JB Schroeder: A New Cover for Runaway!

Runaway has a New Cover, and I’m super excited to reveal it here! But I’m sure you are wondering why I would redesign a book that’s been on the market barely a year?Runaway_Redesign_Crop_r4_150dpi

It’s hard to get tangible feedback in this business, but recently, I ran an ad for Runaway. I got a decent click through rate—except once folks hit Amazon, very few purchased. I’ve got great reviews (thanks you fab readers!), some darn good quotes called out, readers asking for more stories featuring Charlie and Mitch (which I am planning, but it’ll take a while!), a reasonable price point, and I think the cover copy sounds pretty enticing…What’s left? The cover.

My gut had already been telling me that between the young model I chose and the implication of youth the word ‘runaway’ implies that the cover was coming off as a Young Adult book. And therefore perhaps not jiving with the ads, the copy, or what all those excellent reviews say about the book. As you all probably know, I’m a graphic designer specializing in the book biz. So yeah—I kinda messed up. It’s awfully hard to be objective about your own book, I was seriously pressed for time, and let’s face it: stock art is limited. A model with a serious expression? She’s a needle in the haystack of happy smiles and sexy come hither lips, let me tell you. And unfortunately in this case, the side effect of serious was: too young. (See the old version in the side bar at right).

Beyond simply improving Runaway’s appeal, I think it’s smarter in the long run (and less confusing for new JB readers) to have a bigger delineation between my two series (Retrieval, Inc. versus the Unlikely Series).

The good news though: I am a designer. I’m also indie published—meaning I am not at the mercy of a publisher’s decision or their timetable. I can change things up as often as I need to until I find what works….wish me luck! And write and tell me what you think! I’d love to hear! ~JB

www.jbschroederauthor.com

Runaway

Unhinged

Publishing Contracts 101 – Grant of Rights

Whether you’ve received your tenth publishing contract or you are getting closer to obtaining your first one, publishing contracts can seem confusing and overwhelming.

Contract Exam (1)

One of the initial clauses found in these contracts is the “Grant of Publisher Rights.” It’s an important clause and it determines what you’re licensing to the publisher and what you are legally keeping for yourself. The clause includes two types of rights: (1) publication rights and (2) subsidiary rights. Publishing contracts are written to protect the publisher, and publishers always seek the broadest possible grant of rights. But as with all contracts, these clauses are negotiable. Some important things to know:

The author owns the copyright. In a grant of rights clause, the author is licensing, not selling the copyright. The author will eventually get their rights back in the reversion of rights clause of the contract (a discussion for a future blog post).

Close-up of a fountain pen

So how can an author negotiate the grant of rights clause? Here are some concrete examples.

Limit publisher’s grant of rights to legitimate ones

Be professional. Tell the publisher that you are willing to license any rights they legitimately need, but that you would like to retain the rights to the work that they don’t need and have no plans to use. Ask yourself if the publisher is just including everything in the contract, even rights that they have no intention of exploiting?

Example: foreign language rights. Does the publisher produce foreign language books or are they just collecting rights?

If the answer is no, then politely ask the publisher why it needs that right and how it intends to exploit it. If they do not intend to exploit the right, then you can ask to have it stricken. You can also suggest that you will negotiate in good faith in the future if the publisher later decides it needs the right.

What about ebooks and audio books?

In today’s publishing world, you probably won’t be able to retain ebook rights. Many publishers legitimately need them. That being said, if you write a romance novel, chances are the publisher may not need mixed media rights such as ebooks with pictures or sound (these does not include audio books). And if they do not translate ebooks into foreign languages, then this may be a right you’d like to retain.

As for audio book rights, if your publisher develops them then you can license this right to them. However, just like foreign language rights and media rights, if a publisher doesn’t  develop audio books, then you may want to negotiate to keep these rights. Who knows? You may want to produce your own audio books.

