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Authors' Forum => Writers' Cafe => Topic started by: ........ on June 05, 2017, 06:58:37 PM

Title: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: ........ on June 05, 2017, 06:58:37 PM
https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/6f1v96/why_del_rey_and_i_will_be_parting_ways/

Snip:
So what's the problem?
We are in a catch-22 because both of us see the audio rights as extremely valuable and refuse to let them go. To give you a little background, I always try to limit the rights transferred in the primary contract. This is why I only do "World English" or "North American English" and attempt to reserve my audio rights.
When The Riyria Revelations contract was negotiated I asked my agent to retain the audio rights, she said it was a "deal breaker" for them so I caved. Same thing happened with The Riyria Chronicles. Orbit ended up selling that right to Recorded Books (a transaction that at it's most took them 10 - 15 hour to do) and the result is that I've had to split more than $145,000 with them 50/50. Not only that, but Recorded Books recently renewed the contract for those books for $400,000 and you guessed it. I only get $200,000 of that money. That kind of "hit" hurts...greatly.

Snip:
She wanted to make sure Del Rey realized that the audio books were sold, so they knew what they could have and what they couldn't -- basically the same as the last contract. As you might have guessed, the response came back that the CEO at Penguin Random House has made a corporate wide decree that states, that editors with their imprints (including Del Rey) are "absolutely, and with no exceptions, forbidden to strike deals anymore that do not include audio rights."
Now, do I really think there are "absolutely no exceptions"? No. If Rowling or Stephen King wanted to keep their audio rights, I'm sure they would be able to. Likewise, if an author is selling very little in audio, I'm sure they wouldn't care if they were kept. But I seem to be in that spot where I'm not "big enough" to waive audio and my audio sales are too large for them to ignore.
And, so that, as they say is that.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Dolphin on June 05, 2017, 10:03:39 PM
Certainly fits with the trend of tradpub houses refusing to consider more piecemeal contract negotiations like Bella Andre and Hugh Howey got back when rocks were soft (e.g. like five years ago). I wonder if they'll move on to insisting on foreign/translation rights at some point.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: EllieDee on June 05, 2017, 11:31:40 PM
Looks like the publishing companies are propping up their shrinking profits by snatching up audiobook sales.  If tradpubs were doing better in today's market, would they resort to these strongarm tactics?  Hah, probably!  But they might also be more willing to give authors like Sullivan (great sales, but not a superstar like King) some leeway in these contract negotiations.

I'm glad that he's laying the groundwork to get the other books in the series out, one way or another.  His fans won't care if the novels are indie pubbed.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: carrie 123 on June 06, 2017, 03:49:20 AM
I think other publishers are going to be falling in line and doing the same thing. They want the audio rights but they're not prepared to pay more for them. I'm sorry it didn't work out for him, but I think he made the right decision.

Thanks for sharing.

Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: MKK on June 06, 2017, 04:13:50 AM
The full reddit thread is well worth a read. Thanks for posting it. It's nice of Michael Sullivan to share his experiences.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: she-la-ti-da on June 06, 2017, 06:47:58 AM
He used to post here, back in the day. It's a shame about the audio rights stuff, the "big whatever" just want it all, and don't really want to pay for it. I think with his fan base, he'll do fine on his own and I wish him the best.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Douglas Milewski on June 06, 2017, 08:00:28 AM
Publishers are in the business of acquiring and exploiting rights. They'd be fools to ignore money on the table.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Jim Johnson on June 06, 2017, 08:20:48 AM
Publishers are in the business of acquiring and exploiting rights. They'd be fools to ignore money on the table.

True, though the more they refuse to negotiate, the fewer writers are going to be willing to work with them. It's great that Michael is airing this. The more writers that detail tradpub's lousy deals, the better informed writers will be to make decisions that are best for their business.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Douglas Milewski on June 06, 2017, 09:35:28 AM
Even this far into the ebook revolution, the big publishers still have a target rich environment, the target being writers. I've been working under someone who went to a good business school, and he's been teaching us about how to deal with business partners. In short, their strategy is always to charge more, shift costs onto us, and dictate the terms as much as possible. I see the exact same thing happening here. As business people, we must always look to charge them more, shift costs onto them, and to dictate terms as much as possible. That's the modern business relationship.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Cassie Leigh on June 06, 2017, 11:00:24 AM
He used to post here, back in the day. It's a shame about the audio rights stuff, the "big whatever" just want it all, and don't really want to pay for it. I think with his fan base, he'll do fine on his own and I wish him the best.

Yeah, he will.  He sold those audio rights for seven figures which made walking away from the print contract well worth it.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Elizabeth Ann West on June 06, 2017, 11:38:23 AM
Is he the one who's wife ran a publishing company that didn't close very well because his books took off?

Regardless, I don't find the tone and content very professional. He's mad the publisher he works with wants to...stay in business? I mean really, a larger publisher has to have some projects over deliver to cover the costs of those that do not. It's part and parcel. Great, the third party audiobooks company situation from his point of view is going great, but he really has no idea what was involved with those negotiations. He assumes. And of this didn't go well or the company went belly up, I'm sure he sure expected that in house cousel of Penguin to take care of the problem....

Nothing wrong with wanting more of the pie for yourself, but let's be real here. He used to run the whole shebang indie, went trad pub is now unhappy the contracts he signed are paying him exactly what he agreed to get. Don't know any indies getting a $400k offer on rights from an audiobook company. Sure some indies are cleaning up in Audio rights on dozens of titles but there was not advance or additional infrastructure to protect them if things go sideways.

Going trad pub means you get some bennies but there's always a cost.... All I'm saying is go back through the Kboard archives I think his wife's name was Robin. I remember there were some very unhappy when that whole thing unraveled.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: AllyWho on June 06, 2017, 11:51:20 AM
Is he the one who's wife ran a publishing company that didn't close very well because his books took off?

I don't know about that but I do know he runs kickstarters for his indie titles. Usually raises 10-50k to self publish ONE title, effectively paying himself an advance and not having any up front costs. There was one kick starter where he raised so much money he took his wife on a nice holiday. It's a sweer business model if you can pull it off.

This scenario does make me wonder that if he were full indie (and never went trad) would he ever have negotiated a 400k audio book deal, to then complain he only got 200k? I've not heard of any indies getting that much for audio rights. Out of curiosity, does anyone know of comparable indie deals for audio?
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Cassie Leigh on June 06, 2017, 12:03:11 PM
I know someone mentioned in another thread that they'd heard of a six-figure audio deal for an indie, but not sure where in the six-figure range that one fell.

Yes, his wife ran/runs a publisher and acts as his agent I believe.

I think he's calling it out because it's something that could have made that publisher and him money but they chose to take a hard stance on audio rights even though a print-only deal with him would've been profitable for both of them.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Jim Johnson on June 06, 2017, 12:08:59 PM
I think he's calling it out because it's something that could have made that publisher and him money but they chose to take a hard stance on audio rights even though a print-only deal with him would've been profitable for both of them.

Yeah, it's an example of the extreme rights grabs some companies are attempting. Some writers might be fine with that and accept it as business as usual, but all writers need to go into negotiations with tradpub with wide eyes and be aware of what you're negotiating and what the company might be asking for.

If nothing else, get yourself a copy of The Copyright Handbook (https://store.nolo.com/products/the-copyright-handbook-coha.html) and study up if you don't also get or have an IP lawyer in your corner.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: MikeRyan on June 06, 2017, 12:13:04 PM
I agree with Elizabeth and Alice. Complaining about only getting 200k doesn't seem to be in good form. If it's that important, that's what negotiations are all about. If they insist on that audio percentage, negotiate a higher fee for yourself on other platforms. I don't think calling out a company over what seems like normal negotiations is really a sound strategy. I don't know what the normal percentage for audio rights for publishers usually is, but 50% sounds like a good deal...I could be wrong though.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: WHDean on June 06, 2017, 12:26:08 PM
Is he the one who's wife ran a publishing company that didn't close very well because his books took off?

Regardless, I don't find the tone and content very professional. He's mad the publisher he works with wants to...stay in business? I mean really, a larger publisher has to have some projects over deliver to cover the costs of those that do not. It's part and parcel. Great, the third party audiobooks company situation from his point of view is going great, but he really has no idea what was involved with those negotiations. He assumes. And of this didn't go well or the company went belly up, I'm sure he sure expected that in house cousel of Penguin to take care of the problem....

Nothing wrong with wanting more of the pie for yourself, but let's be real here. He used to run the whole shebang indie, went trad pub is now unhappy the contracts he signed are paying him exactly what he agreed to get. Don't know any indies getting a $400k offer on rights from an audiobook company. Sure some indies are cleaning up in Audio rights on dozens of titles but there was not advance or additional infrastructure to protect them if things go sideways.

Going trad pub means you get some bennies but there's always a cost.... All I'm saying is go back through the Kboard archives I think his wife's name was Robin. I remember there were some very unhappy when that whole thing unraveled.

Agreed. This is not a swindle; it's buyer's remorse. By his own admission, no one tricked him. He knowingly took the deal that included audio because, at the time, he wanted the Del Rey print deal more than he wanted to preserve his audio rights. Now that he's doing better, he wishes he hadn't. But would he be in the same place if he hadn't? Who knows? This sort of thinking leads only to resentment, which has never done anyone any good.

   
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Jim Johnson on June 06, 2017, 12:42:44 PM
Agreed. This is not a swindle; it's buyer's remorse. By his own admission, no one tricked him. He knowingly took the deal that included audio because, at the time, he wanted the Del Rey print deal more than he wanted to preserve his audio rights. Now that he's doing better, he wishes he hadn't. But would he be in the same place if he hadn't? Who knows? This sort of thinking leads only to resentment, which has never done anyone any good.


I reread the reddit post. I don't think there's buyer's remorse here. It sounds like Michael and Robin sold the audio rights to some of the newer books before negotiating with Del Rey for the print rights, and made it clear to Del Rey that the audio rights aren't open to negotiation, but Del Rey refuses to waive that part of it. So even though Del Rey wants to do business with Michael for print rights on the new stuff, the dictates from on high in Del Rey means they can't. He even said at the end:

Quote
Anyway, this may be of absolutely no interested to anyone. But I thought getting it "out there" would help assuage any rumors that Del Rey and I are breaking because of a conflict of any kind, or because of low sales with my books. It's ironic. We (I and Del Rey) both want to continue working together, both are finding financial benefit from the arrangement and yet we can't keep doing what we've been doing. It's a crazy business!

Really is a crazy business when part of a company wants to do business but the executive management doesn't want to budge on acquiring certain rights.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Craig Andrews on June 06, 2017, 12:56:01 PM
The tone of this thread is really... interesting. Michael J. Sullivan was one of the first indie fantasy writers, if not one of the first indies in general, to really take off and leverage their indie success into a much wider business model. He's always been incredibly transparent about how and why he conducts his business the way he does (look in this very forum to find out why he signed with Orbit to begin with), and been an invaluable resource for hundreds of indie writers dating back to at least 2013. I don't see buyers remorse here, or anyone complaining. He's simply writing a letter to his fans and fellow indies explaining why they won't be able to find his books in B&N, Powells, etc. anymore.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Elizabeth Ann West on June 06, 2017, 01:10:32 PM
Executive management is who knows if they're making payroll next quarter . . . of COURSE an editor will play the "Oh, we'd have no problem...." they can play good cop and preserve the relationship.... blame it on the big, bad executive.

I don't wish Michael ill, I think he's done a great deal to help pave the way for others.... but this idea that larger corporations with much larger overhead, corporations we DO benefit on some level for existing (um, who REALLY want Amazon to have zero competition, anyone? Beuller?), are not exploiting rights when they go we will do this deal WITH this deal, or no deal. It's their balance sheet they have to negotiate from.

This is an ecosystem. And if you take the larger animals out of the ecosystem, it actually puts all of the rest of us at greater risk. The day we go down to 3 trad publishers and Amazon imprints is the day we see 70% for indies go out the freaking window. Because what are we REALLY going to do if they drop it to 60% or 55%? Nuffin'
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: LilyBLily on June 06, 2017, 01:31:25 PM
It's also worth noting that quite possibly, a publisher can negotiate a fatter deal for the audio rights than an author can. In fact, quite probably. Aren't authors doing deals right now directly that only give them 40% of the audio, anyway? The reason the Harlequin authors sued a few years ago was not because they only got 50% of a sub rights deal (the standard percentage), but because through fairly devious means, they got far, far less.

And if everybody was so determined to include audio in the deal and actually do the deal, why couldn't Del Rey or Sullivan buy the rights back from whoever?

At the same time, Kensington recently bought some of Marie Force's romances that have already sold many copies in ebook and paperback, strictly self-published, to do its own print run and mass distribution.

So...I think this Del Rey thing is specific to this author's situation and to Del Rey, not to all trad publishers.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: blubarry on June 06, 2017, 01:38:11 PM
Is he the one who's wife ran a publishing company that didn't close very well because his books took off?

