Whether you have an agent or not, one of the most important things to look out for in any contract for a multi-book deal is whether they are separately or jointly accounted.
What does this mean?
Joint accounting means that your books are accounted together as one big advance. If you have a $100,000 two book deal (ha – do those still exist?), your books have to earn $100,000 in royalties before you see any additional money.
Separate accounting means that your books are accounted separately. If you have a $100,000 two book deal, those two books are accounted as $50,000 each or $60,000/$40,000, or whatever is specified in the contract. If it’s split evenly, one or both books has to earn out more than $50,000 for you to see additional money.
Practically speaking, you’re more likely to see royalties and see them sooner if your books are separately accounted. If that first book takes off it’s easier to earn out $50,000 than $100,000 across two books.
Now, whether you can actually get separate accounting is another story. This is something your agent can try to negotiate for you, but different houses have different policies, and it may not be possible to secure. So if your agent can’t get it for you it doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t doing their jobs. It might just not be possible to get.
But separate accounting is always worth trying for. And if you’re writing a series and the publisher wants to extend your contract, find out how those additional books will be accounted.
There you have it!
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Art: The Payment of Dues by Georges de la Tour
Julie Luek says
Thanks Nathan– I hope to have to think about these things soon.
Thanks Nathan! I wasn't even aware of this phenomenon, and it's definitely worth knowing.
Good to know.
Your knowledge is, as always, abundantly helpful and entertaining.
Are you secretly educating your readers on historical art paintings? I swear, I've learned more about art from the eye candy on your blog than I did in high school.
Danielle Behr says
Thank you so much for posting about this! I follow so many publishing blogs, but very few ever get into the details of what happens AFTER you get a book deal. This is fascinating!
Very informative, Nathan, thanks. And happy Thanksgiving.
Tracie Skarbo says
I am learning so much from you.
Kristi Helvig says
I just pulled out my publishing contract and the books are separately accounted. This is why I'm so grateful to have an amazing agent who knows about these things. Happy Thanksgiving!
Angela Brown says
These are the kinds of things I can truly say I wouldn't know to look out for without getting a bit of "education" from knowledge sharers like you, Nathan. Thanks and hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Debra Feldman says
Thank you for that tidbit. I hope t put it to use someday.
In the Christian Book industry (yes we live in an alternate universe)it's often called "co-collaterization." I know several authors who have written trilogies, released over 2 or 3 years, and their biggest problem is that in a series, books 1 and 3 tend to do better than 2. So even if 1 and 3 are blockbusters, these writers are waiting for #2 to earn out before they see a single royalty. So hard. And unfair. Thanks for writing about this. Linda Clare
Jessica Hutchison says
Wow, I'd never heard of this. Thanks for the awesome advice 🙂
Great information, especially now with so many authors who are getting published by small e-presses without agents. It's so important for the author without an agent to think like a business person. Number one rule: you are not the publisher's friend or employee. You work with the publisher and rep yourself and look out for your own best interests…not the publishers. It's tricky at best.
I see so many new authors with e-presses who actually think they are working for the publisher, and they let the publisher get away with so much just so they can get published. It's like going backward in time, when authors had no say in anything.
Giles Hash says
Good to know! Hopefully that will apply to me some day soon 🙂