The Agent series
Featured agency: BookEnds, LLC
First Year Out: "Contract Math"

Q: What is an advance against royalties?

A: When a publisher offers a contract, they traditionally offer an advance. When you hear that an author was paid $10,000 for their book, that is the advance.

It means that the publisher didn't really 'pay' the author the money, they 'loaned' the author the money against royalties. What this means is that before you start earning royalties on the book, you need to sell enough copies to earn out the advance.

Here's a very simple example:

If your royalties are 10% on the cover price of your book, and your book sells for $5.00, you will earn $.50 on each book.

Therefore, if your advance was $5000, you need to sell 10,000 copies of your book to earn out the advance and to begin earning royalties.

That is a very simplistic statement, since there are a lot of other rights publishers can sell -- book club, etc. -- that benefit you, but it helps explain what the advance is.

It's also important to note that an advance is nonrefundable, meaning even if your book sells only two copies, you never have to pay the advance back.

Also note, that rarely does an author receive the entire advance in one check.

The advance is usually payable in segments. The larger the advance, the more payment divisions the publisher will put in place. Traditionally, however, advances are payable on signing of the contract, on delivery and acceptance of the manuscript, and on publication of the book.

Q: What is the difference between a deal for world rights and North American rights only?

A: Keep in mind that when you are contracting your book to a publisher, you are not selling the book, you are selling the right to license or publish the book. As the holder of the copyright, you will always own the book.

World rights vs. North American rights is a negotiating point that your agent will deal with on your behalf.

When a publisher offers a book contract, they will almost always ask for 'world rights.' This means the right to license or sell the right to publish the book all over the world.

Traditionally, publishers do not sell actual books throughout the world. Instead, selling a publisher world rights means you are giving the publisher the right to sell the publication rights to your book to publishers in other countries.

In this case you will split any money received -- advances and royalties -- with the publisher. Keep in mind that if the publisher holds on to world rights, any money you receive from these deals will be used, initially, to earn out your advance. Once your advance has been earned out, any money sold in rights sales will issued with royalty statements.

North American rights means the publisher can only represent rights in North America, and your agent will represent rights or sales to other countries.

In this case, you will receive all the money made from advances and royalties to other countries (less your agent's advance, of course). This money will come directly from your agent once it has been paid by the publisher.

Whether or not an agent retains foreign rights (world rights) depends on a number of situations.

Here are some things to consider: What kind of rights department does the publisher have? Does the book have potential in other countries? Is it more beneficial to receive a higher advance from the publisher for world rights?

Q: What are subsidiary rights? Does it include electronic rights, at present?
Which subsidiary rights should my agent try to retain for me?

A: Subsidiary rights include things like first serial rights, performance rights, audio, electronic, etc. Ultimately, your agent should retain as many rights as possible. But this depends on a number of things, as mentioned above.

Q: I've just delivered my manuscript, but haven't received payment yet -- why?

A: Keep in mind that payment for manuscript delivery is based on delivery and acceptance.

While your agent will try to narrow the definition of 'acceptance' as carefully as possible, it still means that you may have to wait until the book is fully edited and/or revised before this payment is even processed.

About this agency: BookEnds, LLC was co-founded by Jessica Faust and Jacky Sach in 1999. Agents: Jacky Sach, Jessica Faust, Kim Lionetti. Please review their submissions guidelines before submitting a query. BookEnds does not handle children's books, science fiction and fantasy, short fiction, poetry, screenplays, techno-thrillers or military fiction.

Agent bio/Sach: Jacky Sach began her publishing career in 1985 at Berkley Books, now a division of Penguin Group. Fourteen years later, she left her position as senior managing editor to start BookEnds with Jessica Faust. Her expertise and interests include mysteries, women's fiction, suspense novels, self-help, intelligent spirituality, alternative and mainstream health, addiction, chick-lit and innovative, offbeat, edgy nonfiction.

Agent bio/Faust: Publishing veteran Jessica Faust worked as an acquisitions editor at Berkley Publishing and Macmillan for eight years, where she acquired and edited both fiction and nonfiction. Her areas of expertise include women's fiction, mysteries and suspense and nonfiction - self-help, health, sex and relationships, business, finance, parenting, pets, psychology, women's issues, and general nonfiction. Faust prefers female character-driven books and nonfiction with an original angle.

Agent bio/Lionetti: After eight years at Berkley Publishing, Kim Lionetti left her position as senior editor to join BookEnds in March 2004. Her particular areas of fiction interest are suspense, contemporary romance, chick lit, and mainstream fiction. Her preferences in nonfiction include true crime, history, pop science and pop culture.

About this series: "The Agent" is an ongoing series of columns or Q/A sessions with literary agents, providing practical advice for writers.

Read other books/writers features, in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".