately well for a small press--or maybe considered 'very well' for the German Language Market.

    Just using Amazon's figures, I believe for Europe, if an ebook sells for 4 euros (just picking a 'reasonable' price), your publisher will receive 35% from Amazon (I think it is double that for sales in the USA for books between $2.99 to $9.99). Anyway, that means you will get 25% of the 35% or 8.75% of the retail price. Which means that to earn out the 7000 euros you would have to potentially sell 20,000 copies to begin earning any royalties...depending on the contract's wording.

    That's a simplified example, as there will be more vendors and outlets for your ebook, and hopefully your print book.
     
  10. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Thanks very much for your answer!
    7000 Euros won't be deducted from my 25%. So I would get 25% from every e-book sold (in German language). Do you think this is a small percentage?
    When they sell licences to other publishers, they would incorporate those 7000 into their deal. So, for example, they would sell a licence for a certain period of time and for a certain number of books they can sell, and ask for an amount that would cover their translation costs, plus as much as they can get above. Everything over those first 7000 Euros we would split in half. Once the book has earned 7000 (through one or more licences), the translation is considered paid, and I would be getting 50% of every other licence they sell.
    This goes for licences in German language only. If they manage to sell my book to, let's say, American publisher, who would, of course, have to translate it in English, in that case we would split all earnings equally.
    There is also a possibility that some larger traditional publisher would (hopefully) like to buy off my contract from them. In that case the new publisher would pay them their costs of translation (plus something extra, which we would again split in half) and make a new deal with me. So they are willing to "sell" my contract to a larger, print publisher. I don't know is this considered normal thing in publishing. :bigconfused:
     
  11. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Now that you are more confident you have a sellable item, have you considered shopping it around?

    I would also encourage you to do your own English translation and focus on that market.
     
  12. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Thanks Aaron. Well I did consider doing that, shopping it around, but the problem is that right now I don't have much choice.
    The good thing about this contract is that their rights for licences in all other languages are limited to 1 year. Which means if they can't sell the rights to, let's say, English language, I get them back. But by then I would be a published writer, no matter how small the publishing house is. That should count for something, right? Should be easier to find an agent for the english-speaking world. At least I hope.
    Ahhh I don't know. I should speak with the publisher today. I also sent the contract to be translated into Serbian and will bring it to a lawyer on Monday. I want to make sure I didn't miss anything, since I'm not familiar with the law stuff.
    But they do seem to really like the book. It was like - feel free to contact us at anytime, we would like to publish this book now or any time later. Perhaps they already have some plans/deals for it.
     
  13. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    It is fantastic. I am very pleased for you :D
     
  14. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    It's an interesting opportunity Ivana, and such a tough decision for you!

    The change in stance on the translation fee seems like a change in words, but not meaning... to me. You are still paying for it out of future earnings. It doesn't make sense to me that a print publisher would pay retrospectively for a translation. They may say they are, but they'll be reducing the rest of the package accordingly because... well, why wouldn't they?

    Out of interest, how does the contract translate if, for instance, you don't like the deal they are negotiating for some of the rights? If the ebook sells just enough in the first year to pick up interest in other rights for a quick turnover, for instance, and they negotiate a small fee with a publisher you don't trust, can you veto it? Their interest in only holding certain rights for a year may mean they could be more inclined to take a poorer deal in the short term before rights revert to you.

    Though if this book isn't your baby, then in some ways it doesn't matter so much. A foot on the ladder and experience to draw from could be better than none... I'm simply a very cautious person and a little sceptical too, I guess.

    Glad to hear you're consulting a lawyer; for every question this thread is posing for me, there must be a thousand more in your mind. Good luck :bigsmile:
     
  15. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Yeeey! Just what I wanted to hear :D hehe...

    Yes, I have the right to veto it. Basically, they need my approval for every licence, foreign rights or other subsidiary rights. They are aware that I wouldn't agree on licences that would only cover the translation costs. Also, this only goes for licences in German (and I'm more interested in them selling licences to English-world publishers).
    It is my baby, well my first book anyway, it took me more than 2 years to write it. And it has potential to make sequels, if needed. And maybe a movie some day (in my wild imagination) :D So I wouldn't want to make a bad deal for it, but I also wouldn't want to let it collect dust for another couple of years.

    Thanks! :)
     
  16. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Oh, one more thing - do you think 25% of the publisher's profit on e-books is a bad deal?
     
  17. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I have no experience in the publishing world but know that musicians get something like 6% on sales, or something equally outrageous.
     
  18. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    :eek:
     
  19. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    A google said 10-20%. My figure was from Virgin records when they licensed tubular bells which is some time ago now...
     
  20. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    Is it 25% of the publisher's net or gross profit?
    I had a look at a couple of UK resources:
    Writers & Artists seem to think 25% of gross (I think) is standard.
    Society of Authors (#14) seem to think it's the minimum with, interestingly, royalties negotiated to rise should sales hit prescribed targets. There's some good detail about other comparable terms in there, also. Might help you focus your time with the lawyer.
     
  21. Dmitriy
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    Dmitriy New Member

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    I have a book with 80000 words. The translation from Russian into English takes ~3500 USD.

    From my point of view, don't think what if you have English translated text, the agents will takes your work to publish, running circles around you with rapture.
    Usual, you will receive the numbers of rejects. I send ~150 queries and for now have 60 rejects, there only four was really viewed by agents and commented (all others - rejected by interns or simply rejected without any explanations).
    It's absolutely normal - Jim Butcher, Joe Abercrombie, Rowling, Simon Green, Brendon Sanderson and many others have numbers of rejects through years. More than hundred of rejects.

    The e-book publishers... OK, I'm too have an offer from e-book publisher, but simple surfing via internet shows - it's a vanity publisher. Do you really want to give your book to vanity publisher? I don't think so.

    Remember - most of book deals makes on the book fairs. Most of the agents rejects you only because you are unknown for them (they like personal meeting - simply look at your face). Many books sell to the publisher only after persinal contact with the publishers editor.
    And it always helpful if you have promoted and famous site/social network account with thousands of unique visitors everyday.
    In other cases you have very big native competition in English speaking book market.
     

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