Friday, June 15, 2018

5 Things To Know When Negotiating a Deal Sheet

Continuing my birthday-month blog series, this week, we'll go over the negotiating a Deal Sheet.

Also known as the Offer Letter, the Deal Sheet is the first step in your negotiation of a publishing contract. It is usually a one-page document attached to an email, or embedded into the email, detailing what the publisher is offering to publish the work. It is generally received after a phone conversation between the agent and the acquisitions editor (or the acquisition editor and the author) where the deal points are discussed.

Deal sheets are not a contract but they are generally a viable offer that a publisher has put on paper for the agent to take to the author and/or approve/reject on the author’s behalf. It details general points (deal points) that the publisher is willing to offer the author in exchange for the right to publish the work. It’s important to understand and review these points well before agreeing to them as these are generally the first opportunity you have to negotiate with the publisher.

If you don’t already have an agent who will negotiate the contract for you, or if you feel comfortable negotiating with a publisher on your own, here are a few things to remember before sitting down at the negotiation table:

  1. Negotiation is a dance of give and take. Set in your mind the rigid limits you’ll allow to be pushed before walking away from the table. What’s your deal-breaker? Keep that in the forefront of your mind.
  2. Do your homework. This is something you can do now. Subscribe to industry newsletters in your genre, consult with agents and other writers about the industry standard royalty rates. Ask other writers about their experience signing with their current publisher.
  3. Assume everything is negotiable. While one or two things can be non-negotiable in a contract, chances are 90% of what’s presented to you is negotiable. Doesn’t hurt to ask for everything and leave the room with more than you walked in with.
  4. While on the phone, don’t argue the small stuff and on paper, keep your tone professional instead of combative. Make a strong argument for what you want but since you’re likely not a bestselling author about to take your millions in earnings elsewhere, be aware of your lack of leverage at this point and arm yourself with knowledge about the industry (see #2 above). Propose counteroffers that are not insulting to the publisher or to your wallet.
  5. Ask for it in writing. Once the conversation is over, ask again for the revised deal sheet to be emailed to you. It should include everything you discussed in person or via phone.

- How to Be Your Own Literary Agent by Richard Curtis
- "Negotiating With a Book Publisher: 7 Deal Points to Confirm Before You Sign On The Dotted Line"

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Author Platform and Branding for Fiction Writers

It’s my birth-month and I think it only fitting that I dedicate it to launching a new blog series. This week we’ll discuss establishing an author platform and tying that your author brand. After all, readers are buying you when they look for your titles, not your publisher, or your editor, or even your adorable, Puertorican literary agent with a penchant for coffee and gifs in everything.

Aren’t platforms for nonfiction writers and 70s shoes?
An author platform is as vital to the fiction author as it is to the nonfiction author and it encompasses everything from blogs to social media presence, speaking engagements and media contacts. But simply put, platform is the “ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.” – Jane Friedman

So what’s a platform and why do you need one?
"Platform is the ability to get people to follow and find you for information and guidance." - Chuck Sambuchino, Create Your Writer Platform

It's what you do before you're published. Your platform is your visibility and your reach, or the amount of people who will amplify your message and lead sales back to you. It's about who you know and more important, who knows you? It’s not just about what you write, but the number of readers you’re able to secure for your upcoming title. Editors and agents like to see that authors are able to build (and retain) an audience, which starts with a solid platform.

What are you known for? What's your brand?
In order to build an audience, you should identify your author brand. Start wide, then narrow it down to the niche or specialty that sets you apart from the others.

  • Are you a romance, mystery, horror, science fiction, fantasy writer?
    • Identify this first as it will determine what your overall brand needs to be. 
  • What promise are you making to your readers?
    • HEAs for all? Or are you more of a Happy For Now?
    • Death to all fan-favorite characters? Sweeping your ax like a crazed George R.R. Martin making your fans weep?
  • Then identify you niche within the broader market. What will the reader come to expect in your books that you are known for delivering? High-stakes romantic thrillers? Light BDSM erotic romance works? Small town, sweet contemporary romance novels?
    • If you are known for something specific or a distinct style of writing, include that in your brand. This is your niche and it’s what sets your brand apart.
Now where is your audience for that brand?
Find out where most of the "fans" for your brand hang out. Where the readers of your genre tend to shop for their books and when in doubt, ask other writers and published authors in your genre. It's a great way to network with other authors who could lead to expanding your reach.

All roads lead back to you.
Once you’ve identified your brand and potential audience, make sure all roads lead back to you.  Your website, social media, promo should match your niche.  I tell my clients to make sure that their website is updated and all social media links, as well as buy links are available on their website. Have all links open in another tab or window so guests can return to your website when they’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of links your titles are bound to lead them through. You'll notice all links in this blog open in a separate tab or window.

Social media is for socializing and networking!
Use your social media to create long-term connections with readers and authors alike. Engage with followers in an organic way without constantly peddling your wares. Talk about what you’re writing, what your cat is doing, the number of rooms in your house you vacuumed before sitting down to write, etc.  You want to publicize your book on social media, of course, but you don’t want to beat people over the head with it. Sell you, not just your book.

But when listing your book on social media, don’t forget to include links to where readers can buy it. Include Amazon, iBooks and BN in the US, Kobo in Canada and Europe. Make sure that your social media encourages action and INTERACTION with you.

Last but not least, remember to use social media to network for long term connections. Engage with other authors in your genre as well as editors, agents, book bloggers/reviewers, librarians, booksellers, teachers, college students and fans! Cultivate those connections because, as I said earlier, they will help expand your reach. They will help amplify your voice when it’s time but you need to create a connection with them first.

There is a lot of information on platform and branding online and in books by amazing leaders in the industry. Here are a few that I used to put this post together.