Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Editor vs. Agent: Duking It Out...

...In this corner: Edward Necarsulmer IV, Director of the Children's Department at McIntosh & Otis

...And in this corner: Mark McVeigh, Senior Editor at Dutton Children's Books


There was no hitting below the belt in the mock contract negotiation--Edward and Mark explained the back in forth they go through when deciding on a book deal with a sense of friendly competitiveness. It was interesting to hear the discussions of advances, royalties and rights. Edward brought up a number of concerns in regards to the terms for his pseudo-client, things that a green author negotiating a contract on her own would likely not grapple over, like subsidiary rights and option clauses. (Note: Be sure to do your homework if not working with an agent.)

Something that I hope conference-goers also took away from this is a glimpse of the whole manuscript acquisitions process. The pair used the HarperCollins acquisitions model (Mark formerly worked for Harper). Here's a nutshell version:

  • Edwards sends Manuscript to Mark for exclusive look for an allotted time period. Mark loves Manuscript.
  • Mark passes Manuscript to his boss for review. Boss loves Manuscript.
  • Manuscript is presented to an Editorial Board for review. Manuscript passes.
  • Mark prepares a Profit & Loss Statement for the book. The P/L is used determine if the book would be profitable, and takes into account possible advance amount, print run/production costs, projected sales, etc.
  • Manuscript is presented to acquisitions board made up of sales, publicity, marketing and inventory staff. Manuscript is accepted.
  • Mark negotiates contract with Edward, who communicates with Author throughout the process, discussing things like advances, pay-out structure, royalty rates, due date, sub rights, copyrights, jacket and cover consultation, out of print issues, option clauses, bonus languages, etc.
  • Mark and Edward come to an agreement that satisfies the publisher and the authors.
  • A Contract is sent out.
  • Mark emails Author saying how excited he is about working with her.
  • Contract is signed and sent back.
  • Things are reviewed by publisher's legal department. Everything's kosher.

Whew! Did we get to 13 rounds? An editor's really gotta like your book to go through that whole process, don't you think?

...And after all that, the editorial process begins.


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