Whether you have an agent or not, one of the most important things to look out for in any contract for a multi-book deal is whether they are separately or jointly accounted.
What does this mean?
Joint accounting means that your books are accounted together as one big advance. If you have a $100,000 two book deal (ha – do those still exist?), your books have to earn $100,000 in royalties before you see any additional money.
Separate accounting means that your books are accounted separately. If you have a $100,000 two book deal, those two books are accounted as $50,000 each or $60,000/$40,000, or whatever is specified in the contract. If it’s split evenly, one or both books has to earn out more than $50,000 for you to see additional money.
Practically speaking, you’re more likely to see royalties and see them sooner if your books are separately accounted. If that first book takes off it’s easier to earn out $50,000 than $100,000 across two books.
Now, whether you can actually get separate accounting is another story. This is something your agent can try to negotiate for you, but different houses have different policies, and it may not be possible to secure. So if your agent can’t get it for you it doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t doing their jobs. It might just not be possible to get.
But separate accounting is always worth trying for. And if you’re writing a series and the publisher wants to extend your contract, find out how those additional books will be accounted.
There you have it!
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Art: The Payment of Dues by Georges de la Tour