Book contract question

Johan Hjelm
Thu, 30 Aug 2001 11:06:06 +0900

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Let me tell you: If you want to write books for money, forget it. You get
recognition, and if your employer agrees, you get paid twice for doing your
job. But you make far less than from being a programmer, and the hours are

Being a professional writer is hard work for little money, unless you make a
bestseller. And fewer do than create a dotcom hit. But those terms look fairly
normal, although the advance looks way to low. 13 % on net sales (i.e. what the
publisher makes when they sell to the bookstores) global is pretty good, but a
lot depends on the quality of the publisher - are they a niche publisher or do
they sell much? 13 % on 2000 copies is very different from 13 % on 10000
copies. Also, the editorial quality of publishers vary extremely. Wiley, who I
work with, give good input and some coaching on your manuscript. Others just
take whatever you drop on them and shovel it out.

The way to go is to write a proposal FIRST, sell it to the publisher, and THEN
write the book. OK, there will be a few back and forths with the manuscript,
but at least you know you have a contract for the book (and the advance,
although if you never deliver the manuscript you will have to pay that back

If you want help with the proposal, get in touch with me outside the list and I
can probably give you a few hints.


Reza B'Far wrote:

> Wow... Good input...
> I have no clue about these things... I like money, but not desparate for it
> :-)  I wasn't really looking at making a good hourly wage off the book ...
> Can do a LOT better than that with side gigs, etc.
> I was thinking it would be a good thing for recognition, etc. (higher
> numbers for the next job).... BUT, it's good to know this is too low...
> Any one else have experience with this stuff...?
> R
> PS:  "I'm a whore, but not a cheap whore" :-) Just kidding...
> -----Original Message-----
> From: []On Behalf Of
> Kelley
> Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2001 6:39 PM
> To:; FoRK
> Subject: Re: Book contract question
> Reza B'Far wrote:
> >Everyone on the list:
> >
> >I've got an offer to author a book and, frankly, I know very little about
> >what's fair and what's unfair... I've never written a book, just some
> >articles, IEEE stuff, etc.  Here are the terms of the contract.  Can you
> >guys tell me what you think?
> >
> >--13% royalties (based on global net receipts)
> >--an advance of $5000, 50% paid upon acceptance of manuscript, 50% upon
> >publication
> >--publisher will pay for your index
> >
> >The book is about 900 pages and is on a software engineering topic.
> >
> >Thanks in advance.
> >
> >Reza
> Hi Reza,
> I asked someone who has some experience and he said, to quote:
> "1. 900 Pages (6 months) for $5000, if they like it? $0 if they don't? Only
> if you are $-deperate, need to launch a writing career, have a half year
> free time, or are ego ridden.
> I wouldn't consider it.
> Also: 13% of net is about 5% of retail which SUCKS!!!
> Who is the whore monger offering such a pittance?"
> Kelley

  Johan Hjelm, Senior Specialist
     Ericsson Research Japan

  Read more about my recent book

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