After the Deal #1: The Contract

This is my first post in my “After the Deal” series, designed to help inform writers and curious readers about the traditional publishing process. Today, I’ll talk about the deal memo and the contract.

Once all of the hoopla, champagne drinking *hiccup*, and general madness settles after the offer, the business of writing begins.  My agent and I received a deal memo from my publisher that outlined the basic terms of the contract that we’d agreed upon. Some of the information covered included: advance numbers for books one and two, a payout schedule for the advances, a listing of territory & other subsidiary rights, and royalty percentages.


Advances are typically paid in three installments we’ll call thirds (though they don’t always divide up equally into thirds.) The first third is paid upon signing the physical contract. The second third is paid upon delivery and acceptance of edits. The final third is paid on the publication date.

Most people outside of publishing (and let’s face it, most writers) think a huge advance is a good thing; and it is, but with it comes a lot of pressure. If you don’t earn out a huge advance, things can get a little dicey. That’s why it’s so important to have a great agent who can help you strike a balance between a good, fair advance sum and one that sets you up for success.

I am very blessed to have a two book deal, and the benefit of that is that the two timelines run concurrently. While I’m working on edits for HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, I’ll also need to work on planning and drafting the second book. The first draft of my second book will most likely be due before the publication date of HEMINGWAY’S GIRL. I’ll also be able to work with my editor at the publisher throughout the process on idea development, synopsis and scene reads, and troubleshooting for my second book.

My publisher had a scheduling meeting last week and has marked September of 2012 as the release date for HEMINGWAY’S GIRL. Now that we have that date, we are able to set the target dates for edits and drafts of both books.

It will take four to six weeks for the contracts department to complete the contract, and my editor plans on getting me the revision report for HEMINGWAY’S GIRL by this summer. In the meantime, I’m working furiously on completing research for my second book so I may begin drafting it.


One of the most exciting things about publishing is the breadth of possibilities for reaching readers. My publisher has World English, ebook, and audio rights to my books specified in the deal. My agent was able to retain foreign rights and film/performance rights. My agent works at a boutique agency, so she has a subagent who will work to sell my books in foreign markets. It’s nice to have a balance of division of rights so both the publisher and author are satisfied.


Doesn’t that word have a nice ring to it? It’s the target for all authors, because if you’re earning royalties you’ve earned out your advance money and made your publisher very happy. This makes for a healthy long term relationship in publishing.

Writers, if you have anything you’d like to add, please include it in the comments. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or email me directly.


12 thoughts on “After the Deal #1: The Contract

  1. Great post, Erika!

    I love your idea to discuss all the ins and outs of all that happens after the deal. Can’t wait to read your next post.

    C xx

  2. Thanks for explaining this, Erika. It’s such a mystery to those of us who haven’t been there yet. Looking forward to each new post!

  3. heather webb says:

    Thank you for posting this information in a concise and clear way. I hope your advance was astronomical! And I can’t wait to pick up your book in 2012. I’m looking forward to your next posts in this series.

  4. I’m so, so happy for you, Erika. This insight is very helpful for those of us who hope to be in your shoes someday soon. I love the “After the Deal” series. Excellent idea.

  5. Erika Robuck says:

    I’m glad it’s helpful. I kept thinking while I dealt with contract negotiations that I wish I knew more.

    Heather, my advance was not astronomical, but I love your enthusiasm. I aspire to astronomical royalties some day. 🙂

  6. Great post, Erika. Rocking and Rolling as usual!


  7. Thanks for this series, Erika! It’s so great to learn about this part of the process, and even nicer that we get to share in the journey and be so happy for you as you go along! I’m thrilled for you and can’t wait till the book(s) come out.

    I was curious, regarding the second book, if you’d started it prior to selling the first (or at least had an idea of what it would be about). Or is it an instance in which the publisher just knows they want your next book even though it’s not in the planning stages yet? Either way, how amazing! Congrats 🙂

  8. Erika Robuck says:

    Natalia–I did start the second book before selling the first. Once I got the query letters out the door for the first, I dove hard into the next book. Just before the deal, one of the editors with my manuscript wanted to have a phone “interview.” We discussed my first book and my background, but she was really curious about what else I was working on. I’m very happy I’d come far enough in my research to give a coherent answer because I think that had a lot to do with why I got the two book deal. (You’ve just inspired a blog post.)

    Thanks for the congrats!

  9. Jennifer says:

    Erika, thanks so much for providing this forum!

    I thought I’d weigh in with a bit about my own experience. Writers should be prepared for a lag time after selling their book. I sold “The Year of the Gadfly” on my 30th birthday last year (the best bday present EVER), but It took nearly six months to get the contract. Then it was another month or two before the first advance installment came in. My advice: keep working on your project no matter where in the process of selling you are. This will keep you sane. The publishing industry is totally INSANE, so it’s important to stay grounded and focus on the writing–which is why we’re doing this in the first place.

    I’m new to this awesome online community but am also more than happy to answer questions.


  10. […] question from blog commenter, Natalia Sylvester, inspired me to write this post about how I got a two book […]

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