For months I had been telling my paper publisher for my second mystery, Whose Hand? A Skeeter Hughes Mystery, that we did not have a contract. He replied repeatedly that we would work under the same terms we had used for my first mystery, Where's Billie?, that he had published. I pushed on.
After I had written, revised, revised and revised, I hired an editor to work on Whose Hand? I called my publisher and left messages that I was working on the book, but WE DIDN'T HAVE A CONTRACT. He did not return my calls.
Last January, after I was happy with Whose Hand? I put it on Kindle and Nook. Sales were pretty good, and boosted interest in the first book as well. My publisher decided to delay release of Whose Hand? from spring to fall 2011. Given that WE DIDN'T HAVE A CONTRACT, and it was doing ok in epub, I went along, even though that meant the second book would be released two years after the first, which is too long.
Whose Hand? is set to release in August. Last week I told my publisher that WE DIDN'T HAVE A CONTRACT. "That's not good," he said.
He invited me to his office, and mentioned nonchalantly as the contract printed out, that it had changed a bit. "I'm going to be doing the Kindle and Nook publishing now," he said.
"No," I said, fully prepared to walk out of his office without a contract for paper.
Our first contract specifically said that I retained electronic rights to the work. I wasn't about to let go of those rights for the second book.
"What percentage would you give me?" I asked, curious only to hear what he'd say. "I get 70 percent from Kindle and 70 percent from Nook."
He was dumbfounded. He had planned to send the file of my work to another vendor, who would put it up on Kindle and Nook, then pay him 50 cents for each copy sold. I get $2.10 per book now, I told him. Shock and awe.
"How do you get it in the Kindle?" he asked.
"I read the directions," I replied.
"Maybe I should have you put all my other books on Kindle," he said.
In the end, we signed a contract identical to my first with him, including a sentence that says I retain all electronic rights.
My paper publisher's family is now in it's third generation in the business. He's a savvy man, in the print world. But like many publishers he's caught in a very steep learning curve of the rapidly changing world.
So what's the lesson in this tale? We're all learning. But we indie authors have to stay with every bend in the road, or we're going to get run over. And never, never, never sell your electronic rights for less than a bizzilion dollars.
Have you had an experience like this?