Last night, while I contemplated cleaning the kitchen, I happily entered a discussion online (happily because hey, it was important and an excuse to not clean the kitchen) with a few indie writers. A couple of them are newbies, still trying to polish the first manuscript and agonizing over putting it out there where real people can read their work, and a couple of them have one or two books out now and the reviewer-generated scars to show for it.
[I felt like the old person sitting in the recliner in the corner; been there, done that, have the stories to tell but no real reason to tell them unless asked. And once asked…I might not shut up.]
Most of what we talked about was standard indie fare: what makes a good book cover? How many beta readers are necessary? Pay for an editor or talk a college kid into doing a copy-edit? (Answers: good, clear, creative images and DON’T USE COMIC SANS AS A FONT. As many as you’re willing to take criticism from. Pay a real editor.)
There was a little talk about sales—how to generate them—and it drifted into Rights Ownership. What to do if the Giant Corporation came knocking, offering a metric farkton of cash for All Rights?
That’s when I got quiet; I wanted to see what they thought, where they were in the process.
Typically, when you’re negotiating with a traditional publisher, you keep as many rights as you can, so that you can sell those separately. You offer First North American Rights first (unless you’re not in North America. We all are.) and try to keep second and serial rights, movie rights, etc. for yourself. New to the game are digital rights, something that if you can get you grab it. Even the big boys in writing and publishing can see the shiny in keeping digital rights to your own books: it’s easy to put the books out there yourself, and reap the much, much higher royalty rates.
I would never sell All Rights was the general consensus. That’s just giving your work away and losing future revenue.
That’s when I spoke up again. “What if your work had been in the market for a number of years? Would you consider it then?”
Hell no, from every one of them. Their work is worth something; their characters are like real people and they love them.
I wrote those books. I’m not saying I would never want to write another book in the series, but for the right amount of money? Hell yes.
Look, I know the potential of those books. I also know I’m about as likely to pursue selling the movie and TV rights as I am to go to the moon. I know how likely I am to try to publish in foreign countries, other than where Amazon already easily allows me to do so.
Basically, I’m kind of lazy. And the footwork to sell those rights requires more steps that I really want to take. So hell yes, if someone offers me the right dollar amount, I’ll sign them over.
Setting us up for the rest of our lives would make it worth giving up the rights. And make no mistake, it would not be easy because those are characters I’ve carried around since I was 14 years old, but I’d still do it.
I doubt I’d feel the same way about something I just published; I certainly wouldn’t give up all rights to Max’s books right now because…MAX…but the Charybdis books?
The writers I was talking to, they’re young enough and new enough to the market that holding onto their rights and seeing how far they can go is a good idea. But for someone like myself, whose books have been around for years and have sold well but will never reach life-changing sales numbers (and I’m okay with that; part of being indie is controlling the effort expanded into marketing, and I’ve sold well beyond my marketing efforts) being willing to sell all the rights is not a bad idea.
Would it bother me if I did that and someone else turned it around into a multi-million dollar franchise?
If I got what I wanted—enough for the Spouse Thingy to retire comfortably and for me to still buy the toys I love—and they could make a fortune from my work, good for them. I would always know that those stories were my creation, the characters wormed out of my brain, and if someone else can make them even better…that’s a good thing.
It’s also a pipe dream, but what the hell. That’s what writing is about.
Dreaming on paper.
Right now my dream is about $2.5 million.