Regardless, I don't find the tone and content very professional. He's mad the publisher he works with wants to...stay in business? I mean really, a larger publisher has to have some projects over deliver to cover the costs of those that do not. It's part and parcel. Great, the third party audiobooks company situation from his point of view is going great, but he really has no idea what was involved with those negotiations. He assumes. And of this didn't go well or the company went belly up, I'm sure he sure expected that in house cousel of Penguin to take care of the problem....

Nothing wrong with wanting more of the pie for yourself, but let's be real here. He used to run the whole shebang indie, went trad pub is now unhappy the contracts he signed are paying him exactly what he agreed to get. Don't know any indies getting a $400k offer on rights from an audiobook company. Sure some indies are cleaning up in Audio rights on dozens of titles but there was not advance or additional infrastructure to protect them if things go sideways.

Going trad pub means you get some bennies but there's always a cost.... All I'm saying is go back through the Kboard archives I think his wife's name was Robin. I remember there were some very unhappy when that whole thing unraveled.

I think you're misinterpreting what he's saying. My read is that he's discussing why he's not going with Del Rey for his books, using audio as the pivotal reason. There doesn't seem to be a lack of professionalism, rather an understanding of value and business sense. Good for him for understanding his leverage.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Anarchist on June 06, 2017, 02:03:32 PM
I think you're misinterpreting what he's saying. My read is that he's discussing why he's not going with Del Rey for his books, using audio as the pivotal reason. There doesn't seem to be a lack of professionalism, rather an understanding of value and business sense. Good for him for understanding his leverage.

That was my take, too.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Becca Mills on June 06, 2017, 02:44:12 PM
I reread the reddit post. I don't think there's buyer's remorse here. It sounds like Michael and Robin sold the audio rights to some of the newer books before negotiating with Del Rey for the print rights, and made it clear to Del Rey that the audio rights aren't open to negotiation, but Del Rey refuses to waive that part of it. So even though Del Rey wants to do business with Michael for print rights on the new stuff, the dictates from on high in Del Rey means they can't.

Yeah, that's how I read it as well: as information sharing about the shrinking likelihood of being able to sell a book/series to a big publisher without including audio rights. He got a sweet audio-not-included deal with Del Rey for the first three books in a series, was really happy with the deal and with Del Rey, and expected to be able to get the same deal for Books 4 and 5, along with a new series, but the publisher is no longer willing to do it. He's FYIing people about that. It seems like good info to have, for authors who are in Michael's league and might be contemplating deals like this.

Of course Del Rey needs to make money, but they may have to adjust their current approach, given authors' ability to walk away from the table, as Michael has done. That might mean giving authors more than 50% of the take when contracted audio rights are resold. Or maybe Michael is an outlier, and others won't walk away. Who knows? Either way, I think it's interesting news.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: BillSmithBooksDotCom on June 06, 2017, 03:35:43 PM
Michael has been enormously helpful and informative to authors, especially newer ones, by sharing his insights and experiences. He transformed into a very successful hybrid author.

And now he is letting authors and readers know that the landscape has changed.

I know he made a business deal and that's fine, but I have a hard time seeing how a traditional publisher added $200,000 of value by selling audio book rights. I understand that trad pub have overhead, purport to provide added value, etc. but that's really kind of their problem, not the authors'.

I say good for him.

I have to admit, the longer I watch the evolving publishing industry, I have come more and more to believe that by the time the trad pubs have noticed you, you don't really need them anymore.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Craig Andrews on June 06, 2017, 03:44:46 PM
Yeah, that's how I read it as well: as information sharing about the shrinking likelihood of being able to sell a book/series to a big publisher without including audio rights. He got a sweet audio-not-included deal with Del Rey for the first three books in a series, was really happy with the deal and with Del Rey, and expected to be able to get the same deal for Books 4 and 5, along with a new series, but the publisher is no longer willing to do it. He's FYIing people about that. It seems like good info to have, for authors who are in Michael's league and might be contemplating deals like this.

Exactly. He's not unhappy with the deal he previously signed at all. If anything he wanted to negotiate a similar deal to conclude his successful series.

Quote
Okay, so when it came to the Legends of the First Empire books Robin decided to sell the audio rights first. That way they would be "off the table" and we'd not have to split the profits with anyone. We sold the first 4 books to Recorded books for what PW would term as a "good deal" ($100,000 - $250,000).

Getting just the ebook & print for the English language wasn't a problem for Del Rey and so every one was happy.

Del Rey owned the rights to the first three books and changed their contractual requirements for books #4 and #5. How this reads as "buyers remorse" or "complaining" is beyond me.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Lisa Grace on June 06, 2017, 05:05:55 PM
The tone of this thread is really... interesting. Michael J. Sullivan was one of the first indie fantasy writers, if not one of the first indies in general, to really take off and leverage their indie success into a much wider business model. He's always been incredibly transparent about how and why he conducts his business the way he does (look in this very forum to find out why he signed with Orbit to begin with), and been an invaluable resource for hundreds of indie writers dating back to at least 2013. I don't see buyers remorse here, or anyone complaining. He's simply writing a letter to his fans and fellow indies explaining why they won't be able to find his books in B&N, Powells, etc. anymore.

Agreed. And thanks Michael, for sharing your experiences. You certainly don't have to.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Bill Hiatt on June 06, 2017, 05:10:33 PM
Executive management is who knows if they're making payroll next quarter . . . of COURSE an editor will play the "Oh, we'd have no problem...." they can play good cop and preserve the relationship.... blame it on the big, bad executive.
I suppose it's possible that Random Penguin is at risk of not making payroll next quarter, but it seems unlikely to me. So yes, maybe the Del Rey people are playing good cop, but it's equally possible RP is just being stubborn. It wouldn't be the first large--or even small--organization that stuck to an inflexible rule that might not have been applicable. If an established author had already sold the audio rights and wanted to only make a deal for print, the print deal would make RP money, and the alternative loses that money, that seems inflexible rather than budget-conscious. What am I missing?
I don't wish Michael ill, I think he's done a great deal to help pave the way for others.... but this idea that larger corporations with much larger overhead, corporations we DO benefit on some level for existing (um, who REALLY want Amazon to have zero competition, anyone? Beuller?), are not exploiting rights when they go we will do this deal WITH this deal, or no deal. It's their balance sheet they have to negotiate from.
At the risk of repeating myself, I'm not seeing how getting no income from no rights is ever better for the balance sheet than getting some income from some rights. Sure, RP would have gotten more income from including the audio rights, but it's hard not to see the outcome they ended up with as a net loss.
This is an ecosystem. And if you take the larger animals out of the ecosystem, it actually puts all of the rest of us at greater risk. The day we go down to 3 trad publishers and Amazon imprints is the day we see 70% for indies go out the freaking window. Because what are we REALLY going to do if they drop it to 60% or 55%? Nuffin'
It's certainly true that Amazon ending up as a monopoly isn't good for anyone except Amazon. I'm just not sure how you're getting from one author who didn't want to sell audio rights to the collapse of trad publishing as we know it. Your general point is certainly a good one, but I'm not sure how it applies to this situation. If there were a mass movement of authors to abandon trad publishing no matter what, then I could see the connection. This sounds like an author trying to do what's best for him--which is what we all do. Anyway, what would we really do now if Amazon dropped to 60% or 55%? Realistically, Nuffin'. Sure, some people might rethink trad, but the publishers aren't going to have more space for new titles simply because more authors submit.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Dolphin on June 06, 2017, 05:57:32 PM
True, though the more they refuse to negotiate, the fewer writers are going to be willing to work with them. It's great that Michael is airing this. The more writers that detail tradpub's lousy deals, the better informed writers will be to make decisions that are best for their business.

But is this anything new? They've never been willing to negotiate most of their terms.

My sense has been that authors have been asking for more latitude in their contracts, like Hugh and Bella getting the print-only deals, then the publishers realize that it's more to the authors' advantage than theirs, and word goes out that the experiment has failed and should never be repeated. They're not cracking down on a tradition of negotiation--they're nipping it in the bud.

As for professionalism, I don't know. I really don't. I'm not a millionaire and I don't personally know any millionaires. I don't know what's professional in those circles. It's all wildly abstracted to me, even more than the magic in Michael's books. I can't even begin to imagine it, let alone understand the culture and social mores involved.

I seldom object to transparency, however. It's an interesting tidbit to salt away, just in case, one day, you're a millionaire too.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Shelley K on June 06, 2017, 06:16:37 PM
Is he the one who's wife ran a publishing company that didn't close very well because his books took off?


Several years ago his wife ran Ridan Publishing. Went gangbusters for a while, and Robin sat on a lot of panels talking about publishing. She was pretty generous with her advice here and elsewhere, and they offered a pretty good contract, had some hits (Nathan Lowell was the other big seller who springs to mind, and who still does great), but the whole thing ended quite badly. I'm not sure why it matters in the context of this thread, though.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Elizabeth Ann West on June 06, 2017, 06:48:25 PM
::shrug:: I read the link and the snippet. I'm not the only one seeing this on a different light than the majority, and that's okay.


Not the first author to have negotiations to not go their way so it's always the other side that's completely the unreasonable one. I don't have any times with a publisher, I am my own publisher.

But you probably won't see the other side posting about why negotiations broke down with Michael J. Sullivan, which is all that appears to have happened.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Shelley K on June 06, 2017, 06:59:55 PM
::shrug:: I read the link and the snippet. I'm not the only one seeing this on a different light than the majority, and that's okay.

Yep, it is. I'm not seeing it any particular way, I just didn't know what the Ridan implosion has to do with it.

Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Elizabeth Ann West on June 06, 2017, 07:38:30 PM
To me, and what I remember is foggy and I didn't go digging . . . The justification for how a lot of that all went down was that now she had to focus on her husband's career as he was going trad pub and breaking out. We're getting one side of the story here re: the negotiation. Yes, there's the line at the end about MJS and Del Ray are still best buddies and would love to keep working together if only not for the parent company CEO team..... ::Shrug:: I speak double speak well myself. There's plenty in there about what happened that doesn't make me swallow the story.

The way a press release like this should go:
After x years of success with the y books, Michael J Sullivan and Del Ray have parted ways over a failure to hammer out a contract for future works. That's it. All of the stuff about the audiobook contract getting renewed and the $400,000 split in half etc.... If it wasn't allowed under his contract, then he'd sue. But if it IS what was allowed under his contract he signed, then well, that's not Penguins fault it was a business transaction.

A publisher works with authors, not for authors. The agent works for the author, but like other agent professions, has a commission that only comes if the parties come to an agreement. In the case of a husband and wife team, I suppose at least you know your spouse is probably more likely to be in your mutual favor, but that also could make them less critical of a bad contract. No one author, not even Stephen King or JK Rowling has the same negotiation standpoint of a publisher or vendor. It's not equal positions for negotiations, never will be. I remember the few months the ebooks for Harry Potter we're NOT on Amazon but only through Pottermore, and eventually that got negotiated. :)

And I brought up the publishing house thing because our industry has been reeling lately with a lot of crazy stuff. If the Sullivans suddenly start pitching a publishing house now with the experience of trad pub, if was the same people, I wanted people who came alone post 2012/2013 to know there's threads here about last time, both the good and bad. Not everything comes to Kboards and is made a thread. I know i only manage to check weekly-ish and only titles that catch my attention. It's entirely possible someone goes "great new opportunity!" And no one who remembers the name of the old Publishing company even sees it to be like "do what you want it worked great for some, but at least know the history of what you're getting into...."

Again, I might be totally wrong. I may just becoming the cranky old EAW who's always worried too much about the newbies. LOL  But I think a lot of people get hurt because there's no real easy way to find the history of what's been a very monumental 7 years. No one thought we indies would ever really grasp a significant portion of the market share.... We are one giant amoeba moving in a million directions at once, but we hold a significant portion of the yearly revenue in ebooks, in audiobooks, and gaining in print as more print sales move to online...there's been a lot of highlights and a great collective knowledge base passed on through class to class of new indie publishers, but the signals do fade over time. ... And lately, I'm seeing more and more indie authors taking advantage of their own, NOT trad pub screwing indie authors on deals for specific rights....trad pub never liked to negotiate individual formats like a print only deal that's not new. Nor does any publisher like to bid on properties where the other rights have already been sold...what that company does with their piece of the IP could totally derail the marketing plans or launch of another format. It's just business.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: AllyWho on June 06, 2017, 08:42:43 PM
::shrug:: I read the link and the snippet. I'm not the only one seeing this on a different light than the majority, and that's okay.

You weren't the only one. I read ...renewed the contract for those books for $400,000 and you guessed it. I only get $200,000 of that money. That kind of "hit" hurts...greatly. And see someone complaining they only received 200k instead of 400k, which seems a bit of a first world problem. Personally I'd celebrate getting $200 for audio rights, assuming anyone was even interested, let alone 200k. That and what I saw go on with the kickstarters, gave me a certain impression. Others see it differently. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: blubarry on June 06, 2017, 09:11:26 PM
You weren't the only one. I read ...renewed the contract for those books for $400,000 and you guessed it. I only get $200,000 of that money. That kind of "hit" hurts...greatly. And see someone complaining they only received 200k instead of 400k, which seems a bit of a first world problem. Personally I'd celebrate getting $200 for audio rights, assuming anyone was even interested, let alone 200k. That and what I saw go on with the kickstarters, gave me a certain impression. Others see it differently. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Would you rather him not share? I think there's value in him realizing that he learned from his experience... and sharing for others.