Other subsidiary rights

These can include movie and screen play rights, abridgements, anthologies, special editions, book clubs and more. Each of these can be considered separately. Is your publisher known for developing movies or screenplays? And remember, if your novel hits it big and your publisher approaches you with a movie deal, then you can always negotiate in the future!

To sum it all up, if your publisher is seeking a very broad grant of rights that they don’t legitimately need, then consider asking to have them separated out. Authors can license the rights to someone else or keep them until a future time when they can develop them themselves. In a perfect world, the author and publisher will work together to have a fair grant of rights clause for today’s constantly changing marketplace.

Please note, this blog post is not legal advice. If you are unsure of what you’re signing, don’t sign it and seek legal advice. Good luck!

You can find me at:

 www.tinagabrielle.com

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  In The Barrister's Bed InTheBarristersChambers

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NJRW Conference 2014 Highlights: What Publishers Are Looking for Now

The Editors Panel at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference, Oct. 18, 2014.

The Editors Panel at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference, Oct. 18, 2014.

The New Jersey Romance Writers annual conference is a treat I look forward to every October, not just for the chance to mingle with fellow writers and attend craft workshops, but also because it’s an opportunity to get a feel for the pulse of the publishing industry.

Given its proximity to New York, the New Jersey conference traditionally draws a fair number of editors and agents. Our own Violet Femme Joanna Shupe did a phenomenal job coordinating these expert panels, which are always an excellent opportunity to learn what’s going on in the  New York publishing world.

More than one editor on the panel mentioned that she’s looking for more romantic suspense, while another said she’s loving cowboys and Amish romance. One panelist mentioned that shorter, grittier romances are a current trend. All in all, there seemed to be a general cooling off toward paranormal, although one editor still wanted to see young adult paranormals.

As an historical writer, I was thrilled to hear editorial assistant Nicole Fisher say Avon would never give up on historicals.

Lauren McKenna, executive editor & editorial director at Gallery/Pocket books, reiterated her love of the genre, telling writers in the audience that what she’s looking for in historical submissions is something she hasn’t seen before.

The editors also touched on how digital publishing’s fast turnaround allows a new author to release books and build a readership faster than with print alone. They also talked about the importance of signing writers who are willing to work with their editors to make their books the best they can be.

During their panel discussion following the editors forum, agents stressed that  authors, both published and unpublished, should have an online platform and be active on social media because that helps the agents sell their books.

Earlier in the conference, I slipped into the standing-room-only special PRO presentation, “Taking Your Writing to the Next Level,” given by New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter. She gave pre-published authors tips on pacing and avoiding that dreaded saggy middle. She also left them with the advice: “Don’t let the rules of writing rule you.”

The Violet Femmes threw a “Ditch the Heels” evening social on the first night of the conference, which turned out to be a great success. Femme Jaye Marie Rome blogged about the bash last week.

Another highlight of the conference for me was the Book Fair. It was my first book signing and it was such fun to meet and talk with readers. I wasn’t sure what to hand out to people who stopped by my table but I eventually settled on candy, custom matches and a post card with a link to an excerpt of my latest release.

At my first-ever book signing and the "swag" on the left.

At my first-ever book signing and the “swag” on the left.

People who signed up for my mailing list had a chance to win a copy of Compromising Willa and a carton of custom tea — the heroine of the book blends custom teas so I thought that would be a fun promotional tie in.

Fellow femme RoseAnn DeFranco gets busy at the NJRW book signing.

Fellow Femme RoseAnn DeFranco gets busy at the NJRW book signing.

On the final evening, the Femmes went out for dinner at Bonefish Grill.

We caught up with each other, gossiped about the industry, and shared details of what we’re currently working on. These gatherings are always special because it’s rare for us all to be in one place at the same time.

We definitely made the most of it!

A rare opportunity for the Femmes to get together.

A rare opportunity for the Femmes to get together.

Having fun at dinner with fellow Femme Michele Mannon.

