Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jim N. Duncan - Author #3

Jim N. Duncan is the author of Deadworld  - out April 5th, 2011.  He's previously joined us at Seeking the Write Life to discuss how he procured an agent.  You can read about it here.

Jim has promised me an interview for the release of Deadworld (!), but until then, here's what he had to say when asked to finish the thought "What I wish I'd known before I signed the publishing contract":

For myself, and the case for many authors I would guess, getting over the initial, "I have a contract! Where do I sign?" is the first hurdle. There's also a big difference between a writer who has an agent and one who doesn't. I received a contract prior to landing an agent, and then proceeded to use that to secure one. Having a three book deal in your hand is a pretty good way to get an agent to look at your work. It's not a guarantee mind you, but it definitely gives you a leg up.

If you have an agent who happens to be with an agency, these agencies will often have their own boilerplate contracts with publishers. They have worked with them before, know what points of the contract can be contested and negotiated, and as an author, I can pass off the contract to them and say, "have at it." Good agents are expert at these things. They are supposed to know what they are doing, and I felt comfortable letting him negotiate things to be as much in my favor as possible. I received a bit more money, a larger number of free copies, and a couple other minor points to my benefit. As a debut author, the leverage just isn't there to do a lot more.

Without an agent, this is a whole other ballgame. Unless you are familiar with publishing legalese, it might be difficult to understand many of the terms and contract points. And I'm definitely not the person to be asking. Do know this though, some aspects of a publisher's contract are not negotiable, unless perhaps you are a best-selling author. Some things just can't be altered to be more in your favor, and you will get a contract yanked if you insist. As a debut, you only get so many chances to get your foot in the door, so you have to be willing to compromise. Let your ego get in the way, and you will lose. Without an agent it's just difficult to know what is feasible and what isn't. Given that you aren't the only book looking to be bought, get the idea.

Writers need to be sure they don't get stuck in the mindset that they deserve such an such for their book. If you want to pull the "I'm going to make you a million bucks" card to try and get more, you'll lose. Guaranteed. Debut authors have proven nothing, other than being able to write well enough to impress the editors and the publisher. You achieve success? Then you have more leverage. That said, if you don't have representation, do your research, talk to pros who know the business, or even hire a publishing attorney to look at a contract. Publishers have base contracts for a reason. Some points can be negotiated. Get knowledgeable enough to know what you want on a contract and what things publishers won't likely budge on. I'm glad I didn't have to do this. It would have been a royal pain in the ass. For all the claims these days of you not needing an agent, this is one aspect where I believe they are wrong. They get paid for knowing this stuff inside and out, and I'm happy to give my 15% for it.

Thanks for that Jim!  You want to hear more from Jim, check out his blog Writing in the Dark or follow him on twitter - and don't forget Deadworld is out April 5th!


  1. Thanks for having me here, Aimee. I just wanted to say that if anyone has any questions brought up by this, please ask away. I'll do my best to add on some answers or other thoughts about this.

  2. It was really great reading it from an "insiders" point of you! Thanks Jim and Aimee for sharing!!

    -Crusade group member!

  3. Hey Hun,

    Just wanted you to know I gave you a Stylish Blogger Award!

  4. Thanks for sharing. I am trying to get my YA paranormal published and I was a paralegal in my former life. I know how some contracts can cause even the smartest person to stumble so I always knew an agent was what I needed. Its just that writers (me, included) get impatient and want it now - our way. Thanks for reminding me.

  5. Great info, as always!! I know I'll be in the category of "I have a contract! Where do I sign?"'s hoping I can chill out and act with some intelligence.

    The Survival Mama

  6. Extremely well said, Jim. Expectations have such a way of getting away from us! It's probably difficult to maintain perspective in crunch time, but I'd think the true point is to see your baby in print and at least get an opportunity. Everything else seems like gravy.

    Thanks for sharing him, Aimee!