He said: "I couldn't be happier with how Del Rey has treated me, and there have been no conflicts with "creative differences," missed deadlines, or other issues that tend to derail authors' careers.
So what's the problem? We are in a catch-22 because both of us see the audio rights as extremely valuable and refuse to let them go. To give you a little background, I always try to limit the rights transferred in the primary contract. This is why I only do "World English" or "North American English" and attempt to reserve my audio rights."

Any business minded author should do a similar analysis. I think it's great he's sharing how much other audio publishers are offering. His audio rights are worth more than signing away entire rights, knowing he won't have bookstore access. That tells you how much the audio market has expanded. That's incredibly helpful information for him to share.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: A J Sika on June 07, 2017, 01:47:04 AM
You weren't the only one. I read ...renewed the contract for those books for $400,000 and you guessed it. I only get $200,000 of that money. That kind of "hit" hurts...greatly. And see someone complaining they only received 200k instead of 400k, which seems a bit of a first world problem. Personally I'd celebrate getting $200 for audio rights, assuming anyone was even interested, let alone 200k. That and what I saw go on with the kickstarters, gave me a certain impression. Others see it differently. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

You're getting blinded by the dollar signs and missing his point. Does it really matter how much he made? Whether it was 200 grand or 200 million? What matters is what percentage he got for giving up his audio rights and whether in the long run the publishers actually deserved that amount for the value they gave him. Isn't that what all authors should consider when going into any type of deal? As for the kickstarter issue - I have no idea what it's about but it has nothing to do with the matter under discussion.


I appreciate Michael writing the post because now we know that audio rights are quite valuable and not to just hand them over without serious thought and negotiation
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Abalone on June 07, 2017, 02:55:06 AM
Not surprising at all.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Kate. on June 07, 2017, 04:00:36 AM
I actually think the audio deal was fair.

Print sales influence audio sales; every bestselling audiobook was a bestselling paperback/ebook first. Even if his publishers don't spend a cent on promoting the audio, I'll bet they have a hefty budget for the print book. It's fair they get a slice of the audiobook sales they're propping up.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: This_Way_Down on June 07, 2017, 04:13:34 AM
Michael J. Sullivan has done more for the credibility of indie work than almost any other writer I know. He is free with his advice, transparent about the industry, and courteous to those who approach him. If he wants to vent, he's earned that right. At least when he does it, he informs people at the same time, rather than spew vitriol.
Through Michael, I have learned more about the actual industry, than from any other source. And if you read what he wrote about his situation, you'll catch a glimpse into the business end of traditional publishing that is rare to come across.   
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Jana DeLeon on June 07, 2017, 05:20:29 AM
Bottom line - publishers are worse than ever on the rights grab thing and authors need to be very careful about what they sign away. The more people who bring these points up, the more newer authors are informed of what to look for and what to ask for. I'm tired of hearing that publishers have overhead. Yeah, I've visited their offices in Manhattan and NO ONE needs that kind of overhead. The author IS the talent and with indie publishing, it's the first time the artist is actually getting paid more than the pencil pushers.

The amount is NOT the issue and all the "I wish I had that problem" sort of posts just sound like sour grapes and is one of the biggest reasons that successful authors stop posting here. The only thing that matters is the percentage of profit that publishers are hoarding rather than paying the creator a fair amount for the existence of the product that is supporting everyone. I'm sorry if some of you think the author should be the lowest paid in that scenario. I've alway had a problem with that setup, especially when I was trade pubbed and there were no other options, taking pennies for my work when the other 92% was going to pay for high rises in NYC.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: WHDean on June 07, 2017, 08:31:36 AM

I reread the reddit post. I don't think there's buyer's remorse here. It sounds like Michael and Robin sold the audio rights to some of the newer books before negotiating with Del Rey for the print rights, and made it clear to Del Rey that the audio rights aren't open to negotiation, but Del Rey refuses to waive that part of it. So even though Del Rey wants to do business with Michael for print rights on the new stuff, the dictates from on high in Del Rey means they can't.

You're right. The snippets are misleading--my bad for going by them. He's really giving a very round-about explanation of why he parted ways with Del Rey.

 
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Craig Andrews on June 07, 2017, 09:03:39 AM
::shrug:: I read the link and the snippet. I'm not the only one seeing this on a different light than the majority, and that's okay.

Not the first author to have negotiations to not go their way so it's always the other side that's completely the unreasonable one. I don't have any times with a publisher, I am my own publisher.

But you probably won't see the other side posting about why negotiations broke down with Michael J. Sullivan, which is all that appears to have happened.

You weren't the only one. I read ...renewed the contract for those books for $400,000 and you guessed it. I only get $200,000 of that money. That kind of "hit" hurts...greatly. And see someone complaining they only received 200k instead of 400k, which seems a bit of a first world problem. Personally I'd celebrate getting $200 for audio rights, assuming anyone was even interested, let alone 200k. That and what I saw go on with the kickstarters, gave me a certain impression. Others see it differently. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

The issue here is that he's not walking away from Del Rey because of that contract. Many people in this thread seem to think he's unhappy with his current deal and trying to renegotiate to gain exclusive audio rights, which isn't the case at all. His current deal is for print and eBook only, with him having sold his audio rights before he sold his print and eBook rights to Del Rey. The publisher is the party trying to renegotiate and force the author to take a different deal, which would result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sullivan is not trying to renegotiate for more money, but prevent the publisher from taking 50% of audio sales in which he's currently earning 100%. My concern with this thread and the tone of some of the replies is that this isn't a matter of opinion, it's a matter of misrepresented or misunderstood facts.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Usedtoposthere on June 07, 2017, 10:30:58 AM
The tone of this thread is really... interesting. Michael J. Sullivan was one of the first indie fantasy writers, if not one of the first indies in general, to really take off and leverage their indie success into a much wider business model. He's always been incredibly transparent about how and why he conducts his business the way he does (look in this very forum to find out why he signed with Orbit to begin with), and been an invaluable resource for hundreds of indie writers dating back to at least 2013. I don't see buyers remorse here, or anyone complaining. He's simply writing a letter to his fans and fellow indies explaining why they won't be able to find his books in B&N, Powells, etc. anymore.
Yep. Helpful and transparent. I don't understand the purpose of dissing people like Michael who were among the first to share information and empower authors. I'll add that just because you earn good money, that doesn't mean you somehow don't "deserve" more because you have enough. That's not really a businesslike attitude. 
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Bards and Sages (Julie) on June 07, 2017, 10:41:45 AM
So for all the folks complaining how publishers refuse to negotiate, how did your last negotiation with Amazon go?
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Usedtoposthere on June 07, 2017, 10:49:21 AM
So for all the folks complaining how publishers refuse to negotiate, how did your last negotiation with Amazon go?
If you mean Amazon Publishing or Audible Studios--yes, one negotiates with them.

KDP is not a publisher, nor is ACX. They're distributors, like iBooks, Nook, Google Play, etc. If you sell enough books, they may give you favorable treatment, but they're not going to change their distribution terms.

I don't understand the point of this question.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Shelley K on June 07, 2017, 10:54:05 AM
Yep. Helpful and transparent. I don't like dissing people like Michael who were among the first to share information and empower authors. And just because you earn good money, that doesn't mean you somehow don't "deserve" more because you have enough.

Agreed all around. I'd rather not go back to the good old bad old days when people didn't share their contracts and royalties and newbs were pretty much in the dark. I think that sharing has been a key part of more writers earning more money than ever before. Regardless of people's personal opinions about him or his wife, the kind of transparency he's offering shouldn't be discouraged.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Bards and Sages (Julie) on June 07, 2017, 11:00:07 AM
I don't understand the point of this question.

The point is only that there are certain individuals that love to bash publishers in general while singing Amazon's praises, even when Amazon has far more restrictive terms than a lot of publishers.

And, yeah, KDP is not a publisher...which is sort of the point. Technically, they are just a way of making your work available on Amazon, but they exert an incredible amount of control over your finished product for a company that is "not" a publisher. KDP's terms are, in many ways, far more restrictive than a lot of publishers.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: GeneDoucette on June 07, 2017, 11:10:09 AM
KDP's terms are, in many ways, far more restrictive than a lot of publishers.

Gotta ask what you mean by that. I've had publishing contracts. They kept more than 30%, controlled the release date, and made me do most of the marketing. By this statement, do you mean Select? Because otherwise I'm not sure I get your point here.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Shelley K on June 07, 2017, 11:16:42 AM
Gotta ask what you mean by that. I've had publishing contracts. They kept more than 30%, controlled the release date, and made me do most of the marketing. By this statement, do you mean Select? Because otherwise I'm not sure I get your point here.

Even then, Select is optional, and you can still take your book out of it at any time with only the remainder of a 90-day term before you publish it elsewhere. I don't see how publishing with KDP, Select or not, is anywhere near as restrictive as a publishing contract with any publisher, small press on up.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: This_Way_Down on June 07, 2017, 12:13:57 PM
Raise your hand if you've ever had to negotiate with a publisher. EVER! How about that poster calling Michael unprofessional. The publishers beating down your door darlin'?
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Annie B on June 07, 2017, 12:17:21 PM
If you don't go into negotiations with a publisher knowing what you are worth and what rights you are and are not willing to part with (and a price in mind for those rights), I think you are going in to get fleeced, sorry.  What Michael did is good business. He knew what his rights are worth, he knew what he was and wasn't willing to sell, and when the time came, he walked away rather than giving up more for less.

S&S wanted to buy ebook and print rights from me. I told them it would be at least 2 mil up front. We negotiated for the print rights after that, since they were far less valuable to me in terms of what I could earn over a 5-10 year period.  I probably could have sold the ebook rights also for money that people in this thread would die to see apparently, but I didn't... because it would have been bad business on my part.  I knew my number, based on previous sales and projected sales, and I stuck with it.  Michael is doing the same. He knows what his stuff is worth. The money amount doesn't matter... his audio is worth more to him than publishers are willing to pay for it and that's what matters. So he made the smart business decision that worked for him.  I'm glad he was willing to share the why and how of it with real numbers. That kind of information is golden for people who might find themselves in a similar position someday and wondering "is this worth it" etc.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: MattHaggis on June 07, 2017, 01:04:25 PM
Some of the responses in this thread are another example why some successful authors no longer post here.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Becca Mills on June 07, 2017, 01:44:11 PM
Some of the responses in this thread are another example why some successful authors no longer post here.

I'm not sure this thread is a pure example of that dynamic, as the past situation with the failed press seems to have tainted both Robin's and Michael's reputations, in the minds of some.

More generally ... not referring to anything in this thread, but using it as a vehicle to say something that's been on my mind for a while ... I'm glad there are so many successful authors who are willing to endure arguing, ignoring, or upset from a few in order help a much larger number of people who are respectful and appreciative, and who really want and need the help. The fact is, one never gets a 100% homogeneous audience in a public setting, so those looking for a universally ideal response to their attempts to help will always be disappointed. If you want to help, you have to do it despite the inevitable irritations. I understand why many people choose to avoid all irritants -- time and emotional energy are precious, etc. -- but it's wonderful that quite a few successful authors are willing to work through the annoyances and continue to help others here. Y'all know who you are. Thank you.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Dolphin on June 07, 2017, 06:41:51 PM
S&S wanted to buy ebook and print rights from me. I told them it would be at least 2 mil up front.

Out of curiosity, how did you arrive at the $2m figure for print and ebooks? What royalties would you have been trying to wrangle after the initial lump sum?

And for the record, I think Michael did have some tonal inconsistencies that brought folks out of the woodwork to say that it was unprofessional, or ungrateful, or out of touch. Saying that it "hurts" to lose $200k out of a $400k deal makes it real difficult for 99 percenters to relate. I think he could've used his words better in places.

I'm still grateful to him for his transparency, both now and going back many years. He's been a real good egg for our community.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Maia Sepp on June 07, 2017, 08:09:56 PM
Yep. Helpful and transparent. I don't understand the purpose of dissing people like Michael who were among the first to share information and empower authors. I'll add that just because you earn good money, that doesn't mean you somehow don't "deserve" more because you have enough. That's not really a businesslike attitude. 

Agreed. That's the level he's at, and he's transparent enough to actually state the numbers he's dealing with. I don't know anyone who'd leave $200k on the table, regardless of their current income level.

If you don't go into negotiations with a publisher knowing what you are worth and what rights you are and are not willing to part with (and a price in mind for those rights), I think you are going in to get fleeced, sorry.  What Michael did is good business. He knew what his rights are worth, he knew what he was and wasn't willing to sell, and when the time came, he walked away rather than giving up more for less.