Having fun at dinner with fellow Femme Michele Mannon.

On Sunday, we all headed home, but the aftereffects of the conference lingered. I came home super motivated to jump back into my current work in progress. In that way, the NJRW conference is the gift that keeps on giving.

I can’t wait until next year!

Best,
Diana

You can find me at:

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Spy Fall (final) 300 @ 72 dpi low resEarl-1-200x300Willa-1600px-200x300Bella-1600px-200x300Charlotte-1600px-200x300

 

Noncompete Clauses in Publishing Contracts – What precisely is an author agreeing to?

The very first time I read a noncompete clause in a friend’s publishing contract, I had to reread it—not just twice like we all should—but a few times. What exactly do publishers want and what are authors agreeing to? How important is this clause to authors anyway?

tug of war

Noncompete clauses are also called competing works clauses or conflicting publication clauses. In simple terms, noncompete clauses restrict the right of an author to write or publish another book that is similar to and would unfairly compete with the sold book. Almost all publishing contracts include a version of this clause, and publishers are well within their rights to have the exclusive right to the book the author has entered into a contract with them. But the clause must be fair and authors should check that the clause is not overly restrictive.

For example, if an author writes romantic suspense and sells it to Publisher X and there is a noncompete clause in the contract for eighteen months prior to or after publication of the work, the author may not publish another romantic suspense to Publisher Y until the eighteen months are over. With the increasing number of hybrid authors who are both traditionally publishing and self-publishing, the noncompete clause can be overly restrictive and tie up an author for months or even years.

Some publishers are progressive and they realize that a prolific author who wishes to traditionally publish and self-publish can only help sales, not hurt them, and they are more lenient with the noncompete clauses. Others may not be as progressive. Publishers are definitely entitled to have the exclusive right to the author’s book, but at the same time, the noncompete clauses shouldn’t be overly binding.

So how can an author negotiate overly binding noncompete clause? Here are some concrete examples.

Limit the definition of “compete”

Try to replace the language that says “might” interfere with sales and use “will” interfere with sales instead. The publisher is overreaching here. The publisher’s rights are still protected with the word “will” rather than “might.”

Limit the definition of “competing work”

Try to limit the definition of “competing work” in your contract. The more specific the language of “competing work,” the better for the author. For example, you can attempt to limit the clause to “a work with similar characters or title as the contracted work” or “a series military romance with Navy Seals.” This allows the author to publish or self-publish a long contemporary romance with firefighters and not violate the clause. The different genre wouldn’t be competing with the military romance novel and would free the author to make more income in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Limit the publisher’s time in a noncompete clause

Try to limit the publisher’s time in a noncompete clause. A contract shouldn’t give a publisher an unlimited time period. That’s overreaching and not necessary to protect the publisher. Examples of unreasonable time periods are: “as long as the work remains in print or electronically,” and “for the term of the copyright of the work.” Yikes! These sound bad, don’t they?

In a perfect world, the author and publisher will work together to have a fair noncompete clause for today’s constantly changing marketplace.

So have you ever heard of another way to effectively negotiate any type of contract? What’s your best tip? I’d love to hear your views, so please share!

Tina Gabrielle

A SPY UNMASKED – Coming November 10, 2014 from Entangled!

You can find me at:

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Option Clauses in Publishing Contracts – friend or foe to an author?

As mentioned, I’m going to talk about different aspects of publishing contracts in my blogs with the femmes. This month’s topic is option clauses.

We’ve all heard of option clauses in publishing contracts. But what exactly are they and how important are they to authors?

In simple terms, option clauses require an author to offer her next book to the publisher before anyone else. They’re also referred to as “a right of first refusal” clauses. It’s fair to assume that any clause in a contract is written in favor of the party who wrote it. In this case, the publisher.

