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I have a guy that runs a very successful punk/oi! record label in LA. He has asked me if I'd be interested in writing a series of books for him. 60,000 to 80,000 words per book in the series.

I am new to the lengthy writing game...

His offer is to pay $600 per book and %25 profit share after recoup. With contract and all.

Is this a terrible deal... or?

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    I would only do a profit share if the guy already has a proven bibliography of books, about the same subject or in the same genre, which have sold, and sold well. And even then that can backfire — I've done two of those deals and my "commission" ended up being a tenth of what I would have charged in a regular contract. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Feb 27 '17 at 13:48
  • Oh, make the contract non-exclusive - or to retain exclusivity sustained revenue must exceed certain threshold. – SF. Feb 27 '17 at 13:57
  • I'm sorry. I will delete my previous comment because I am obviously not working in the same culture as you are and so am not a valid source of information. – S. Mitchell Feb 27 '17 at 20:15
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It's unclear if these books are ebook only, print only or both.

If it's an ebook, then that's not a bad deal at all (especially if you are interested in the topic).

The 600 is basically an advance. You said "recoup." I understand that to mean that if revenues exceed 600, then you are entitled to 25% of earnings.

With ebooks, very few people are being paid advances. I would insist on half up front, half upon completion (at minimum).

With printed versions, it's likely to take a significant while to earn your advance. (My guess is you won't get any).

3 pieces of advice:

1)Check to see how much in advertising and illustrations that the record label can include when recouping expenses.

2)Specify a date at which rights can revert back to you or the right to publish becomes nonexclusive. (10 years?) My guess is that the label is not as much interested in making a killing from publishing but simply providing helpful publicity for musicians; in that case, the label might not have a problem with nonexclusive use later on.

3)Avoid a multibook contract if possible. You don't know how much of a time commitment it will be or whether it will sell splendidly. If anything there should be provisions for both parties to end the contract.

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If this were a conventional commercial publisher that was in position to distribute the books widely it would be a very good deal. If it is a purely speculative venture by someone with no previous experience of the book trade, then it is probably not such a good deal.

The deal between a publisher and a writers is based on what each brings to the table, and, like everything else, on scarcity. If the publisher is a major publishing house with an established reputation and distribution network, they bring a lot more to the deal than if it is someone outside the industry deciding to dabble for the first time. In other words, the experienced commercial publisher can sell a whole lot more books than the newcomer, which means they are offering the writer a much bigger paycheck, even if they are offering a lower cut on a per book basis.

What you as a writer should care about are:

  1. How much am I getting paid overall.

  2. How much exposure am I getting (both because we write to be read and because the more exposure we get, the more books we sell).

A publisher who can't demonstrate the ability to sell a lot of books and get you a lot of exposure is therefore bringing less to the table and so needs to offer you a bigger cut of the sales they do make for it to constitute a good deal.

Of course, it also depends on who else they can get to do the writing for them. There are many willing writers but few able ones. If they think you are one of the able ones, they should be willing to pay for that. (And if they are not, it means they don't think you are one of the able ones, or they can't tell the difference (or you are not one of the able ones).) Deals for the willing but not able are too low to live on, but people will still snap them up, so you just have to decide what you are willing to settle for.

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  • Keep in mind what you are bringing to the table here, too. It sounds like you have previous professional writing experience, but not in this sector, which is pretty analogous to having a 'very successful' record label but no experience pushing books in particular. – Please stop being evil Mar 2 '17 at 20:58
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Breaking into publishing is very hard. Frankly, if you are a new writer, ANY deal that gives you money and exposure is probably a good deal.

Like any business deal, the key questions are:

  1. Is it worth it TO ME. If you absolutely hate writing and you agonize over every second of doing it, maybe it wouldn't be worth it if someone offered you tens of thousands. But if you love to write and routinely post things you have written on the Internet for free, getting paid even a small amount for what you like to do anyway is a good deal.

  2. Can I get a better deal elsewhere? I'm sure J K Rowling or Harold Robbins would not take this deal, because they can make millions selling their writing elsewhere. But can you? Probably not. I've fairly often heard newbie writers question some deal they've been offered, saying it's less than what they've heard of other writers being offered for similar work. This is irrelevant. Is anyone offering YOU more for this work?

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  • It sounds like the OP has previous professional writing experience, just not in this format. That isn't to say that exposure isn't valuable, though. – Please stop being evil Mar 2 '17 at 20:59

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