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Michael Hyatt on Relationship Management

HandshakeQuestion: How often can you get advice from someone who is a publishing executive but has also been a literary agent and author?  Answer: Anytime you read Michael Hyatt's blog.  I wanted to call particular attention to recent series of posts Michael has made on Strategic Relationship Management.  It's a four-part series (so far) with an introductory post followed by posts on the ideal publisher, author and agent.

If you're an author in search of a good agent or publisher, use the (high profit, low maintenance) characteristics checklists Michael provides for each.  Don't forget to read the author checklist too...  The whole series of posts ought to be required reading for any publishing newbie (and not-so-newbie).

If you're an author, I'd recommend you consider turning some of those characteristics into questions you can ask any agent/publisher candidate.  For example, what percentage of that agent's clients typically recoup their advance?  That's a fair question for a publisher too (how many of their authors typically recoup their advance?).


Michael A. Banks

From some questions and replies at Michael Hyatt's blog, an obvious way for the author (agent in Michael's terms) to contribute to a win-win situation is to take a smaller advance.

I see a couple of problems with that. First, it seems most agents won't want to take a small advance for their client, as the advance is likely to be all the money the book earns. If an agent or author is confident about the book and about the publisher, maybe a smaller advance will work. The argument in favor of this is that it allows the publisher to spend more on advertising or marketing. However, I've seen situations where a definite ad budget is included in a book's contract, but the money isn't spent. It's not really an enforceable clause. At the other end of that, some agents and authors feel that a large advance gives the publisher an incentive to put more into marketing the book.

I'd rather see something given in exchange for a smaller advance. For myself and other authors, I’ve negotiated things like a greater share of sub-rights and a higher initial royalty rate in exchange for a smaller advance.

It’s an odd situation. I look for a larger advance for the first book I do for a publisher. After the first book is out I have more data on which to judge whether the publisher is going to do a good job with my work. At the same time, my experience is that if a book does well for the publisher, the advance on the next book rises.

Hyatt also maintains that the author should be willing to help promote the book, invest time and money. I am all for that. The author knows the market for her book as well as or better than the publisher, and the combined efforts of publisher and author usually generate better resultes than either could achieve alone.

Joe Wikert

Mike, it's clear to me that you're definitely someone who "gets it" when it comes to the importance of author promotions. Regarding advances, I think I posted about this long ago, but I don't think any author should take a lower advance because the publisher needs the funds to promote the book. On the other hand, I think it's quite reasonable for an author to ask for a higher royalty rate if they're going to have to live with a lower advance. It's the old risk-reward formula, right? If an author is willing to take a lower advance, that shows me they're willing to shoulder more of the risk; I therefore think they deserve to share in the reward if the book takes off.

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