 

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Now I know of authors who like the option clause. They say it gives them a sense of comfort knowing the publisher wants their next book. But this could very well be a false sense of comfort. Remember what I just mentioned above? Any clause in a contract is written in favor the party who wrote it. What the option clause is doing is prohibiting the author from submitting to other publishers while the publisher has no related duty. Not entirely fair, right?

If you’re a new or even a midlist author, you may not be able to eliminate the option clause entirely, but you may be able to effectively and professionally negotiate some points. Here are some concrete examples.

Limit the terms

Try to limit the word count or genre or both. The more specific the language of the option, the better for the author. For example, if the contract says “for author’s next fiction novel,” you can attempt to limit the option to “for author’s next 50,000 to 60,000 word contemporary paranormal romance.”

Limit the time you are required to submit your next book

For example, limit the amount of time you have to submit another book under the option clause, for example, number of years (one or two years). Otherwise, an option clause may be construed as endless.

Limit the publisher’s time to respond

Try to limit the publisher’s time to respond to the option work offered. For example, thirty to ninety days.

Limit the option work to a specific proposal

For example, write a short paragraph of your next work that you want covered under the option clause.

So have you ever heard of another way to effectively negotiate any type of contract? What’s your best tip? I’d love hear your views, so please share!

And please look for my next blog on different contract clauses.

Tina Gabrielle

In The Barrister's Bed   In the Barrister's Chambers   Original Artwork A Perfect Scandal   LADYOFSCANDAL Cover

You can find me at:

 tinagabrielle.com

 http://twitter.com/tinagabrielle

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The Art of Contract Negotiation for Women Writers

We’ve heard it before: Women earn less money and benefits than their male counterparts. But the question is why? I believe the answer lies in the fact that women tend to shy away from negotiation. Women who do ask for more money or benefits are often viewed by society as overly aggressive or pushy. Overwhelmingly, romance writers are women who will find these essential skills helpful when negotiating their own publishing contracts.

3Contract

As an attorney, I’ve had the benefit of hours of negotiation training and have negotiated scores of civil settlements. Negotiation is a craft that can be studied and learned and will help with every facet of a writer’s career. I plan to blog about specific author contract clauses in the future, but I’m starting out with the very important art of negotiation.  Here are some tips:

 Don’t be afraid to ask.

I know as well as the next writer how hard it is to get “The Call.” I received many rejections before I sold my first book. We are all hesitant to ask for anything after waiting so long, and we feel we should be eternally grateful. But asking does not mean we aren’t grateful. Asking means we are taking our writing careers seriously and that we are intelligent businesswomen who intend to be successful in this profession.

Be Prepared.

Research is key.As members of RWA and our local chapters, we have excellent resources. The RWA website as well as the monthly Romance Writer’s Report magazine have a wealth of information on contract clauses. Conferences frequently offer workshops on author contracts and what’s standard in the industry. And don’t forget to ask fellow authors what is in their contracts and what clauses in particular they negotiated. Gathering as much information as possible is the best strategy.

Create a script in advance.

Before you call or meet with the editor or agent, you should have a mental outline of what you want. Items in that outline should include: your wish list; your reality list; and a deal breaker item, if there is one.

Develop options.

Understand in advance that you will not get everything you ask for. I’m not just talking about money here—there’s so much more to a contract. There are publishers that do not negotiate royalties or advances. This does not mean, however, that you cannot negotiate other sections of the contract to your benefit. What about the author’s grant of rights, for example, foreign rights? Publisher option clauses? Rights of reversion clauses? Basket accounting? Author’s rights in case of publisher bankruptcy? Or even more basic, what about more free and discounted author copies?

Know your negotiation power.

This is critical. If you are unpublished and you get an offer from an agent or editor, you have significantly much less negotiation power than a NY Times Bestseller. This doesn’t mean you have no power, but you must keep what you do have in perspective. An unpublished author cannot insist on a six figure deal and a cross-country book tour. That is demanding and unprofessional.

Stay Unemotional.