S&S wanted to buy ebook and print rights from me. I told them it would be at least 2 mil up front. We negotiated for the print rights after that, since they were far less valuable to me in terms of what I could earn over a 5-10 year period.  I probably could have sold the ebook rights also for money that people in this thread would die to see apparently, but I didn't... because it would have been bad business on my part.  I knew my number, based on previous sales and projected sales, and I stuck with it.  Michael is doing the same. He knows what his stuff is worth. The money amount doesn't matter... his audio is worth more to him than publishers are willing to pay for it and that's what matters. So he made the smart business decision that worked for him.  I'm glad he was willing to share the why and how of it with real numbers. That kind of information is golden for people who might find themselves in a similar position someday and wondering "is this worth it" etc.

Totally agree.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Maia Sepp on June 07, 2017, 08:10:28 PM
Some of the responses in this thread are another example why some successful authors no longer post here.

+1
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: P.J. Post on June 07, 2017, 10:24:16 PM
First off, I don't know the OP, but I wish him all the luck in the world and hope everything works out for the best.

Quote
The amount is NOT the issue...

Respectfully...the amount is the only issue.

It's business, so unless one is running a charity or philanthropic organization, it's always about the money, both now, and in the future. If the offer is "reasonable" based upon expected future earnings over a "reasonable" time frame, then the time value of money kicks in and says take the deal. Yes, you might make more in the long run, but you might make less. It's a gamble. You conduct a cost/benefit analysis and project likely, best and worse case scenarios. Furthermore, opportunity costs in the form of lost future synergies needs to be accounted for, not only for this product line, but for the overall brand in general, which includes future product lines and sales opportunities for all products (ebook, print, audio, foreign rights, film, etc), for the potential life of the contract.

The evaluation should be resolved by math and probabilities, not by emotions or stands on principle.

To that end, the OP appears to have omitted significant data from the discussion. On the face of things, considering the big picture, it looked like a reasonable deal if not optimal, especially since Audible only pays 40% and he turned down 50%. But, perhaps he earns more through direct retailing, I don't know. And, at the end of the day, that's our collective problem about analyzing the OP's post, we don't have enough information to make a positive/negative determination, mainly because we don't know what his actual goals are. So again, as far as the audio rights go, the amount of the deal is the only issue, unless the audio conundrum is an excuse to remedy a different contractual concern.

I think the take away from this is that each of us has to make a determination of what deal is best for us, not for the community at large or what any other writer would do. Go with what works best for you. For example, a [crap] deal might be great, if it's enough to quit your day job and get you writing full time. We all have short term and long term goals, and they have their own unique requirements, which, are not only going to be different for each of us, they're going to be different throughout our careers too.

Again, I have no idea whether or not this was a good or bad deal, but I do hope he has made the best choice for his current and future business goals.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Annie B on June 07, 2017, 11:33:19 PM
Out of curiosity, how did you arrive at the $2m figure for print and ebooks? What royalties would you have been trying to wrangle after the initial lump sum?

And for the record, I think Michael did have some tonal inconsistencies that brought folks out of the woodwork to say that it was unprofessional, or ungrateful, or out of touch. Saying that it "hurts" to lose $200k out of a $400k deal makes it real difficult for 99 percenters to relate. I think he could've used his words better in places.

I'm still grateful to him for his transparency, both now and going back many years. He's been a real good egg for our community.

Royalties are pretty fixed in the trad world. I get 8% on my paperbacks and 10% on hard cover, if the advance ever earns out, which is likely won't (a lot of advances never earn out, one reason why it is important to get a good one since that might be all the money you ever see). Ebook royalties would have been about 17.5%.  I arrived at the 2 mil figure because those books have already earned me over 800k in less than 3 years, so giving up all the rights to them (especially the ebook rights, which are where most of that money comes from) for 10+ years most likely (since it's unlikely the rights would revert inside that time), the money up front to me would have to be worth the loss of potential earnings on my own.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Huldra on June 08, 2017, 03:14:08 AM
If you don't go into negotiations with a publisher knowing what you are worth and what rights you are and are not willing to part with (and a price in mind for those rights), I think you are going in to get fleeced, sorry.  What Michael did is good business. He knew what his rights are worth, he knew what he was and wasn't willing to sell, and when the time came, he walked away rather than giving up more for less.

S&S wanted to buy ebook and print rights from me. I told them it would be at least 2 mil up front. We negotiated for the print rights after that, since they were far less valuable to me in terms of what I could earn over a 5-10 year period.  I probably could have sold the ebook rights also for money that people in this thread would die to see apparently, but I didn't... because it would have been bad business on my part.  I knew my number, based on previous sales and projected sales, and I stuck with it.  Michael is doing the same. He knows what his stuff is worth. The money amount doesn't matter... his audio is worth more to him than publishers are willing to pay for it and that's what matters. So he made the smart business decision that worked for him.  I'm glad he was willing to share the why and how of it with real numbers. That kind of information is golden for people who might find themselves in a similar position someday and wondering "is this worth it" etc.

I want to be you when I grow up.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: MattHaggis on June 08, 2017, 03:56:32 AM
To that end, the OP appears to have omitted significant data from the discussion. On the face of things, considering the big picture, it looked like a reasonable deal if not optimal, especially since Audible only pays 40% and he turned down 50%.

ACX pays 40%, Audible Studios pays 15% to authors who sign direct, I'm not sure what Audible pays to other audiobook producers. Michael did not turn down 50%, he turned down 50% of what his publisher would have received, after the audiobook producer they signed took their cut of what was given to them by retailers. That is the main issue he had: the publisher takes 50% for merely signing a contract with an audiobook producer.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Dolphin on June 08, 2017, 04:20:19 AM
Thanks for sharing, Annie!

ACX pays 40%, Audible Studios pays 15% to authors who sign direct, I'm not sure what Audible pays to other audiobook producers. Michael did not turn down 50%, he turned down 50% of what his publisher would have received, after the audiobook producer they signed took their cut of what was given to them by retailers. That is the main issue he had: the publisher takes 50% for merely signing a contract with an audiobook producer.

That was how I read it too. I can't fathom that he was getting 50% of the gross out of a publisher and came to view it as some kind of a raw deal.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Jana DeLeon on June 08, 2017, 04:29:43 AM
First off, I don't know the OP, but I wish him all the luck in the world and hope everything works out for the best.

Respectfully...the amount is the only issue.


Did you read my post? My comment is that the amount is not the issue that other people should focus on when calling him stupid, greedy, ______. That is no one's business. What someone receives for the product THEY produce that DIRECTLY produces all the income is never anyone's business. And if the 99% want to get their backs up and think someone is whatever for turning down a crap contract, then they might find themselves in the 99% forever.

If a publisher is making, let's just say, 5 mil off an author's book, how much should that author receive? 60k? Because that's reasonable and no one needs more than that? Again, the percentage of the profit that the author receives is the issue. I personally think the artist should always receive the most and if NY changed their business model, authors could.

Also, you don't know what Audible pays, but no one I know is getting 40%. It's less. And that 50% is 50% OF the 40% you think the publisher is getting. So much, much less.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Jana DeLeon on June 08, 2017, 04:34:57 AM
Some of the responses in this thread are another example why some successful authors no longer post here.

You are exactly right. When people have worked their butts off to reach a certain level, people telling them they have no right to ask for the money they've earned are a huge reason successful people leave. I'm tired of hearing I don't need more. Everyone is supposed to be running a business and all business deal should maximize bottom line. Anything else is amateur hour.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Elizabeth Ann West on June 08, 2017, 07:17:34 AM
That is not at all what those of us who objected said. I never said he didn't deserve the money. I was trying to say there is no "evil publisher" here and "white knight indie."

And yeah, long memory here, character matters. I hold 2 things to be irrevocable flaws:  plaigarizing someone or keeping money rightfully owed to authors.

The amount of money someone makes doesn't make me suddenly think they are amazing, wonderful, smart or clever. Are any of us lining up to take advice from (insert megasellling book here that collectively people think is crap)?. No. The idea of 'well that's a lot of money so it must be okay" gets us a ton of really shady business practices in our peers.

I am so tired of oh the big people don't post anymore... Plenty of talented and caring people still post on Kboards, and evey time that's whined about people are being rather rude to those still here. The reality is a lot of fortunes in this business are made by screwing others over or breaking rules or laws because someone doesn't get caught.

And yeah going back yesterday and rereading what happened with Rirdan press and Ann Crispin.... I am just galled people are sitting here acting like it was mean old kboads that made the Sullivans stop posting.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:01:40 AM
https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/6f1v96/why_del_rey_and_i_will_be_parting_ways/

Hey there, just learned right now that this reddit post was also being talked about here. I'd be glad to answer any questions, and I'll also be going through the existing posts and commenting.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:02:47 AM
I wonder if they'll move on to insisting on foreign/translation rights at some point.

I do think that will be the next shoe to drop.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:05:40 AM
I'm glad that he's laying the groundwork to get the other books in the series out, one way or another.  His fans won't care if the novels are indie pubbed.

Today's self-publishing environment makes it impossible for traditional publishers to "kill the rest of the series" (which wasn't always the case in the past. I do think my readership will still want to read these books, and of course my income per book will be higher, so it may just be the best thing that could have happened.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:08:33 AM
I think other publishers are going to be falling in line and doing the same thing. They want the audio rights but they're not prepared to pay more for them. I'm sorry it didn't work out for him, but I think he made the right decision.

In my genre, scifi and fantasy, it may have already happened. I know Harper Voyager has had a "no audio no deal" policy for some time. Orbit (Hachette Book Group imprint) has always said audio was a "deal breaker" on my two contracts with them. I'm not sure if that was a "corporate" decision or merely an inability on the part of my agent to "shake it free." But I do think that if they aren't already, it won't be long before all five are locked down when it comes to audio rights.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:10:04 AM
The full reddit thread is well worth a read. Thanks for posting it. It's nice of Michael Sullivan to share his experiences.

I'mv very much a believer in "transparency" and if my own experiences can help other authors, then I'm glad to help.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:11:23 AM
He used to post here, back in the day. It's a shame about the audio rights stuff, the "big whatever" just want it all, and don't really want to pay for it. I think with his fan base, he'll do fine on his own and I wish him the best.

Thanks for the well-wishes. It has been a long time since I've been in and around kboards, and it's good to be back. I recommend this forum to so many authors I talk to - you guys have a great community here.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:14:48 AM
Publishers are in the business of acquiring and exploiting rights. They'd be fools to ignore money on the table.

Yes, and no. Acquiring a right and paying FMV for it is one thing. My books are VERY profitable, so many have wondered why they would walk way from such a thing. The answer is simple. By making a "blanket" rights grab they'll lose out with some authors (like me that they have to cut loose) but they will earn so much more by twisting the arms where people who don't have the same self-publishing savvy as me are forced to give over something for either (free) or far less than what others will pay.  Overall this "policy" hurts rather than helps authors and that is always a bad thing in my book.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:16:10 AM
The more writers that detail tradpub's lousy deals, the better informed writers will be to make decisions that are best for their business.

Exactly!  That's precisely why I made the post in the first place.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:19:47 AM
Yeah, he will.  He sold those audio rights for seven figures which made walking away from the print contract well worth it.

Yeah, that's a heck of a safety net.  It is unfortunate, though, as I like my team at Del Rey and I want to do more business with them. In some ways, I'd be willing to take a lower advance (which I would expect to earn out) for the print/ebook side of things - that would benefit them, but to not want any part of the books is being done merely because a "blanket" policy (without exceptions) will allow many other authors be in a position to take less for more rights transferred.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:29:15 AM
Is he the one who's wife ran a publishing company that didn't close very well because his books took off?

I don't think you have your facts right on this front. To be clear. My wife had a publishing company (a company by the way that paid the authors 80%-90% while Robin took only 10%-20%.  And yes, she decided to close it.  But she setup accounts for each of her authors at Amazon & B&N, uploaded copies of their books (allowing to keep the same covers), and then turned the accounts over to them so they continued to get 100% of the profit without any additional work. Yes, there was a period (directly after her father's death when she had to go across the country to deal with his final affairs) when some royalty payments were late, but every author was paid 100% of what was owed. Do they do as well on their own then when she was around to market them?  For most, no, but she wasn't able to lead any kind of life because she always concerned that any time "for herself...or my books" was doing a disservice to those other authors."

Regardless, I don't find the tone and content very professional. He's mad the publisher he works with wants to...stay in business?

I'm not the least bit mad. Disappointed, sure. But my post was made to tell other authors about a shift in the industry that they should be aware of. I WANT PRH to stay in business, I have no ill-will to them. I realize that we both want control over a very valuable asset. In this case I get to win that battle. Other authors, especially those that can't or won't self-publish might not be in such an advantageous position.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:37:36 AM
This is not a swindle; it's buyer's remorse. By his own admission, no one tricked him. He knowingly took the deal that included audio because, at the time, he wanted the Del Rey print deal more than he wanted to preserve his audio rights. Now that he's doing better, he wishes he hadn't. But would he be in the same place if he hadn't? Who knows? This sort of thinking leads only to resentment, which has never done anyone any good.

