What Happens When You Get an Offer?

You're instantly a millionaire, right?

Hi friends!

It’s been a hectic few weeks, but it’s also been a GOOD few weeks. I’ve been able to send some fantastic emails to clients lately, and while that doesn’t sound so exciting on its face, trust me, it was great. I’m talking about offer emails, the things I send clients when an editor has made an offer on their book. IT’S AMAZING.

Of course, sometimes I call. But email conveys all the important details—things we’ll talk about today—all in one go for my clients to see, so it’s very helpful.

When I send an offer email, I like to use subtle, tasteful subject lines. A few examples lately have been:




Ahem. But. So. Often I’m forwarding an offer email from an editor, or distilling what the editor and I talked about on the phone. This is after the submission process that we talked about here, and often after a healthy dose of waiting. There’s no specific time frame that means welp, you’re not going to sell it now. I’ve sold things in 4 days and 4 months after submission. And that’s just the deals from last month.

When we say offer, what are we specifically talking about anyway? Here are the main points covered in a book deal at first. It varies from publisher to publisher, book to book, and some small points are covered when we negotiate the actual contract, but there are the highlights:

Advance: This is the big one. This is the number everyone is waiting for and wants to know. How much money is the publisher going to give you for your book? That’s what this number is.

An advance is money the publisher thinks your book would earn in royalties, give or take, i.e. an advance against royalties. As you’ll see below, the percentage you earn in royalties is what fills this coffer back up. Once you’ve earned back your advance, the publisher will start paying your royalties. Make sense?

Payout: This is how your advance is divided over the course of your book. It’s typically divided in halves or thirds, depending on the book, publisher, advance amount, and timeline. You may get a third after you sign the contract, a third after your deliver and fully edit and finish your book with your editor, and a third on publication. Agents typically want to front-load your payout so you, yanno, have money up front to write your book. Your book might not come out for two years after the contract is signed, and that’s a long time to wait for a third of your advance.

Royalties: This is the percentage of the sale of each book in each format that you earn. Royalties can vary a lot from publisher to publisher and format to format. For example, a heavily illustrated book will have lower royalties than a hardcover regular novel because the former is more expensive to produce. You earn a different rate when a hardcover is sold, a paperback is sold, an ebook is sold. (Just wait until you see the statements one day.)

As I mentioned, you are paid royalties after you’ve earned back your advance. Royalties are typically paid out twice a year. It is a fact of the industry that most books do not earn out their advance, and this is ok. If you don’t earn out your advance, you don’t owe the money back.

Territory: This determines where the publisher has the right to sell and ship your book. For example, your offer may be for North American rights in the English language, which means the US publisher has the right to ship books to the US and Canada and the Philippines (surprise!) as well as US territories and dependencies, but only in English. They can’t translate the book. Some books are sold for World Rights all languages, and that’s just what it sounds like. That means the publisher can ship the English book anywhere there is demand for it, as well as translate or sell it to someone else to translate, wherever there is demand. There’s a whole thing about the UK and Australia that’s kind of bonkers. There’s much to consider when decided what territory is right for your book (if you have that choice) and I’m thinking that’s a whole ‘nother newsletter about rights and month. Let me know if that sounds interesting to you.

Subsidiary Rights: These are all the different ways your book and the content of your book can show up in the world. The publisher expects a certain package of rights—the right to make the print book, ebook, audio book (more often than not now, though it wasn’t always this way) as well as other formats that aren’t always book-shaped. First serial rights are often conveyed to the publisher (which means selling or allowing a magazine or website the right to publish an excerpt before the book comes out), but other things like performance rights (i.e movie and tv) are not. How these play out, and how any revenue earned from them is split between the author and publisher, varies from book to book. (Don’t give anyone your performance rights, unless you’re like writing a Batman book or something and you don’t have a choice.)

Delivery Schedule: It’s important to know when the publisher wants your book so they can start editing it! This is highly negotiable.

These are the highlights of any offer. There might be other important things for your book, like who is going to pay for illustrations, or how many patterns or panels or diet tips you specifically have to deliver. You and your agent may spend a long time negotiating the subrights with the editor, but everyone agreed on the advance pretty easily. Sometimes an offer doesn’t work at all, and you say no. I know! It’s possible. I’ve done it. It can be scary, but a bad offer, or a not good enough offer, can be worse than no offer at all. Trust me.

I hope you get one of these emails from your agent in the future. (I hope I get one from my agent one day, eventually, if I ever finish my effing book, too).

Thanks for being loyal readers, my friends. I have a lot of fun with this newsletter and I hope you do, too. If there’s a topic you’d like me to cover, reply to this email and I’ll add it to the queue. If you have a specific question, and are a paid subscriber, reply to any Thursday email and I’ll answer it in (the return of) Q&A Thursdays! (I’m experimenting between Open Thread Thursdays and Q&A Thursday and we’ll see how it goes.) If you think someone needs this newsletter, or any Tuesday newsletter, just forward it to them, and encourage them to subscribe.

Happy 4th y’all, such as it is.