I will admit that I am not normally a lady with regrets, but this list is not about regrets as much as it is about lessons learned. I hope it will help save you time, money, and potential pitfalls on your publishing journey!
The number #1 lesson I learned had to do with an author's first contract. When I was a newbie and excited to see my book baby go out into the world, the contract started to feel like the golden ticket to finally realizing my long awaited goal!
But hold your pen, and put your savvy business hat on.
A great online resource to match up your contract terms and avoid paper gangsters is:
THE AUTHOR'S GUILD
The number #2 lesson I have learned is to get an agent! If you cannot get an agent, get a literary attorney to review your contract. You need someone who can actually broker your deal, and knows how to read a publishing contract.
I skipped this step and went ahead with signing my x on the spot. Turns out, I am not fluent in legalese. If you are not an attorney or agent then I would trust that you probably aren't either and learn from me.
With an agent....
You can expect to share 15% commission of your book advance/royalties/earnings for the lifetime of the book with your agent. The publisher writes the check out to your agent and then your agent will take their percentage out and send your check to you!
List of agents that I would recommend are:
Jan Miller (inspiring people memoirs & celebrity self-help)
Celeste Fine (experts, celebrity, corporate)
Bonnie Solow (self-help/non-fiction)
Dana Newman (boutique literary agency)
The number #3 lesson would be on royalty rates. My contract used a term called, "gross receipts" which means the actual amount the publisher receives. The error I made is that I didn't use an ascending scale for higher sales as you see below.
For hardcover books, you can negotiate these approximate rates:
10% on first 5,000 copies
12.5% on next 5,000 copies
15% on all copies in excess of 10,000 copies
The most popular royalty rate I've seen is based on the suggested retail price of your book, or list price.
If your contract is based on the wholesale price, or net then I would go to your agent to discuss this point. This is the amount the bookseller or wholesaler paid, plus deducting out expenses.
A great blog post on the breakdown of royalty calculations is from publishing attorney Susan Spann.
The number #4 lesson I learned is to keep your SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS (non print related).
What are these? These are the rights to make a film, a made-for-television movie on Lifetime, or television series based on your book. It is also merchandising and a slew of other things on top. Reserve 100% of these rights!
So with our heels firmly on the ground lets move forward! It's easy to get swept away with the glam when you don't have a baseline, so here are some reality checks.
Reality Check #1 Royalties are in the lower range of $2 per a book.
Reality Check #2 How many books are you dreaming of selling? Do you have great expectations? I'll let these sales from my favorite ladies tell you:
The Good from The Real Housewives Book Sales:
Bethenny Frankel's Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinny Girl has sold 200,000+ copies since 2009.
That means she probably made a ball park sum of 400k before paying her agent (minus 60K) and then taxes.
Teresa Giduice sold 40,000 copies of Fabulicious! since 2011.
Brandi Glanville's Drinking and Tweeting was a bestseller with 26,000 copies sold.
Let Me Tell You Something by Caroline Manzo sold 6,000 copies.
Melissa Gorga Love Italian Style only sold 8,000 copies.
Class with the Countess by LouAnn de Lesseps racked up 9,000 sales since 2009.
Leggy Blonde by Aviva Drescher didn't crack the Amazon top 10,000 in sales.
If you don't like them apples, and believe you will make a million dollars with your book then here is link to fuel your publishing dreams.
7 Figure Book Deal For First Time Author Tim Ferriss
Did anything surprise you in here? Let me know in the comments!