I know. This is your baby. You have spent countless hours polishing the first page, let alone the first chapter. But remember that publishing is a business, and the agent or editor is interested in selling your book and making money. The most effective negotiators are the unemotional ones.

Take a time out.

Don’t agree to anything immediately. Wait at least a day, preferably more, to think things through and clear your mind. Talk to other writers. Your spouse. Your critique partner. Your attorney, if necessary. That means if you get “The Call” and are jumping up and down with joy, do not agree to the representation or sign on the dotted line without waiting the requisite time period. After you calm down, you will be able to look at the fine print with different eyes.

Be professional.

Ask, don’t demand. Start out by saying, “I have a few concerns with the language of the contract…”

You’d be surprised what you can accomplish. Even if you do not get everything you hope for, you let industry professionals know that you are serious about your career and your books and that you are an author who is a worthwhile investment.

So have you ever negotiated any type of contract? What’s your best tip? I’d love hear your views, so please share!

And stay tuned  for my next blog on contract clauses.

Tina Gabrielle

In The Barrister's Bed    InTheBarristersChambers   Original Artwork A Perfect Scandal   LADYOFSCANDAL Cover

 You can find me at:

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Good Cover Design, Part 2

In Part 1 of Good Cover Design, I discussed Genre, Keeping it Simple, and Instant Readability. Here’s the link to that post if you missed it: https://thevioletfemmes.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/good-cover-design-part-1-2/. Today’s topics are: Clear Branding, Basic Design Principles, Trusting your Gut, and Working with a Professional Cover Designer.

[Please remember that I am not distinguishing here between self-pubbed examples and traditionally published ones in this post. I use the author’s name for simplicity, and my focus is simply Good Design. In some cases, yes, the design decisions were made by the authors, in others, kudos go to the publisher’s design (and perhaps marketing) departments.]

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Courtney Milan’s The Brothers Sinister Series

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Kristan Higgins’s Blue Heron Series

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Debra Webb’s Faces of Evil Series

Clear branding: Not only do you have to hit the genre correctly, it’s smart to develop an AUTHOR brand—a consistent treatment that speaks to your voice, your style, your genre—in other words, what a reader expects to find in a book written by YOU. The examples that always come to mind for me are Courtney Milan’s The Brothers Sinister series of historicals (same type treatment, a lone heroine, a jewel-colored dress, and muted wallpaper background), Kristan Higgins’s Blue Heron contemporary romances (happy color, spring/summer scenes, simple type that speaks to contemporaries with humor), and Debra Webb’s Faces of Evil romantic suspense’s (clearly dark and dangerous, heavy hitting, and part of a series. How cool is that film strip with the number of the book in the series? And wow do those solid background colors leap out at you). You don’t have to write a series, however, to make your name/your brand, recognizable. Kristan Higgins’s other books have similar art, the same overall style, and always the size and treatment of her name. Do note, however, that in all cases, the author’s name is more prominent than the book title. The authors I mentioned in Part 1 are known for following this principle as well. Many argue that the author’s name is the single most important aspect of the cover. Another point that bears mentioning is to make it easy on yourself: don’t choose a design that’s going to be hard to implement as your series or brand marches on.

Basic design principles: you want a balanced, eye-catching design with a pleasing color scheme. Unless you are working around the art, your type shouldn’t hop around. Meaning sometimes the title is centered and the author name must be flush right where it’s readable. But if there’s room and a choice, keep it consistent for balance. As for color—go attractive but not obnoxious. Complimentary to the art you’ve chosen, contrasting enough to be easily visible. The reason those solid brights work for Debra Webb is because the film strip itself is understated and the type is all black. And certain colors denote holiday stories, others imply genre. Had we chosen red type for the grayscale Katharine Ashe cover (see last month’s post), we might have inadvertently leaned towards a typical treatment for erotica, so just be mindful of the choices you make.

