Your publishing contract; time to learn a foreign language

In these times of economic instability, isn’t it great knowing each Friday, no matter what the NASDAQ is doing or how much your stock in Nike’s new Cat Sweater Division has taken a dump, that Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing is still only 5 cents?! How do I continue to keep the price so low? Simple! I guest blog on the literary website Gliterary Girl each week, without their knowledge, and pass the savings on to YOU! So until Sara O’Connor finds out, or someone realizes I’m the only male blogger on an all-women website, I’ll continue to offer my nickel’s worth of advice at this bargain price. Payment can be made by fax, email or strapped to the leg of Hedwig…

Foreign language shirtI literally just returned from my first sit-down meeting with the publishing company that wants to publish my book, Humor at the Speed of Life; a Brief Look at Bruce Jenner’s Anatomy.

OK, fine. Leave off the part about Bruce Jenner and you have the real title.

As I’ve mentioned before, after 15 years as a syndicated columnist, this is my first venture into book publishing. I am now sitting here with a cup of coffee and the contract, which I haven’t signed yet, looking at words in all-caps, such as “AUTHOR,” “GUARANTEE” and “WARRANTS.”

In my experience, the word “warrant” has never led to anything good.

Regardless, even though it is a small publishing company based here in Florence, it has been around for 40 years as a book seller and publisher. It has kept up with the times, avoiding the temptation of becoming a “vanity” press by only publishing authors it actively seeks out. Its distribution channels reach well beyond Oregon to the global market, including Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, France, Australia, Alabama and many other foreign countries with a lot of consonants, all through a network of 25,000 retailers and 70,000 independent booksellers — not to mention all the major Internet sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Sounds great!

Uhh… but what does all that mean exactly?

And what about legal terms like “Subsidiary Rites,” “Future Book Options,” “Grant of Rights” and “Royalties?”

And why are they in ALL-CAPS!

As a journalist, I am trained to recognize subtle signs like these as meaning something important.

So, between this week and next, we’ll go through it together, step by step, and try not to twist our ankles. Before we delve into the contract I’m trying to avoid spilling my coffee on, I’d like to talk a little about my motivations, expectations and goal regarding the publication of this book.

First, I have no illusions of selling so many copies that I can leave my job and, with a little planning and a commitment to eat nothing but Costco corn dogs, live off royalties for the rest of my life.

Nor do I expect to reach the New York Times Best Seller list; if someone who reads the New York Times actually buys my book, that’s close enough.

In fact, my motivations, expectations and goals for this book can be summed up quite simply as “Step two.”

“Step One” was establishing myself as a columnist and building a readership foundation through newspaper circulation, speaking engagements and social media, such as my blog and other blogs I contribute to.

The truth is, I’m still establishing my presence on the social media stage, mostly because I am a technological dunce. Honestly, my evolution in this area has been a lot like a teenaged boy placed in a pitch-black room with a Playboy centerfold: a lot of drive and premature excitement before running into a wall.

For this reason, the services offered by a publishing company in terms of social media presence is a critical component to achieving Step Two: expanding my readership base in preparation for my next book.

Which, by the way, has nothing to do with Bruce Jenner.

That said, let’s go through the first few sections of the contract’s TERMS of AGREEMENT, beginning with the Grant of Rights.

As a columnist, I have granted newspapers that carry my column “First-Time” rights, meaning that after my column is published, the rights to each revert back to me exclusively. That’s pretty standard in newspaper and magazine publication. However, in this case, the publisher is asking for Exclusive Rights in terms of the book’s future sales, reprint rights and subsidiary rights.
What that basically means is that, while the columns are mine, this book — including any electronic rights, motion picture rights (as if), foreign translation (that’s you, Alabama), serialization, re-print rights, etc., will forever belong to the publishing company.

In essence, anything that comes from this book now and in the future will have to go through the publisher.

I’m OK with that. If this were a different kind of book with movie or series potential, I may be less inclined to agree with the terms and ask for a revision.

The next section is “Author Guarantees and Warrants.” Basically, this section is asking me to guarantee that the manuscript was written exclusively by me, and doesn’t include anything libelous or unlawful in its content.

… Well, assuming that neither Bruce Jenner and anyone from the Kardashian family will ever read my book…

Sure, we’re good there.

And as far as the content being written exclusively by me: Who else would willingly claim to have written this stuff?

Again, I think we’re good.

We’ll save “Royalties,” “Publication Costs,” “Schedules,” “Future Options” and “Permissions” for next week, by which time I’m sure I will have felt my way into another corner of that darkened room.

Next week: Part II

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

70 thoughts on “Your publishing contract; time to learn a foreign language”

    1. Thank you, Judy! And thanks, also, for your kind words on Michael’s blog yesterday. That was quite amazing, and I appreciate you being a part of it. Have a wonderful day 🙂

  1. Aaaah. Home again, and able to read Ned’s Blog in the comfort of my own, saggy bottomed computer chair, with my cup of Earl Grey at my side, ready for spewing. Okay, so this particular post was less spewable and more learnable. That’s fine by me, as I’m so interested in following your journey along this particular path. It still had it’s snarky moments and made me grin, plus it taught me a thing or two, like I should watchout for things written in all CAPS! I’m a happy camper, and I can’t wait for the day when your book appears on bookshelves everywhere. I intend to be among your very first buyers. Thanks for explaining things so that even a complete novice like myself can understand them! You rock, Ned!

    1. WELCOME HOME, Marcia! Glad you’re back on the radar and everything went well. As for today’s post, yeah — it’s kind of a dry subject, but an important one that I didn’t want to rush through. Thanks for the kind words and following along on this journey. Enjoy your day!