I never said it was a "swindle" nor do I have any "buyers remorse" with regards to my dealings with Del Rey. I'm merely talking about a "corporate change" that authors need to be aware of.  I'm not resentful...yes I wish I could have kept the audio rights for my two Hachette deals...and yes, I think them getting $200,000 for signing a pieces a piece of paper (a subsidiary deal that was put before them) is not a fair distribution of income to level of effort. It took me a decade to write the books, they spent a few weeks in editing and cover design. But, yes, I fully take responsibility for signing the original deals and don't regret them in the least. You are attributing some emotions to me that just simply don't exist.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:39:19 AM
I reread the reddit post. I don't think there's buyer's remorse here. It sounds like Michael and Robin sold the audio rights to some of the newer books before negotiating with Del Rey for the print rights, and made it clear to Del Rey that the audio rights aren't open to negotiation, but Del Rey refuses to waive that part of it. So even though Del Rey wants to do business with Michael for print rights on the new stuff, the dictates from on high in Del Rey means they can't.

Yes, you have it the right of it.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 09:41:37 AM
The tone of this thread is really... interesting. Michael J. Sullivan was one of the first indie fantasy writers, if not one of the first indies in general, to really take off and leverage their indie success into a much wider business model. He's always been incredibly transparent about how and why he conducts his business the way he does (look in this very forum to find out why he signed with Orbit to begin with), and been an invaluable resource for hundreds of indie writers dating back to at least 2013. I don't see buyers remorse here, or anyone complaining. He's simply writing a letter to his fans and fellow indies explaining why they won't be able to find his books in B&N, Powells, etc. anymore.

Thank you for that. I was a bit surprised to see comments about me being bitter in this post. It's certainly not reflective of my feelings, and my intention on posting was to help others and I'm not sure why so much negativity is being expressed.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Craig Andrews on June 08, 2017, 09:56:47 AM
Thank you for that. I was a bit surprised to see comments about me being bitter in this post. It's certainly not reflective of my feelings, and my intention on posting was to help others and I'm not sure why so much negativity is being expressed.

You're welcome, Michael. It was watching your success and listening to your interviews on the old Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing Podcast that gave me the confidence to step into the indie game in the first place. I think a lot of the negative posts in this thread came from a simple misunderstanding of the chain of events, so I wanted to chime in with my 2 cents (though I'm probably up to at least a dollar now :-)) and help clear up any misunderstandings. Anyway, thank you for coming back to the Kboards -- it's been a while.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Jim Johnson on June 08, 2017, 10:06:30 AM
Thanks for coming back and responding, Michael. I've enjoyed your books and the workshops you and Robin run in the DC metro area. Looking forward to your next work.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: P.J. Post on June 08, 2017, 10:54:17 AM
I think I misunderstood the OP. So, please, someone correct me if I'm still misunderstanding.

Michael decided that, as great as they are, Del Rey did not offer an additional $200k worth of brand enrichment.

So, he didn't refuse a $200k deal, he refused to share the $400k he already had contractually in hand.

Right?
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Jerry S. on June 08, 2017, 11:08:46 AM
I think I misunderstood the OP. So, please, someone correct me if I'm still misunderstanding.

Michael decided that, as great as they are, Del Rey did not offer an additional $200k worth of brand enrichment.

So, he didn't refuse a $200k deal, he refused to share the $400k he already had contractually in hand.

Right?

Michael can clear this up better than me, but I think it was this:

1) He had the previous $400k audible rights deal where he left $200k on the table.
2) He learned from that deal that he was leaving a lot of money on the table
3) In his NEW deal, he negotiated the audible rights right off the bat for 7 figures
4) Since he had done #3, he later learned that Del Ray was now prevented from entering into print contract negotiations with him (by RP).

He's not trying to back out of the $400k deal. That's already baked in.

He's just saying that that $400k deal made him realize how much money there was to be made and he wised up with his next contract.

And because of him doing that, he found out that RP is not even going to consider contracts that do not include the audible rights.

Which is why he is no longer with Del Rey.

Which is why he posted in Reddit (to clear the air and also to educate)
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Cassie Leigh on June 08, 2017, 11:14:19 AM
Actually, I think there was one more step to it.

1. Audio rights originally sold for only $2,000
2. When the contract was renewed it was for $400K
3. Because of how trade deals are structured, all subright sales done by the publisher are split 50/50
4. What wasn't a big deal when it was $2K became one when it was now $400K
5. Knowing his value had gone up, Michael sold the audio rights to the next series himself for seven figures
6. Publisher refused a print deal because audio wasn't available

Michael, how do you think they'd handle a potential hybrid author who has put their books into audio?  Does that mean that any self-pubbed series that's already in audio and locked up for seven years because of audio terms is no longer a consideration for a print deal with one of the Big 5?
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: P.J. Post on June 08, 2017, 11:18:26 AM
Thanks Jerry. That was not clear at all from the OP.

But I'm still confused, I have no idea what the lesson is here. Given that publishers want ALL of the rights...

Do we horde our rights for maximum leverage or parcel them off to the highest bidder?
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Usedtoposthere on June 08, 2017, 11:27:23 AM
Thanks Jerry. That was not clear at all from the OP.

But I'm still confused, I have no idea what the lesson is here. Given that publishers want ALL of the rights...

Do we horde our rights for maximum leverage or parcel them off to the highest bidder?
Depends where you are, how much power you have, and what your own priorities are, surely.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: P.J. Post on June 08, 2017, 11:58:50 AM
Depends where you are, how much power you have, and what your own priorities are, surely.

But that wasn't the point of this thread. Michael said he wanted to educate (I think that's how he said it) and others have thanked him for his transparency and for sharing.

I don't know what has been shared. Publishers have always wanted as many rights as they can grab, for as little as possible. That's not breaking news.

So, the business options appear to be:

Do we horde our rights for maximum leverage or parcel them off to the highest bidder?

What's the lesson? What am I missing?
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Becca Mills on June 08, 2017, 12:04:43 PM
But that wasn't the point of this thread. Michael said he wanted to educate (I think that's how he said it) and others have thanked him for his transparency and for sharing.

I don't know what has been shared. Publishers have always wanted as many rights as they can grab, for as little as possible. That's not breaking news.

So, the business options appear to be:

Do we horde our rights for maximum leverage or parcel them off to the highest bidder?

What's the lesson? What am I missing?

That in the past he was able to get a major traditional publisher to give him a not-including-audio deal, and now that same publisher is totally unwilling to consider such deals. He feels the industry's stance on the issue has hardened. For people considering seeking a traditional deal, it could be useful to know that selling audio off separately is probably not going to be possible.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: PaulineMRoss on June 08, 2017, 12:07:05 PM
What's the lesson? What am I missing?

I think the big change is that the big publishers not only want audiobook rights as part of a deal, but they've now made them non-negotiable. Previously, you could work up a deal without them, now you can't. It's a policy change, and anyone dealing with (or expecting to deal with) any of the big publishers should be aware of that.

ETA Ninja'd.  ;D
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: P.J. Post on June 08, 2017, 12:09:36 PM
That in the past he was able to get a major traditional publisher to give him a not-including-audio deal, and now that same publisher is totally unwilling to consider such deals. He feels the industry's stance on the issue has hardened. For people considering seeking a traditional deal, it could be useful to know that selling audio off separately is probably not going to be possible.

I think the big change is that the big publishers not only want audiobook rights as part of a deal, but they've now made them non-negotiable. Previously, you could work up a deal without them, now you can't. It's a policy change, and anyone dealing with (or expecting to deal with) any of the big publishers should be aware of that.

ETA Ninja'd.  ;D

Thank you.  :)
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: MattHaggis on June 08, 2017, 03:12:11 PM
That is not at all what those of us who objected said. I never said he didn't deserve the money. I was trying to say there is no "evil publisher" here and "white knight indie."

And yeah, long memory here, character matters. I hold 2 things to be irrevocable flaws:  plaigarizing someone or keeping money rightfully owed to authors.

The amount of money someone makes doesn't make me suddenly think they are amazing, wonderful, smart or clever. Are any of us lining up to take advice from (insert megasellling book here that collectively people think is crap)?. No. The idea of 'well that's a lot of money so it must be okay" gets us a ton of really shady business practices in our peers.

I am so tired of oh the big people don't post anymore... Plenty of talented and caring people still post on Kboards, and evey time that's whined about people are being rather rude to those still here. The reality is a lot of fortunes in this business are made by screwing others over or breaking rules or laws because someone doesn't get caught.

And yeah going back yesterday and rereading what happened with Rirdan press and Ann Crispin.... I am just galled people are sitting here acting like it was mean old kboads that made the Sullivans stop posting.

Perhaps you'd care to explain how your view of one person's character is transferable to a completely different person's character.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: NeedWant on June 08, 2017, 03:29:14 PM
Some of the responses in this thread are another example why some successful authors no longer post here.

I'm the first to admit that I pay closer attention when successful authors share data and give advice, but this idea that just because someone is successful they're above being questioned is harmful. If an author (successful or not) is that sensitive that they can't handle others not praising everything they say, then a public forum is probably not the right place for them.

(Note: I'm talking in general terms here. I'm not talking about Michael Sullivan specifically.)
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: AllyWho on June 08, 2017, 03:56:33 PM
I'm the first to admit that I pay closer attention when successful authors share data and give advice, but this idea that just because someone is successful they're above being questioned is harmful.

So much this ^
A lot of people on the k-boards sung the praises of Rebecca Hamilton because she's "successful" and how many people had their KDP accounts banned because of her methodologies or have lost large amounts of money? I also listen when authors far above me share their results, but I also question methods and practices to determine what sits with me ethically and how I chose to run my business.

I find it disturbing that some k-boarders are now gloating that they have [quieted] experienced voices in this thread who were sharing their dissenting views. A shame that some people cannot engage in discussion with multiple POVs but feel they have to be rude to and insult those that don't follow the pack mind.



Edited ... because the post Alice is referring to here is gone. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (http://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Usedtoposthere on June 08, 2017, 04:20:31 PM
So much this ^
A lot of people on the k-boards sung the praises of Rebecca Hamilton because she's "successful" and how many people had their KDP accounts banned because of her methodologies or have lost large amounts of money? I also listen when authors far above me share their results, but I also question methods and practices to determine what sits with me ethically and how I chose to run my business.

I find it disturbing that some k-boarders are now gloating that they have [quieted] experienced voices in this thread who were sharing their dissenting views. A shame that some people cannot engage in discussion with multiple POVs but feel they have to be rude to and insult those that don't follow the pack mind.


Edited ... because the post Alice is referring to here is gone. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca (http://www.kboards.com/index.php?action=pm;sa=send;u=59615)
I will speak for myself. I sell well and do very well in indie publishing, and I have for years. BUT I am nowhere near Michael's level, and I've never had to make those kinds of decisions. I do have some hope of one day having to do that, though, so I was grateful for the information he shared about his decision-making process in this.

The thing is--I'm not qualified to have a "point of view" about Michael's decision-making process. I'm not in his shoes. OK, maybe I would have taken the money and run. I guess I could say that, but I'm not sure how helpful that is to others. What I can do is take in the information about publishers' hardening stance on audio rights, just as I was very interested to hear that Annie B sold her print-only rights in this market for a very good sum. Useful information, I hope, someday. (Well, not the print stuff, not in romance, but still.) In fact, I've recently made some decisions on the basis of things I've learned about the audio market due to just this kind of sharing.

And I just don't see any reason to make comments about somebody's character in a situation like this. This isn't a case of somebody who's flogging promos that skirt TOS or engaging in bad behavior that hurts authors. This is somebody sharing his decision-making process about a particular publishing decision.

What some are objecting to here is not the discussion of "what would you do?" but a nastiness of tone from a few posters implying that Michael somehow doesn't "deserve" to make any more because he does well. It's awfully hard to see that tone stemming from anything but envy. There can also be an attitude that somehow an author doesn't know her genre or the market, or that she isn't any more qualified to comment on it than anybody else, which is, well, kinda laughable. Look, if somebody's making mid-six to seven (or eight) figures a year--they're probably doing some things right. But THAT attitude is what makes some successful authors not want to post here. I know I ran up against some of this recently in one of the very few threads I've started. It isn't many folks, but it's some, and it can leave a bad taste in your mouth. I saw it with Hugh Howey, I'm seeing it in this thread with Michael, and in my smaller way, I've come across it myself. It kinda stinks.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Jeff Tanyard on June 08, 2017, 05:18:34 PM
Thanks for the well-wishes. It has been a long time since I've been in and around kboards, and it's good to be back. I recommend this forum to so many authors I talk to - you guys have a great community here.

Nice to see you back here, man.  :)
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 05:41:55 PM
It's also worth noting that quite possibly, a publisher can negotiate a fatter deal for the audio rights than an author can. In fact, quite probably.