Your gut: you have to like it, of course! If one design furthers your excitement over this book you slaved over and another leaves you cold? Well, there’s your answer.

Working with a Professional Cover Designer: There are loads of good cover designers out there, found by a quick web search, or via the databases of your writing groups. You can get quality, custom designs, for incredibly reasonable prices these days, and most every designer will do their best to please you. The biggest deciding factor, to my mind however, is to choose one whose design style you really love. That way, chances are good, you and your designer will be on the same page from the get go. After that, communication is key. It will help them to know exactly what you want (or don’t want), what you like, why something bothers you, etc. Most designers will welcome visual examples of books and treatments you love, as well. Much like getting general feedback on a manuscript with a rejection, a mushy “it’s missing something” or doesn’t further the process very well. So use the words and expression that are a writer’s gift, and respectfully explain.

Thanks for visiting The Violet Femmes today! Hope you found the Cover Design posts helpful!

Swimming Through Writer’s Block: Can Exercise Make You A Better Writer?

I never believed in writer’s block until I was working on my last manuscript. I did everything right. I had detailed character sketches. I plotted and wrote a wonderful synopsis and first three chapters which sold “A Spy Unmasked” to a publisher. I pulled out all the tricks I learned at writing workshops. I raised the stakes, I put the characters in an impossible situation, I heightened the emotional and external conflict, and then…well…nothing. I was stuck. I wrote myself in a corner.

For the first time, I had writer’s block.

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I knew about writer’s block, of course. I was just fortunate enough never to experience it. Let me first say that I was working nonstop. I love the story about a sexy Regency era spy, an emotionally damaged hero who blames himself on the death of his wife after one of his missions goes terribly awry. He’s forced to work with a feisty, intelligent heroine who wants revenge for her father’s murder. It’s a great love story with a hint of mystery. But I was working part time, writing, stopping to get the kids off the bus and seeing to their needs, and then writing all night. I was ignoring my needs.
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Publishing a Series Out of Order & Other Adventures in Publishing

UnderwoodKeyboardThe one thing all newer authors learn pretty quickly is that there is no blueprint, no “how to” guide, to publishing.

We kind of have to feel our way around, gleaning what information we can from conferences and loops while being careful not to ask our editors or agent too many questions for fear of being a pest or looking stupid (at least in my case).

I’m a new-ish author.  Even though I’ve published three books in the past year, I remain a novice in many ways and how I handled my first series certainly attests to that fact.

My debut novel, published in April 2013, was not the first manuscript I wrote; it wasn’t even the first book I sold. The first title I sold was Tempting Bella, the third book in the series. My fabulous agent went to bat for me right away, asking my editor to publish the second book in the series, Seducing Charlotte, first.

Why not the publish the first book in the series first? After all, that would make the most sense as reviewers have certainly pointed out.
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Have You Had Your Guilt Today?

Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.
—Erma Bombeck

How many people are you disappointing right now?

Caught up on laundry?

Meals made for the week?

Answered all your emails?

If you’re like me, the answers are: “too many to name,” “no,” “ha!” and “get real.”

We know writers write. Many writers also work day jobs that pay for mortgages and health insurance. A lot of us have kids and husbands. The result? Many of us don’t have much time for niceties like spa days, lunches with friends, date nights, exercising, showering….

Anyway, you get my point.

This is me around 6:00 pm each day.

This is me around 6:00 pm each day.

I was chatting with a group of moms the other day at my daughter’s elementary school, and I said, “I feel like I am failing at everything in my life right now.” I expected commiseration and I got…looks of pity. “Oh, you do?” Which made me think, Is it just me? Is it just me that is letting down everyone I know?

People are always telling me, “You have to watch ‘Hip New Show!’ It’s so great!” Know what I had to give up when I decided to seriously pursue writing? TV. Also a regular exercise routine. Volunteering at school. And sleep.

Do I regret it? No. Do I feel guilty about it? Yes.
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