Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 25, 2012

Book Contracts & Negotiations

You may feel like negotiating a book contract requires some magical skills like the princess in the July illustration by Michelle Munger, but Betsy Devany took notes at Agent Sarah Davies workshop in June and she is sharing them with us today.

OverviewMs. Davies, a Literary Agent and creator of The Greenhouse Agency compares standard agencies’ contracts and negotiations to those of the Greenhouse Agency. Ms. Davies explains how an agent will protect your rights and ensure you receive the most in a contract.

I)   Agency Agreements:  Agreements should be short and easily understood in English. An agreement is binding for the duration of the contract.

Standard American Agencies take 15%, Foreign takes 20% and Film and TV take 20%. The Greenhouse Agency: US takes 15%, UK takes 15%, Film and TV takes 20%, and Foreign takes 25%, and are paid within 10 days.

Reputable agencies belong to AAR. These agents are members of a code of ethics. The agency must be in business 2 years and have done a certain amount of deals in order to belong to this group (

Most agencies, if you breech a contract, agents keep the money generated from it. Greenhouse Agency allows you to break a contract by giving 60 days notice and they continue to honor the existing contract even if you walk away.

Since agreements are binding, if something happens to you, royalties go to those who inherit it.

II) How Deals Are Agreed:

A manuscript that is in submission goes to:

  1. Editor
  2. Editorial Board
  3. Acquisitions
  4. Marketing
  5. Publicity
  6. Art Department
  7. Sales – Who cast the deciding vote.

III) When You Get An Offer:

There are exclusive territories. The publisher wants:

  1. North America / Canada
  2. World English Language Rights
  3. World Rights ( All Languages)
  4. Translation Rights

IV)   The Advance:    What you receive upfront when you sign a contract or delivery of accepted manuscript: Usually if you are given $20,000 or less, you receive the money in two parts. If you are given $20,000 or more, you will receive the money in three parts.

V)      RoyaltiesDomestic market – 10% of the cover price. Sometimes a publisher will force you to see your next book as a bargaining chip. The agent protect you to get the most royalties as possible.

VI)     Joint or Separate Accounting:  Each book has the potential to earn royalties by itself as opposed to bundling several books. Agents will figure out a good profit against royalties. Agents have leverage to go to other publishers to get more offers. When multiple publishers want to offer, it goes into auction. Contracts (15-20 pages) can take 3-5 months from a publisher. The proprietor is granting the publisher to publish your book, marketing, warranties, take part in the publishing, pay you royalties, discounts and territories. 

VII)    Electronic Books: Agents try to get flexibility in the contracts. What constitutes “out of print” – being able to pull your book and sell it elsewhere.

Thank you Betsy and thank you Michelle for submitting an “Out of this World” illustration.

Michelle is a writer/illustrator from Texas. Keeping busy has never been a problem for me as I have plenty to do with family, school, work, and illustrations.  I have illustrated one book that is soon to be released and a an upcoming series in the future with the same publisher. I also have a partnership with my husband, a computer programmer, with a new educational based learning game iPad app.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Oh, do I love THIS info! Thanks, Betsy and Kathy 🙂


  2. Thanks for the info Betsy and Kathy. It was very interesting.


  3. this is good helpful info…but the link for takes you to the American Railroad group? odd…what IS the right link? love the image…..


  4. great blog. ANother one for the wiki!


  5. here is the correct link for agents:


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