No, I can't see any way in which a publisher can get a better deal than myself. The more "hands in the pie" the smaller the author's share.  With my first two contracts there are 4 people: Audible, Recorded Books, Orbit and myself -- my share is 3.5%.  In the deals that are done directly with audible the author gets 15% (I actually get more than that but I'm not at liberty to say my exact royalty). But even at the "standard rate" that's 428% than when a publisher is involved.

Aren't authors doing deals right now directly that only give them 40% of the audio, anyway?
 

The only 40% royalty that I'm familiar with is when an author self-publishes with ACX AND assumes 100% of the production costs AND agrees to exclusive distribution with Audible. Most authors can't afford the $10,000 or so upfront costs so they take a deal where they split the costs with the audio producer and that takes them to 20%.

The reason the Harlequin authors sued a few years ago was not because they only got 50% of a sub rights deal (the standard percentage), but because through fairly devious means, they got far, far less.

Yes 50% of sub rights is actually 3.5% of income produced.  Audible takes 65% and the audio producer gets 35%. Of that 35% the main publisher can get 15% - 20% of the audio producer's cut.  And then they share that with the author at a 50/50 split.  So the ACTUAL royalty to the author (if you don't count the agent's fee) is 50% of 20% of 35% = 3.5%

And if everybody was so determined to include audio in the deal and actually do the deal, why couldn't Del Rey or Sullivan buy the rights back from whoever? 

The print/ebook is generally considered the "main right" and the "audio is the smaller piece of the pie. While my audio sales are stronger than most, that's still true in my case.  The print/ebook sales are about 60% and the audio is about 40% (Most authors are 90%/10%).  My print/ebook sales on a per book basis for the first books of that series were at about 40% of what the audio company was offering me.  So to "buy back" that right from the audio company they would have to offer "pony up" much, much more money than they were already paying. And since I only get 50% they would have to double that offer for me to "make the same money.  So, for me to get the same money from "just Del Rey" by them assuming the "Audible Studios amount" would require them to raise their advance by 600%.  There is NO WAY they could afford to do that.

At the same time, Kensington recently bought some of Marie Force's romances that have already sold many copies in ebook and paperback, strictly self-published, to do its own print run and mass distribution.

So...I think this Del Rey thing is specific to this author's situation and to Del Rey, not to all trad publishers.

Kensington is not in the big-five (nor is it's parent St. Martin's) the "independent presses" like Kensington are being more creative than the big-five in their deal making, I'm actually starting a conversation with Kensington. The policy that I'm warning about is specific to the "big-five" which seems to act in a very "cartel-like" manner. In other words, they all insisted on ebook+print several years back. They all insist on 25% of net for ebook royalties, and I suspect if they haven't already we'll soon see that all of the big-five will adopt the "auidio" or "no deal" policy.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 05:42:57 PM
I think you're misinterpreting what he's saying. My read is that he's discussing why he's not going with Del Rey for his books, using audio as the pivotal reason. There doesn't seem to be a lack of professionalism, rather an understanding of value and business sense. Good for him for understanding his leverage.

Yes, that's the way I see it indeed. Thanks for the show of support.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 05:47:13 PM
Yeah, that's how I read it as well: as information sharing about the shrinking likelihood of being able to sell a book/series to a big publisher without including audio rights. He got a sweet audio-not-included deal with Del Rey for the first three books in a series, was really happy with the deal and with Del Rey, and expected to be able to get the same deal for Books 4 and 5, along with a new series, but the publisher is no longer willing to do it. He's FYIing people about that. It seems like good info to have, for authors who are in Michael's league and might be contemplating deals like this.

Yes, exactly.

Of course Del Rey needs to make money, but they may have to adjust their current approach, given authors' ability to walk away from the table, as Michael has done. That might mean giving authors more than 50% of the take when contracted audio rights are resold. Or maybe Michael is an outlier, and others won't walk away. Who knows? Either way, I think it's interesting news.

To be 100% clear I didn't "walk away" I wasn't able to set down at the table. The post was meant to tell authors that they may be in a position to HAVE TO give up audio + print + ebook for a big-five deal...but it was also a cautionary tale that if they did sell their audio rights first (a technique I had used successfully before) then you may be orphaning your print/ebook rights from the traditional publishers.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 05:50:25 PM
Agreed. And thanks Michael, for sharing your experiences. You certainly don't have to.

You are welcome. One of the reasons I shifted from self to traditional was to get an accurate picture of what goes on behind the scenes. I've heard all kinds of stories, but the only way to be 100% sure is to see things for yourself. I've always made a point of sharing what I've found, whether that be a career-killing non-compete clause, the fact that the "out of print" thresholds are ridiculously low, or that there is now rights-grabs going on with audio.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 05:58:29 PM
At the risk of repeating myself, I'm not seeing how getting no income from no rights is ever better for the balance sheet than getting some income from some rights. Sure, RP would have gotten more income from including the audio rights, but it's hard not to see the outcome they ended up with as a net loss.

I must say that I scratched my head at this one as well. They are already making a very good profit on my current books in the print + ebook rights. There is no reason to suspect that won't continue to do so with the last half of the series. So why wouldn't they take "some profit" even if they can't get "it all."

I think the thing you have to realize is the "no exception policy" will result in many, many, many contracts WITH audio rights attached and letting go of my "good" but not "earth-shattering" income pales in comparison when stacked up against all those other contracts.  People on this sub are already incredibly savvy about self-publishing, but many traditionally published authors are not.  For them, the thought of turning down a deal to go self is nearly unthinkable. Plus, they probably don't even realize what the value of their audio rights are.  After all, the only reason I knew this is I sold them first.  So, the end result is. Yeah, we'll lose the profit on Michael and a few authors that realize their audio is lucrative, but we'll be "handed over" (sometimes with no additional advance, sometimes with a small additional advance) a lot of audio income because authors will HAVE TO turn it over.  And if all the publishers play the same ball, there will be no where else for the authors to go except for "independent publishers" or self-publishing.

Since my original post went live, I heard from another author who had a $400,000 print+ebook deal and a $250,000 audio deal. As the paperwork was in process, the CEO told the acquiring editor that audio would have to be part of the deal.  The agent of this author said, "Okay, fine.  Then you'll be giving us $650,000 right?" They said, "No, but we will increase it to $500,000).  So the author would have to lose $150,000 from what they had originally expected from this book.  In the end the deal fell apart. But it further confirms that (a) the big-five (this one was not PRH), is insisting on audio and (b) they are not willing to increase the advances to the FMV of those rights.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 06:00:59 PM
But is this anything new?

Considering they were fine with no audio for the first books in the contract, the fact that audio was a "deal breaker" for the ending books in the series...and that it isn't anything they can even negotiate (due to mandates from the corporate level) seems "new" to me.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 06:04:06 PM
the whole thing ended quite badly. I'm not sure why it matters in the context of this thread, though.

I wouldn't agree with the characterization that it "ended badly." Robin realized that she spread too thin and couldn't continue operating that way so she reverted the rights, helped the authors get their books setup to sell on their own and paid everyone 80% - 90% of all sales. I think that it "ending" was unfortunate, but I don't know how she could have made the transition any better, nor do I know of any other publisher who offered such impressive royalties to their authors.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 06:08:29 PM
Any business minded author should do a similar analysis. I think it's great he's sharing how much other audio publishers are offering. His audio rights are worth more than signing away entire rights, knowing he won't have bookstore access. That tells you how much the audio market has expanded. That's incredibly helpful information for him to share.

Thats exactly why I shared..so that other authors can (a) be aware and (b) factor in the increasingly valuable audio rights before they just "hand them over."
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Betsy the Quilter on June 08, 2017, 06:12:48 PM
Michael--

Welcome back!  Thanks for your responses here!

Betsy
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 06:13:32 PM
You're getting blinded by the dollar signs and missing his point. Does it really matter how much he made? Whether it was 200 grand or 200 million? What matters is what percentage he got for giving up his audio rights and whether in the long run the publishers actually deserved that amount for the value they gave him. Isn't that what all authors should consider when going into any type of deal? As for the kickstarter issue - I have no idea what it's about but it has nothing to do with the matter under discussion.

Agreed. And because some people have confused things...the "subsidiary" thing was with my Hachette contracts, not my Del Rey contracts (which have no audio component). My point was, all they needed to do was "sign a piece of paper" (it was Recorded books that approached  them) and for that they've received half of all the audio income that has been earned and that amount just jumped by $400,000.  I'm not saying I didn't willingly sign that deal, none of us knew the audio would one day be that high, but I do think that the "income of the book" should be distributed in a way that values both parties and for the 30 minutes of of work to review and sign that subsidiary deal Hachette made a heck of a lot of money compared to the decade of work I spent writing the books. 
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 06:17:39 PM
Bottom line - publishers are worse than ever on the rights grab thing and authors need to be very careful about what they sign away. The more people who bring these points up, the more newer authors are informed of what to look for and what to ask for. 

Yes, exactly!

The amount is NOT the issue and all the "I wish I had that problem" sort of posts just sound like sour grapes and is one of the biggest reasons that successful authors stop posting here. The only thing that matters is the percentage of profit that publishers are hoarding rather than paying the creator a fair amount for the existence of the product that is supporting everyone. I'm sorry if some of you think the author should be the lowest paid in that scenario. I've alway had a problem with that setup, especially when I was trade pubbed and there were no other options, taking pennies for my work when the other 92% was going to pay for high rises in NYC.

Agreed. Trade publishing has always undervalued the author, who is the MOST responsible for the book's success. It's disheartening to see that yet another step has been taken to make it harder for the content creator to earn a decent living.  I thought this would be something authors should know about, and so I posted.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 06:24:00 PM
The issue here is that he's not walking away from Del Rey because of that contract.

Yes you are 100% correct  I didn't walk away from anything! I was locked out because I sold the audio first. Both Del Rey and I WANT to do business together and if Del Rey were allowed to write a contract without audio, we could.

The reason for the post was two-fold. (1) be aware that audio rights are very lucrative these days so before you "hand them over" as a bundled ebook+audio+print deal - you might want to see what you're giving up and (2) For authors to be aware that if they sell audio first they won't be able to get a contract from PRH for print+ebook.  For me, who has a lot of self-publishing experience this isn't a huge problem.  For someone who has been traditionally published and wishes to continue I don't want them to screw themselves by selling a right that makes them "locked out" as well.

Many people in this thread seem to think he's unhappy with his current deal and trying to renegotiate to gain exclusive audio rights, which isn't the case at all. His current deal is for print and eBook only, with him having sold his audio rights before he sold his print and eBook rights to Del Rey. The publisher is the party trying to renegotiate and force the author to take a different deal, which would result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sullivan is not trying to renegotiate for more money, but prevent the publisher from taking 50% of audio sales in which he's currently earning 100%.

Yes, exactly!

My concern with this thread and the tone of some of the replies is that this isn't a matter of opinion, it's a matter of misrepresented or misunderstood facts.

I do think some people have misunderstood the situation. Thanks for helping to clarify the actual situation.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 06:27:49 PM
Agreed all around. I'd rather not go back to the good old bad old days when people didn't share their contracts and royalties and newbs were pretty much in the dark. I think that sharing has been a key part of more writers earning more money than ever before.

Indeed. When I started in publishing, there was so very little known about basic things such as "how many books sold is considered "good." What should I expect for an advance? Heck, I was completely blind-sided when my first traditional contract had a term of "life of copyright" - little did I know that was universal for the big-five - I could hardly believe it.

Forums like Writer's Cafe, and the whole indie movement, has done great things to shine a light in the dark. And I've done my own fair share of pulling back the veil. I do think it helps authors to be well informed.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 06:32:05 PM
S&S wanted to buy ebook and print rights from me. I told them it would be at least 2 mil up front. We negotiated for the print rights after that, since they were far less valuable to me in terms of what I could earn over a 5-10 year period.  I probably could have sold the ebook rights also for money that people in this thread would die to see apparently, but I didn't... because it would have been bad business on my part.  I knew my number, based on previous sales and projected sales, and I stuck with it. 

Well done! And yeah, we are both doing what all authors should do. (1) Know your worth (2) Maximize your income and if a publisher is part of that equation - then by all means partner with them but if they aren't giving you FMV - then no reason not to produce the books yourself.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 06:40:31 PM
To that end, the OP appears to have omitted significant data from the discussion. On the face of things, considering the big picture, it looked like a reasonable deal if not optimal, especially since Audible only pays 40% and he turned down 50%. But, perhaps he earns more through direct retailing, I don't know. And, at the end of the day, that's our collective problem about analyzing the OP's post, we don't have enough information to make a positive/negative determination, mainly because we don't know what his actual goals are. So again, as far as the audio rights go, the amount of the deal is the only issue, unless the audio conundrum is an excuse to remedy a different contractual concern.

Let me make the various royalties 100% clear because it's easy to be confused.

* If published through ACX AND the author pays for production costs AND they will do an exclusive deal is the only time they'll see 40% (and this is of net BTW).