      1. THANK YOU, Ned! I loved the post, and I’m sure there will be plenty more tea-spewing opportunities ahead. Grandbaby is wonderful, Granny has pneumonia, but I’m kicking it. Doctor’s orders are to REST (and take 5 medications, but who’s counting?), so I am officially excused from any housework for now. YAY. I can read all day long, and I intend to. Blog included. And I’ll soon be catching up with yours. LOVE THE FRIDAY POSTS!

  2. Good for you, sir! I’m an attorney in my spare time and would be glad to peruse your “K” for you. “K” is lawyer for contract. I don’t know either, it’s stupid. Anyway, I enjoy good toilet reading, so let me know. Congratulations though! A book is pretty awesome!

    1. Hey, thanks, Don! And I’m glad you clarified the “K” thing. I thought maybe is was some kind of hip-hop reference I was missing, like when I heard “ice on my wrist” and thought Will. I. Am. injured himself.

  3. Someday, when I go to my first book-contract meeting, I will walk in with the confidence of 300 Spartans. And when they ask me whether I need anything explained, I will give a deep rumble of a laugh (which may have to be pre-recorded from a male friend) and say “No thank you, sir. Ned Hickson told me everything I need to know about this.” And they will be stunned into submission.

    1. Hahaha! Actually, “stunned into submission” is generally the reaction people give any time my name is associated with something educational. And I’d be happy to pre-record a deep rumbling laugh, or at least a deep rumble 😉

  4. Hey Ned, I did not know that you had written a book. Congratulations. I am excited about you taking everyone through the process. I have no idea what a book contract entails.

    I think if they do make it a movie, they would be foolish not to include someone with your athletic skills in the process.I mean the ones i have heard you speak of alone is an impressive list: Golf, Ironing, swimming, etc.

    I am sure they will offer you the lead role, and I think you should take it, because your refusal to take it would be equal to kicking the whole project right in the nuts.


  5. I’m starting to wonder you should be seeking therapy. This whole Bruce Jenner thing seems to be manifesting itself as an obsession.

    Just sayin’.

  6. The usage of such vivid imagery, makes this possibly, the funniest thing I have ever read, ” I am a technological dunce. Honestly, my evolution in this area has been a lot like a teenaged boy placed in a pitch-black room with a Playboy centerfold: a lot of drive and premature excitement before running into a wall.”

  7. “Honestly, my evolution in this area has been a lot like a teenaged boy placed in a pitch-black room with a Playboy centerfold: a lot of drive and premature excitement before running into a wall.” . . . .. Excellent analogy!! lol

        1. You know, if I eat too much cheese, it can feel like I have a shot put shoved… well, you know… so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch. Wait, that sounds even worse.

    1. I hope I’m never too old for Hedwig. And I mean that in terms of a humorous reference, not in a weird “life-partner” kind of way. Not that I have anything against someone who does. I’m just saying it’s not for me.

  8. Hi Ned! I’m enrolled in a fiction writing program and one of my instructors offered her contract. Are you kidding me? And I’m a lawyer! Congratulations on your book and I wish you much continued success.

      1. well, i may have made that up. i hope you will think of me if and whenever you use that in the future. just sprang from my head as the best way to describe all of the gobbledegook you’ll have to deal with.

      1. I meant to write more earlier, but my thumbs don’t like typing on my phone. Anyway, I was going to say: CONGRATU-fucking-LATIONS! I do hope to write something one day, but the logistics scare me. Thank you for sharing all of this information, honestly, and keep doin’ it!

        Also thought I would let you know: Bruce was in Eugene awhile back and I saw his balls. They are definitely book-worthy.

        1. LOL! Thanks, Erica 🙂 And as for BJs balls, better that it was you I suppose. Though I have to imagine, in terms of book-worthiness, it would be either a chap book or soft cover.

  9. Can’t wait to buy a copy of your book! A friend of mine told me a couple of days ago that he saved a staggering 17 cents by pre-ordering a book from Amazon. I hope your publisher will consider offering such a tantalizing economic incentive. 🙂

  10. That will be a best-seller, Ned. And I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass because I want you to guest post for me {insert begging pose here}.
    Seriously, I’ll be offline for three weeks while we’re preparing to move to South Africa for two years (an invitation to visit of course, regardless of your answer {wink, nudge}) and I would love to use that time to introduce the readers to blogs I love. You can write about anything, or if you’re incredibly busy, re-hash an old favorite.
    You’re on my Dream Team and I’m hoping you’ll consider it:

    1. I’d never make you beg, Marla! It would be a real honor. I’ll put something together and get it to you this week via email. Not sure if I’ll have time to put something new together, but I promise I’ll do my best to make you proud. What an amazing opportunity you have with the move to South Africa! I’ll be looking forward to your posts from there. And I have to say, the tribute to your mother was beautiful. My Dad passed away several years ago, and my mom has a yellow Oklahoma Rose that blooms around their anniversary each year. Your tribute is perfect. Talk with you soon, and thanks again for inviting me to be part of your Dream Team.

      1. Oh my gosh! Thank you so much, Ned! I really appreciate it, and whatever you can find time for will make my day.
        Bring your family and come visit us in SA. I’m sure it would give you plenty of good fodder for your own writing as well! We always have an extra bedroom and open door to friends wherever we live.
        Thanks for saying that about the tribute. Those blooms really help. I bet your mother can’t wait to see that rose each year, or tell you about it.
        Talk to you soon.

  11. Time travel and Harry Potter references all in the first paragraph … I’m so happy that we’ve connected and your blog is on my reader list now!!!

    Ok. Just had to get that little blog-crush off my chest. Going to read the rest of this post now:-)

    1. I’ll work on it! I figure I can probably outrun him now anyway… Have a safe flight, and feel free to freak more people out by laughing to yourself. I’ll look for you on the evening news.

No one is watching, I swear...

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