Monday, July 23, 2007

Multi-Book Contracts

Let's say a new author signs a two or three book deal. Are books two and three for the exact same terms (advance, print run, percentages, etc.) or is everything renegotiated upon acceptance of the second MS.

I would like to think if the first novel sold well that at the very least there would be a larger print run for the second. Or maybe even a tiny bit of the elusive marketing dollar would go to promote book two or three.

What a great question! It’s been a while since I’ve gotten something that I was really excited to answer.

The answer . . . they are on the same terms. For the most part a multi-book contract will be three books (or two or six or whatever) on one contract. Which means that they usually have the same royalties, the same subsidiary rights, the same everything. The only thing that frequently differs in this case is the advances. Oftentimes you’ll see an advance escalation—Book #1 might be for $5,000; Book #2 for $7,500; and Book #3 for $10,000, for example.

Print runs are not a contractual issue. Sometimes an agent will negotiate bonus money based on a print run, but at this stage of the game (sometimes one, two, or even three years before a book is published) a print run and marketing dollars can’t be determined. And yes, absolutely, if the first book sells well then you will get a larger print run for the second book. Conversely, if the first book doesn’t sell well at all you will likely see a smaller print run for books two and three. Print runs and marketing dollars are based on a book’s sales performance and (with a first book) estimates of its sales performance. The final decision on print runs is usually made by the booksellers. If they don’t order the books it’s unlikely your publisher is going to have them printed.

So what are the pros and cons of a multi-book deal?


You get a little more cash up front (you’ll have a higher payment when you sign the contract) and you’re guaranteed that more than one book will be published.


If your first book does phenomenally well you’ve likely been underpaid. Granted, you’ll still get the money owed to you in royalties, but you might regret needing to wait for the money to come through.

When a multi-book deal is offered I often discuss these pros and cons with my clients. If we were hoping for more money, for example, we might want to accept a contract with fewer books. If, however, the author likes the security net of knowing exactly what her schedule is for the next one to two years, then I say go for the multi-book contract. Remember, in the end you will get the money you’re owed in royalties. If they underpaid you, you’ll just have more to negotiate the next time around.

I hope that answers your great question.



Anonymous said...

Great subject and particularly interesting to me as I have a three-book series with the requested first-book partial currently in Jacky's hands.

Thanks for sharing!


Petrina said...

I agree. What a great subject to start the morning. Also particularily interesting to me as I have a multi-book series with the requested first-book partial currently in Jessica's hands!

Thanks for the great post.

reality said...

I recently heard an author say that one of the pros of a multi contract is the editorial support you get throughout the writing of second book on.
What would be your take on this?

Kris Fletcher said...

Spinning off on this - other than the money, are there other reasons why an author might prefer to have a one-book contract rather than a multi-book one?

Anonymous said...

Ehat happens if you sell a book at a time, and decide around book 3 to try for a different publisher? Is that possible?

Travis Erwin said...

Thanks for answering my question. This is something I had woondered about even though I have no immediate need for the information.

But hey, a guy can dream can't he? And it's always good to be prepared.

Really enjoy the blog an all the info y'all pass along.

jbstanley said...

Dear Kris,

I'd like to try to address your question. I'm in the midst of fulfilling two three-book deals, but I'd like to write a book that would be a stand-alone. In that case, I'd prefer a one-book contract. One book contracts are a great way to give a different genre a shot or write a book that has such closure at the end that you know it will never be a series. Personally, I prefer the multi-book contracts because it guarantees me, the author, a certain amount of books released over the next two years and allows me to develop relationships within a specific publishing house. I hope that answer is slightly helpful. Good Luck to all!

Kate Douglas said...

I like the security of a multi-book contract--knowing what I'm going to be writing over the next year, when my deadlines are, when to expect copy edits and galley proofs. There's so little stability in a writer's career as it is, the multi-book contract at least allows for some planning. There's also that old "bird in the hand" philosophy that's hard to deny!

Anonymous said...

But what do they [publishers] base the deal on? Obviously the first book would already be written. But do the subsequent ones have to be complete? In progress? A couple of great ideas?


Kate Douglas said...

In my case, Deanna, the first book was written but I didn't even have an idea for the next two (The original contract was for three novels in the same series) and only the editor's request that I add more characters. Since I'm a "pantster" when I write (Meaning there is no plot ahead of time and only a rudimentary idea of what I'm going to write) the editor really took me on faith. She asked for enough info to base the back cover blurb on, and left the content of the stories up to me. She's still doing that, many books later. In some cases, editors will ask for outlines or a synopses of the contracted books, but I've been very lucky to have an editor willing to work with my personal style of writing.

Kris Fletcher said...

JB, thanks for that perspective! I hadn't thought of the situation from that angle. It makes total sense to me.

jbstanley said...


P.S. - I love Miss Piggy too. Hiiii-yaaa!

Cheers, JB