* The 50% is 50% of what the publisher receives which is 20% of what the organization who bought the subsidiary right from them receives which is 35% of net royalty - if you do that math it's 3.5%. Now some publishers don't sell the audio as a subsidiary, they use their in-house production teams. So in this case the author gets 20% (or sometimes 25%) of what the publisher gets which is 35% (because Audible keeps 65%.  So that is 7% to 8.75%

* If the author negotiates directly with Audible Studios they "generally" get 15% (which is higher than any of the above scenarios that involve a print/ebook publisher. I'm sure that 15% is standard and some authors earn less (maybe 10%) and some earn more -- I do but I can't publicly say what that number is.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 06:43:41 PM
ACX pays 40%, Audible Studios pays 15% to authors who sign direct, I'm not sure what Audible pays to other audiobook producers. Michael did not turn down 50%, he turned down 50% of what his publisher would have received, after the audiobook producer they signed took their cut of what was given to them by retailers. That is the main issue he had: the publisher takes 50% for merely signing a contract with an audiobook producer.

Yes exactly. In my Hachette contract (which sold the audio as a subsidiary right) I get 50% of 20% of 35% which is 3.5% (well actually 2.975% because of my agent's 15%) when an author sells the audio rights directly to Audible Studios they make 15% as you already noted.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 06:53:40 PM
That was how I read it too. I can't fathom that he was getting 50% of the gross out of a publisher and came to view it as some kind of a raw deal.

Yes, you are correct I was getting 50% (left over from my print/ebook publisher) of 20% (which the audio producer pays my publisher) of 35% (which audible pays the audio producer) which is 3.5%. Look, I get it that I have "first world problems" and I also get that I signed that first contract with audio rights attached and no one held a gun to my head. But I also don't feel that the publisher did anything to "value" add for their cut. At the time, the advance was $2,000 a book ($6,000 total). And NONE of us thought the audio on those contracts were worth much.  Since the "extension" hasn't come in yet, the total audio income have been about 3.2 million of which I've earned $95,200. I have THE MOST invested in that project - I wrote it over 10 years. The publisher edited it for 8 weeks and the audio producer did the recording over 4 weeks. So, yeah, kill me, I can't help thinking that the income isn't equity distributed based on "work performed."  I doubt if you were in my shoes you would feel any differently.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 06:58:53 PM
And yeah going back yesterday and rereading what happened with Rirdan press and Ann Crispin.... I am just galled people are sitting here acting like it was mean old kboads that made the Sullivans stop posting.

Ann Crispin had to wait 3 extra weeks to get her royalty check because Robin was in California when her father died suddenly and she was the only one of the children who could go there and take are of his affairs. She was paid 100% of what she was owed, and if you don't believe me, send an email to Ann's husband. He'll verify that was the case. People love to "think" they know what happens in certain situations but they rarely know the whole of it.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 07:04:19 PM
You're welcome, Michael. It was watching your success and listening to your interviews on the old Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing Podcast that gave me the confidence to step into the indie game in the first place. I think a lot of the negative posts in this thread came from a simple misunderstanding of the chain of events, so I wanted to chime in with my 2 cents (though I'm probably up to at least a dollar now :-)) and help clear up any misunderstandings. Anyway, thank you for coming back to the Kboards -- it's been a while.

It's great to be back. Robin gives free seminars to authors in the Washington DC area and she's always singing the praises of kboards for new authors as a great resource. The people here are doing a great job helping each other...even if from time to time misunderstandings lead to incorrect information.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 07:06:09 PM
Thanks for coming back and responding, Michael. I've enjoyed your books and the workshops you and Robin run in the DC metro area. Looking forward to your next work.

You are welcome.  Are you a member of the DCWrite2Publish group?  I hope you'll be coming to the two seminars on Saturday (one on contracts one on money and publishing).  if you haven't heard those before they are two of the best ones Robin does...and for anyone in the D.C. area - they are 100% free. They are held at the Arlington Public Library and they will be running from 10:00 am - 1:00 pm this Saturday.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Annie B on June 08, 2017, 07:13:41 PM
Fwiw Michael, my print-only deal last year was with a big 5, so there is likely still some leeway depending on imprint and editor etc.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 07:14:35 PM
I think I misunderstood the OP. So, please, someone correct me if I'm still misunderstanding.

Michael decided that, as great as they are, Del Rey did not offer an additional $200k worth of brand enrichment.

So, he didn't refuse a $200k deal, he refused to share the $400k he already had contractually in hand.

Right?

Nope.  It's a bit confusing because my post was about two things.

1. Del Rey (who I have an ebook + print) contract for the first three books in a series is prohibited (by their parent company: Penguin Random House) to enter another print + ebook contract for the rest of the series because I already sold the audio rights Audible Studios (who offered me a seven-figure deal).

2. The $400,000 / $200,000 thing is about an entirely different deal. My first contract (with Hachette) was an audio + ebook + print deal and while my agent tried to get us to keep the audio rights, Hachette made it a "deal breaker" so we signed them.  At the time, no one expected the rights to be worth much ($2,000 a book), so it wasn't a big deal. Now, years later, the audio producer wants to extend their contract with Hachette and to get the right to sell the audio for another 5 years they are offering a $400,000 additional advance. Because my publisher split 50% of audio income that means they get $200,000 and I get $200,000. Outside of that "extended advance" the audio books on that contract have made about $3,200,000 and I've earned $95,000 or so. I was just "kvetching" about the disparity in income between the various parties and using it as an example while it's not in my best interest to bundle audio + print + ebooks since I Hearn 3.2% on those sales (50% of 20% of 35%) when the audio is attached to a publisher and Audible offers 15% when sold directly (although I get more than that, and I'm not at liberty to say how much).

Does that help clarify it?
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Dolphin on June 08, 2017, 07:15:55 PM
Good to see you back around these parts, Michael! Thanks for taking the time.

So, yeah, kill me, I can't help thinking that the income isn't equity distributed based on "work performed."  I doubt if you were in my shoes you would feel any differently.

I get that, and I appreciate your candor and transparency. Hopefully I'll be lucky enough to wind up in shoes like yours someday, and I hope we can compare notes at a con if it comes to that. Drinks on future me!
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: P.J. Post on June 08, 2017, 07:18:13 PM
Thanks for explaining everything, Michael.

The big question for non-hybrid Indies then is...does self-publishing with audible (I think it's a 7 year commitment now) screw up the potential for landing a deal with a publisher (or even generating any interest)? Audible appears to be a fantastic distribution channel. Should we hold off or jump in? Is mainstream publishing even still looking at Indies, or are those deals so few and far between as to be meaningless? I think these are headaches we'd all like to have, but I think most of us would rather not shoot ourselves in the foot right out of the gate either.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 07:22:27 PM
Michael can clear this up better than me, but I think it was this:

1) He had the previous $400k audible rights deal where he left $200k on the table.
2) He learned from that deal that he was leaving a lot of money on the table
3) In his NEW deal, he negotiated the audible rights right off the bat for 7 figures
4) Since he had done #3, he later learned that Del Ray was now prevented from entering into print contract negotiations with him (by RP).

He's not trying to back out of the $400k deal. That's already baked in.

He's just saying that that $400k deal made him realize how much money there was to be made and he wised up with his next contract.

And because of him doing that, he found out that RP is not even going to consider contracts that do not include the audible rights.

Which is why he is no longer with Del Rey.

Which is why he posted in Reddit (to clear the air and also to educate)

Well done! The only thing that isn't 100% correct is the #1.  And it is complicated. so I'm not surprised.  Let me try to address that.  In 2010 I signed an audio + print + ebook contract with Hachette for three books - it was a low six-figure deal.  Later, Hachette sub-contracted with Recorded books (for $2,000 each) for them to produce the audio. Because Hachette sold the audio as a subsidiary right we split the audio income 50/50. What this means is I earn 3.5% of net on audio sales because I earn 50% (Hachette takes the other 50%) of 20% (Recorded Books takes the other 80%) of 35% (Audible takes the other 65%).  After my agent's fee I earned about $95,000 for a book that netted 3.2 million. And that kind of "share" is not something I want to be involved with in the future--which is why I've adopted a policy of selling audio first (Which worked out fine for the first half the series, but now "locked me out" for the second half of the series.  The whole $400,000 / $200,000 thing has to do with the fact that the license that Recorded books bought for $2,000 a book in 2010 is now MUCH more expensive -- to the tune of $400,000.  And I was kvetching that I have to split that with Orbit even though they did nothing more than sign a piece of paper.

Al the rest of your points are dead on. Thanks for filling in.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 07:29:49 PM
Actually, I think there was one more step to it.

1. Audio rights originally sold for only $2,000
2. When the contract was renewed it was for $400K
3. Because of how trade deals are structured, all subright sales done by the publisher are split 50/50
4. What wasn't a big deal when it was $2K became one when it was now $400K
5. Knowing his value had gone up, Michael sold the audio rights to the next series himself for seven figures
6. Publisher refused a print deal because audio wasn't available

Yep, you have the right of it.

Michael, how do you think they'd handle a potential hybrid author who has put their books into audio?  Does that mean that any self-pubbed series that's already in audio and locked up for seven years because of audio terms is no longer a consideration for a print deal with one of the Big 5?

Well, I can't speak for the entire Big-5, but history has proven that they tend to walk in "lock step" in such matters. What I can say is you would be locked out of Penguin Random House. I can also tell you (from some deals I didn't sign and from information that I heard from other authors) that Harper Collins has a similar "no audio, no deal" policy.  Also, I couldn't shake free audio rights from Hachette (but I don't know if that was a "corporate" thing or just for my contract). 

But, yeah, I suspect that you couldn't get a deal while that audio deal is in place. Now if you don't auto renew -- and let the rights revert then you probably could get a n audio + print + ebook deal, and you would have some good track record to value the worth of the audio. Personally, I don't think they'll pay FMV for the audio, again based on people who have been making deals where audio was attached). Also, your sales figures for audio may help or hurt. In the words if they started strong and then declined, they won't be excited by them. But if they were increasing, then they are more valuable.

Best advice I can give, before you "auto renew" ask your current publisher what additional advance they are offering, if they say none, then shop it around.  Then go back to them with competitive numbers from others, and see what they'll say - I suspect they'll beat the best offer.  And then armed with that you'll have to decide if it's worth rolling that into a print + audio + ebook deal.  Here's hoping you get a deal that is in your best interest!
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 07:32:13 PM
Thanks Jerry. That was not clear at all from the OP.

But I'm still confused, I have no idea what the lesson is here. Given that publishers want ALL of the rights...

Do we horde our rights for maximum leverage or parcel them off to the highest bidder?

The point I was making was.

1. Audio rights may be worth more than you think.

2. You should know what they are worth before you negotiate with a traditional publisher and make sure your happy that the advance is providing value for all three rights.

3. If you don't want to be "locked out" of a traditional deal, don't sell your audio rights first.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 07:36:12 PM
Publishers have always wanted as many rights as they can grab, for as little as possible. That's not breaking news.

Yes, publishers have always wanted as many rights as possible...but audio rights WERE negotiable until just recently (a few months according to my publisher). Now they are 100% deal breakers - at least for Penguin Random House, and I think Harper Collins has a similar "corporate policy" and while I'm not sure if Hachette's policy is "corporate wide" I wasn't able to break them free on the two contracts I have with them. It's quite possible that the entire big-five (who typically walk in lockstep) have made a new "corporate decree" that audio is just like ebook rights in that they MUST be included in EVERY deal.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 07:37:16 PM
That in the past he was able to get a major traditional publisher to give him a not-including-audio deal, and now that same publisher is totally unwilling to consider such deals. He feels the industry's stance on the issue has hardened. For people considering seeking a traditional deal, it could be useful to know that selling audio off separately is probably not going to be possible.

Yes, exactly.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 07:40:52 PM
Nice to see you back here, man.  :)

Thanks!
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 07:42:41 PM
Michael--

Welcome back!  Thanks for your responses here!

Betsy

Hey Betsy - thanks for the welcome. You've alway done such a great job moderating the Writer's Cafe. Robin sings this forums praises all the time in the free classes she does in the Washington DC area.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Anarchist on June 08, 2017, 07:48:49 PM
While I'm familiar with Michael's name, I'm new to his transparency (and patience).

His responses in this thread are heroic.

Michael, thanks for showing us how the sausage gets made.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: This_Way_Down on June 08, 2017, 07:50:03 PM
What have we learned boys and girls? You never know who is watching.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 07:52:23 PM
Fwiw Michael, my print-only deal last year was with a big 5, so there is likely still some leeway depending on imprint and editor etc.

Yeah, huge congrats on your print-only deal. I have one of those as well, but I had to go to an indie print to get one. I'm also in the VERY early stages of talking with Kensington about another one. I suspect your ebook sales are MUCH better than mine, and you sell in a more category than "epic fantasy"  (especially if you are the "B" I think you are). I have pretty good "print + ebook sales" but when looking at "just ebooks" I'm not even making the top 100 kindle fantasy author list (although I tend to be in the mid-30's for the "fantasy books" list that includes hardcovers, paperbacks, ebooks, and audio.

