Ad Astra 2015 day 2: Cutting contracts and shaking hands

The business basics of writing

Panellists: Greg Wilson, Monica Pacheco, Gail Z. Martin, Leah Bobet

Cutting Contracts Panel

Q: Do I need an agent?

LB: First, you have to ask yourself what you want. What will your career look like?

MP: If you want a Big 5 publishing deal, film rights, foreign rights, etc., you need an agent.

GZM: Can you do your own taxes or do you have an accountant? An agent has specialized knowledge that’s critical in the publishing industry. Their 15% commission is well worth it.

LB: I have to clarify my response: if you want to self-publish, no, you don’t need an agent. If you focus on short fiction, you don’t need an agent.

MP: Short fiction is excluded in publishing contracts.

GW: The stuff that used to be done by acquisition editors in the publishing houses has shifted to agents. There are many ways to achieve the same result. Having an agent can free up more time to write.

GZM: I don’t need an agent for short fiction, but if I notice something hinky with the contract, I can run it by my agent. He gets paid if I get paid, so he’s invested in my success.

LB: Agents aren’t interchangeable. It’s like a marriage. Fortunately, break-ups are rarely acrimonious.

MP: Your agent is also a buffer between you and the editor, you and marketing, etc.

GZM: My agent can play the bad cop.

MP: There’s an imbalance of power.

GW: A bad agent can be worse than no agent at all. You have to believe in what you do. Get the right agent for you.

GZM: I recommend the Guide to Literary Agents.

LB: Don’t take the boiler plate! [Mel’s note: a boiler plate is a standardized contract that frequently offers the worst possible terms for the author.] When it comes to long form contracts, it depends on the publisher, the genre, and the specific rights asked for.

MP: An agent will get a different boiler plate as a starting point for negotiation. Sub-rights depend on whether the agency has a strong film/foreign rights department.

GW: Also look out for audio rights and gaming rights.

GZM: Ebook rights are now a part of the non-negotiable rights a publisher can ask for. It will differ by house. A lot of authors are doing more hybrid work as their careers progress. Your contract determines what you can do (e.g. when rights revert to the author).

LB: Non-compete clauses are something to examine carefully. Looking at the big picture, publishing houses are figuring out how to proceed in the world of epublishing and publishing on demand (POD).

GW: Distribution wars can have an affect on your novel. When Amazon and Hachette were fighting it out, some authors lost out because their books were getting into the stores.

GZM: The sales of your current book will determine how many copies of your next book stores will order.

GW: Titans fight and the peons pay. I self-published and then I got a traditional deal. Publishing and writers are both more flexible. Hybrid will become the norm. You have to have more awareness of the “shape” of the industry.

MP: We used to search WattPad to find the next author. Now, established authors are publishing on WattPad.

LB: I’m interested to see if WattPad will be monetized.

GZM: How does free translate to readers (which translates to income)? Some people read a book a day. They can’t afford their book habit, but if they read and review, they become influencers.

GW: We now have multiple avenues to get our work out there. You can leverage multiple fan bases. The more each author is successful, the more all authors are successful. The rising tide floats all boats.

LB: YA rules are a little different. It’s flush with money. It’s a gold rush. I’m aware of my limits as a writer, though. 18 hour days on an ongoing basis would kill me. Publishing is built on interns. Books are great, but they’re not everything. You have a life outside of books. Your career is your choice.

GZM: Precarious is in the eye of the beholder. I have a life and I do work long days.

GW: Being a college professor is precarious. You have to learn how to work smarter, not harder.

LB: No one knows what the magic button is.

And that was time.

Next week: We move on to DAY 3 (!) and making a living as a writer.

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Six questions with Lara Schiffbauer

Lara SchiffbauerLara Schiffbauer is a writer, licensed clinical social worker, mother of two, wife of one, and a stubborn optimist. She loves Star Wars, Lego people, science, everyday magic, and to laugh.  You can connect with Lara through Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or on her website. Her debut novel, Finding Meara, will be available in March, 2013.

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Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Lara!  Thank you for taking the time to answer these few questions for my readers.  I have to say that since we met through Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge last year that I’ve been following your progress with Finding Meara with rapt attention 🙂  As I approach the end of revisions on my own work in progress, the decisions you’ve made are informing my process and plans moving forward.

Without further ado:

WG: When did you begin to write and what was the moment you knew that writing was the path you wanted/needed to pursue?