If you don't mind I'd like to send you a PM so we can talk more. I'm always interested in learning what various authors are able to.

In any case, certainly imprint and editor are going to have a lot to do with it. I'm just thrilled to hear there's been a recent print only deal as I thought those had pretty much dried up.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 07:58:22 PM
Good to see you back around these parts, Michael! Thanks for taking the time.
I get that, and I appreciate your candor and transparency. Hopefully I'll be lucky enough to wind up in shoes like yours someday, and I hope we can compare notes at a con if it comes to that. Drinks on future me!

I do hope for you, and all authors, similar success. We need more authors earning a good living. And as for the drinks...Nope...won't have it. Drinks are definitely on me!!
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Jim Johnson on June 08, 2017, 08:03:42 PM
You are welcome.  Are you a member of the DCWrite2Publish group?  I hope you'll be coming to the two seminars on Saturday (one on contracts one on money and publishing).  if you haven't heard those before they are two of the best ones Robin does...and for anyone in the D.C. area - they are 100% free. They are held at the Arlington Public Library and they will be running from 10:00 am - 1:00 pm this Saturday.

I am indeed a member and have been so for years. :) I was at one of the events in March. I'll miss the two this weekend but will be back for more. I'll make sure to say hi next time. Thanks to you and Robin for continuing to offer the learning opportunities.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 08:05:05 PM
Thanks for explaining everything, Michael.

The big question for non-hybrid Indies then is...does self-publishing with audible (I think it's a 7 year commitment now) screw up the potential for landing a deal with a publisher (or even generating any interest)? Audible appears to be a fantastic distribution channel.

You are very welcome. I do think doing a ACX deal would seriously jeopardize your chances at a big-five traditional deal. It probably isn't an issue with independent publishers, but I suspect the big-five will be "across the board" on their demand for audio - and they may be already.

Should we hold off or jump in? Is mainstream publishing even still looking at Indies, or are those deals so few and far between as to be meaningless? I think these are headaches we'd all like to have, but I think most of us would rather not shoot ourselves in the foot right out of the gate either.

Wish I knew.  The landscape, I'm sure, is much different than when I shifted from self to hybrid. I must confess I've not been "watching the deals" like I did in 2009 - 2011.  People on this forum probably have better intelligence than I do on that front. So, if a traditional deal is important to you - be VERY carful with your audio rights. But...as we see in my case, if the audio deal is lucrative enough, you don't NEED a traditional deal. That doesn't stop someone from WANTING one, though. And I can totally understand making a decision to take "less money" to get the credentials that come with being a big-five publisher. Each person is going to be different and will weigh certain aspects higher than others. So while there isn't a single "universal right answer" there probably is one for each individual author. The important thing...and the reason I posted in the first place is to be educated of all the moving pieces so you can make an informed decision.  I wish you well.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 08:06:42 PM
While I'm familiar with Michael's name, I'm new to his transparency (and patience).

His responses in this thread are heroic.

Michael, thanks for showing us how the sausage gets made.

You are very welcome. If you ever have any questions, don't hesitate to send me an email. (michael(dot)sullivan(dot)dc(at)gmail(dot)com.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 08:08:18 PM
I am indeed a member and have been so for years. :) I was at one of the events in March. I'll miss the two this weekend but will be back for more. I'll make sure to say hi next time. Thanks to you and Robin for continuing to offer the learning opportunities.

Well good for you! It's a great opportunity. Robin knows her stuff and is generous with sharing it at those sessions. Sorry to hear you'll miss Saturday's sessions, but glad you'll be back int he future.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 08:09:53 PM
What have we learned boys and girls? You never know who is watching.

Someone sent me a link ;-)

Seriously I don't mind the negativity - although I do mind when people don't know full details of a situation and try to smear the name of a woman who I love dearly and has done A LOT to help authors -- even at sacrificing her own interests while doing so.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: This_Way_Down on June 08, 2017, 08:24:57 PM
Someone sent me a link ;-)

Seriously I don't mind the negativity - although I do mind when people don't know full details of a situation and try to smear the name of a woman who I love dearly and has done A LOT to help authors -- even at sacrificing her own interests while doing so.
I love Robin. Both of you have helped so many aspiring authors - myself included. People should educate themselves on a situation before they open their mouth. 
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 08, 2017, 08:28:28 PM
I love Robin. Both of you have helped so many aspiring authors - myself included. People should educate themselves on a situation before they open their mouth. 

Glad to hear we've been of help. Robin's work for authors has been really astounding. She's reviewed contracts, given free seminars, and even formatted ebooks for people who had reverted rights and didn't know how to get an ebook made. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  She really goes the extra mile and is a huge author advocate.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: GeneDoucette on June 09, 2017, 06:45:50 AM
The only 40% royalty that I'm familiar with is when an author self-publishes with ACX AND assumes 100% of the production costs AND agrees to exclusive distribution with Audible. Most authors can't afford the $10,000 or so upfront costs so they take a deal where they split the costs with the audio producer and that takes them to 20%.

I wanted to jump in on this one particular point from a couple of pages ago. A quote of $10,000+ for upfront costs is kind of high. The most I've paid for a novel is about $4K. That's for over 100,000 words. I think it's fair to say I didn't trade off on quality, given the sales I've seen from Audible.

Also, in another post someone mentioned the 7 year thing with ACX. To my understanding, that only applies in a royalty split.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: J.A. Sutherland on June 09, 2017, 07:36:56 AM
I wanted to jump in on this one particular point from a couple of pages ago. A quote of $10,000+ for upfront costs is kind of high. The most I've paid for a novel is about $4K. That's for over 100,000 words. I think it's fair to say I didn't trade off on quality, given the sales I've seen from Audible.

Also, in another post someone mentioned the 7 year thing with ACX. To my understanding, that only applies in a royalty split.

I concur.

Things wind up, roughly, one finished hour for 10k words, so $10,000 would be pretty high production costs -- $1000/hour for 100k words or $500/hour for 200k words. Roughly.

There are many excellent narrators working for a fraction of that.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: This_Way_Down on June 09, 2017, 07:48:40 AM
I concur.

Things wind up, roughly, one finished hour for 10k words, so $10,000 would be pretty high production costs -- $1000/hour for 100k words or $500/hour for 200k words. Roughly.

There are many excellent narrators working for a fraction of that.
You seriously don't want to mess around with the narration. There is a good reason top narrators make good money. They can make all the difference between a hit and a flop. A good narrator will bring even a mediocre story to life. Fans of audio books know the difference and their number is growing.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: GeneDoucette on June 09, 2017, 08:30:34 AM
You seriously don't want to mess around with the narration. There is a good reason top narrators make good money. They can make all the difference between a hit and a flop. A good narrator will bring even a mediocre story to life. Fans of audio books know the difference and their number is growing.

Right and what we're saying is it's possible to pay less than $10,000-- significantly less-- and do very well. I ended up with an Audible Daily Deal on a book with a $250 PFH narrator. I'm talking from experience, not speculation.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 09, 2017, 08:34:09 AM
I wanted to jump in on this one particular point from a couple of pages ago. A quote of $10,000+ for upfront costs is kind of high. The most I've paid for a novel is about $4K. That's for over 100,000 words. I think it's fair to say I didn't trade off on quality, given the sales I've seen from Audible.

$4K is a great price good for you. Did you use a SAG-AFTRA member? My narrator is one and that is why my price may be higher.  They have a provision that you have to pay into the member's retirement fund so when you combine their wage, retirement, studio rental, and editing/master fees it gets up there. Yeah, you can do it cheaper (with non-union members and with people recording with "in-home studios" some of them are quite good. When I self-publish I generally use the same tools that my traditional publishers uses (editors, narrators, studios, etc) which is probably me paying more than I could get away with but it gives me a sense of comfort.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 09, 2017, 08:36:56 AM
There are many excellent narrators working for a fraction of that.

Oh, I'm sure there are. But I already have a narrator that's been used for all my other fantasy titles and my fans would string me up by my toes if I got rid of Tim Gerard Reynolds. So, yeah, my prices may be higher than what others can get and I should have mentioned that.  Same with ebook production. When self-published I recommend people try to keep their budget at $1,000 or less, but I routinely spend $3,500 (because of multiple editors and one of the best cover design artists in the business -- so yeah, my costs are higher than I would expect most people to shell out.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Michael_J_Sullivan on June 09, 2017, 08:38:29 AM
You seriously don't want to mess around with the narration. There is a good reason top narrators make good money. They can make all the difference between a hit and a flop. A good narrator will bring even a mediocre story to life. Fans of audio books know the difference and their number is growing.

That's my feeling as well...and for me, my narrator is already established with my books and I couldn't walk away from him. Does he cost more, yeah. Is he worth it? Every dime and then some!
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: GeneDoucette on June 09, 2017, 08:39:59 AM
$4K is a great price good for you. Did you use a SAG-AFTRA member? My narrator is one and that is why my price may be higher.  They have a provision that you have to pay into the member's retirement fund so when you combine their wage, retirement, studio rental, and editing/master fees it gets up there. Yeah, you can do it cheaper (with non-union members and with people recording with "in-home studios" some of them are quite good. When I self-publish I generally use the same tools that my traditional publishers uses (editors, narrators, studios, etc) which is probably me paying more than I could get away with but it gives me a sense of comfort.

I didn't. and your point is certainly well-taken. There IS a soft middle there, between amateurish and full-on studio work. My first narrator used an in-home studio. I'm working with one now at $400 PFH who is partnered with the owner of a recording studio, so the finished product is professionally edited and polished. There are options, certainly. And the 40% is pretty nice.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Cassie Leigh on June 09, 2017, 08:41:25 AM
Also, in another post someone mentioned the 7 year thing with ACX. To my understanding, that only applies in a royalty split.

Nope.  Not true.  (This has come up before, but I'll quote from the terms again just so people see it again.)  Also, I have books with Authors Republic and they too have a seven year term in their contract because they use ACX for part of their distribution, although that contract appears to be negotiable.

This is from the Audiobook License and Distribution Agreement:

2a.IF YOU INDICATE ON ACX THAT YOU ARE GRANTING AUDIBLE EXCLUSIVE DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS IN THE AUDIOBOOK, THE FOLLOWING TERMS APPLY:

You grant Audible the exclusive license to use, reproduce, display, market, sell and distribute the Audiobook throughout the Territory in all formats now known or hereafter invented from the date you accept this Agreement until the date that is 7 years from such date (such 7 year period, the "Initial Distribution Period")....

2b. IF YOU ELECT TO GRANT AUDIBLE NON-EXCLUSIVE DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS IN THE AUDIOBOOK, THE FOLLOWING TERM APPLIES:

You grant Audible the non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, display, market, sell and distribute the Audiobook throughout the Territory in all formats now known or hereafter invented from the date you accept this Agreement until the date that is 7 years from such date (such 7 year period, the "Initial Distribution Period")....

Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: Cassie Leigh on June 09, 2017, 08:45:26 AM
Did you use a SAG-AFTRA member?/quote]

Just as an FYI, per ACX, SAG-AFTRA members have to charge a minimum of $225 per finished hour.  (And that's a final, complete, ready-to-go product)  So you could potentially have a 100,000-word novel narrated by a SAG-AFTRA member and only pay $2,500 for it.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: GeneDoucette on June 09, 2017, 08:46:17 AM
Nope.  Not true.  (This has come up before, but I'll quote from the terms again just so people see it again.)  Also, I have books with Authors Republic and they too have a seven year term in their contract because they use ACX for part of their distribution, although that contract appears to be negotiable.

This is from the Audiobook License and Distribution Agreement:

2a.IF YOU INDICATE ON ACX THAT YOU ARE GRANTING AUDIBLE EXCLUSIVE DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS IN THE AUDIOBOOK, THE FOLLOWING TERMS APPLY:

You grant Audible the exclusive license to use, reproduce, display, market, sell and distribute the Audiobook throughout the Territory in all formats now known or hereafter invented from the date you accept this Agreement until the date that is 7 years from such date (such 7 year period, the "Initial Distribution Period")....

2b. IF YOU ELECT TO GRANT AUDIBLE NON-EXCLUSIVE DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS IN THE AUDIOBOOK, THE FOLLOWING TERM APPLIES:

You grant Audible the non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, display, market, sell and distribute the Audiobook throughout the Territory in all formats now known or hereafter invented from the date you accept this Agreement until the date that is 7 years from such date (such 7 year period, the "Initial Distribution Period")....

I stand corrected. And thanks! That's helpful.
Title: Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
Post by: This_Way_Down on June 09, 2017, 09:42:04 AM
That's my feeling as well...and for me, my narrator is already established with my books and I couldn't walk away from him. Does he cost more, yeah. Is he worth it? Every dime and then some!
Luckily, I struck gold twice with two narrators over three series. Both are incredible. I have never enjoyed reading my own work. But it was amazing to listen to it read by a skilled narrator. I've always thought his talent was far superior to the material I provided. As soon as I hit play, it was like listening to a story I've never head before.