LAS: I’d like to first say think you so much for having me over today! The Platform Challenge was a wonderful opportunity to get to meet so many lovely writer-types—like you! I’m honored you find my path to publication informative and inspiring!

I enjoyed writing my whole life, but I didn’t think about writing for other people’s enjoyment until five years ago. I hadn’t been creative in any way for about ten years, and wanted to regain the spark. My children were toddlers, and I work full-time, so a return to writing fit the best. Since I’m a goal-oriented kind of person, I decided to not just write, but write with the goal of getting it read by people other than my family.

WG: What was the idea that became Finding Meara and how long have you been working on the novel?

LAS: I’ve worked with children in a social worker/therapist role for over ten years. The seed for Finding Meara rose out of the need to have some justice for abused and mistreated children. The story evolved into an urban fantasy about a young woman who, in a case of mistaken identity, ends up in a magical world where she must rescue her newfound half-sister before their sadistic father can sacrifice either in his quest for immortality and unrestrained power. As her world is turned inside out, she is forced to put other’s needs before her own, and discovers herself in the process. I’ve been working on it for about two years.

WG: I’m a process geek and I love to hear about how other writers approach their craft.  Can you give us some insight in to how you do that thing you do 🙂 ?

LAS: Lots of trial and error! I have learned that if I want to write with any speed, I have to know where the characters are going. With Finding Meara, I’d plot out a few chapters at a time, which allowed flexibility as well. I started another book, Age of Stars, which I plotted out completely. By doing that, I realized that I didn’t like the story and will be re-plotting it, once I get the first draft of the next book in the Adven Realm adventures done.  So, no pantsing for me, but any hybrid of outlining seems to work all right.

WG: I remember that you tried the traditional publishing route. What was your experience with querying and why did you choose to self-publish?

LAS: It didn’t take me long to change my mind. I pitched Finding Meara to Lou Anders of Pyr Books at the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference in April 2012 and sent out eight-ish query letters over the summer, before deciding (around August 2012) that Finding Meara is a unique enough animal that traditional publishing probably wouldn’t want it. I love the story and want other people to have access to it, in case they might love it too, and so decided to self-publish.

WG: What platform(s) did you choose and why?

LAS: Interesting question! My platforms fall into two categories: those I have had and used for a while and those I’ve created due to releasing Finding Meara.

I’ve been blogging for a little over two years, and use Facebook to connect to writer friends. I enjoy Pinterest personally, but do have some boards for the three books I’ve got going on it. I like Twitter, but lately I’m lucky to get on a couple of times a week.

In January I created a Facebook Author Page, a Goodreads Author Page and my website, which has links to all my social media spots. I just recently opened a Wattpad account because I am releasing two chapters of Finding Meara a week there until its release.

I’m not one of those people who have created a social media empire, with hundreds of followers on any given platform. I do sincerely appreciate every person who has ever decided to follow along with my journey, and have been absolutely blessed by getting to meet and become friends with some amazing, supportive people. I’ll take those types of relationships over numbers any day!

I chose to create a Facebook Author page because it provides an opportunity to interact with the international community. E-reader use in other countries is on the rise and I’m hoping through Facebook I’ll have a way to develop the writer/reader relationship. I opened a Goodreads page and a Wattpad page because they offer a way to interact with readers. So much social media seems to be directed toward other writers, and while writers read, there are tons of readers in the world who don’t go hang around the writer water-cooler.

WG: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with regard to Finding Meara?Finding Meara Cover

LAS: As I mentioned above, I have a Finding Meara Sneak Peek going on at Wattpad leading up to the release. I wish I could give a firm date of release, but I’m still tweaking for an exact date. It will be in March, though, and if anyone wants up to date information regarding the release, I would encourage them to follow me on Facebook or my blog, as I will post the date as soon as I know. On release weekend, Finding Meara will cost a full $0.00, so if you like the story on Wattpad you will be able to finish it for free. There will also be a giveaway on Goodreads post-release.

Thank you so much, Melanie, for offering me this opportunity to share my story!

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Lara, thank you for being so generous with your time and experience.

If you have any questions for Lara, please write them in the comments, and as always, I encourage you to like, share, comment, and follow (the blog equivalent of the writer’s think, do, create, be!).

Have a good one, my writerly peeps!  Until next time! *waves*