@MichaelJSullivan Let’s just agree to disagree.
Wattpad Launches Wattpad Books, a New Publishing Division to Bring Diverse, Data-Backed Stories to Book-Lovers Everywhere
I did not see it - so thanks for the link. I submitted my questions there.
I believe this was Kindle Scout you’re talking about. I knew someone who published through that and yeah, it was awful. The spamming he did alone to get the votes to get the book published was horrific and a turn off as a potential reader. But then when I saw him talking about the terms I wondered why the hell was he doing it. Sounded like he was jumping through all kinds of hoops and getting nothing in return. The book didn’t sell so he ended up self publishing (not sure how he did there because I ended up leaving the group I was part of that had him in it) the rest of the series.
Yes, that’s it–Kindle Scout…and before that it was the Amazon Breakout Novel Award - iirc, both had the exact same contracts.
Hi Michael - Ashleigh from Wattpad here, and happy to answer a few of your questions. I’m excited to see this is such a lively thread, so we’ll try to do an AMA soon (though this week just after the announcement has been crazy!) The exact terms are confidential between us and the writer, but at a high level I can tell you that our terms are not similar to those “digital only” publishing divisions you mention. They are in line with industry standards for large publishers print contracts - and where we can, better! Some answers below:
- Advance or no advance?
Our writers receive competitive advance offers. Your option of no advance, higher royalties is interesting and something we’d be open to in the future where our projections allow.
- Does the author have to pay for anything?
Absolutely not. We pay for all production, editing, pr, marketing, etc. Though as with most publishers, if there are optional things any author wants to do that aren’t part of our plan (new author headshots, a trip to a writer conference that may not be part of our plan) that would be covered by them.
- Is the term a fixed length (if so how long), or is it for the life of copyright?
The contract is for life of copyright, with some very generous reversions.
- What are the ebook royalty rates (and are they based on list or net)?
- What are the print royalty rates (and are they based on list or net)?
Our royalty rates are competitive with industry standards (digital based on net, print based on list) with quick escalators based on performance. The better the title does and the quicker we earn back our investments, the more we both share in future sales.
We’ve been representing Wattpad titles to major international publishers for the last few years, so we tried to create terms that reflected what we’ve wanted to see on the other side.
I’m late to the game, but thanks for posting this link.
@AshleighGardner Thank you for clarifying and offering some insight. And that the terms are confidential. I suspected they would be.
Interesting. I wonder if that’s to protect them from DoS-type issues.
It’s probably because if there’s too many requests at high frequency (higher than they expect) it will crash the site.
Agreed. (DoS = denial of service… it’s a tech thing meaning basically what you just said.)
oops sorry tbh I code a lot irl but I don’t know much about the terms used in comp-sci
Ah, my bad. I hear code acronyms so much at work I forget they make no sense to other people Should have used the full term instead.
From what I understand, this is one of the services literary agents provide, isn’t it? I mean — they’ve at least seen their own clients’ contracts and are more familiar with the business, and can argue on your behalf to get something better than the boilerplate.
But a traditionally-published author who’s actually worked with an agent would probably know more about that than I would. @MichaelJSullivan? (By the way, thank you, Michael, for the helpful information you’ve provided in this thread and others.)
This is one of the things that makes me wonder how the author/Wattpad relationship will look compared to a typical author/agent/publisher relationship.
Well, that’s certainly good to hear. That being the case, it looks like there is another avenue opening up for authors that may be worth pursuing.
With the “big ones” out of the way I wonder if I could push my luck some and find out some of the other “big ticket” contract terms.
What is your stance on languages? Do you offer English only contracts, or do you take all languages?
Print and ebook are a given, but what about audio rights? These used to be something that was negotiable, but the big-five pretty much require them now. Small presses still allow the author to retain these rights. Is this a “negotiable” item for Wattpad Books or is the contract for print/ebook/audio.
As you might imagine, I’m not a fan of life of copyright contracts…but they are the industry standard. It would have been a real feather in Wattpad’s cap to do 7-year contracts like are common in audio and foreign sales, but as it is what all the big-five require, I can’t berate you for following the industry standard.
As you mentioned, the reversion clauses are the key when there are loc terms. I’d be really interested to learn more about them. From my own experience, the big five’s bars are MUCH too low. For instance, my books are deemed “in print” if they are earning $9.62 a week – I think we can all agree that no one can live on that kind of money even with multiple books out. In the old days, authors DIDN’T want their books to revert (because once that happened they were essentially dead to the reading public) but these days, with so many opportunities for self-publishing, getting rights back can allow the author to make some really decent money. I’m going to assume your reversion trigger if units or income fall below a certain level? If so any chance you’d share what that is?
So here’s the thing. Agents are really good at saying, “This contract is in line with the industry standard.” So if a publisher tries to “pull the wool” over someone’s eyes. They’ll see and catch those things. For instance, a clause that would turn over derivative rights, or a “rights grab” on the theatrical version. What they aren’t good at (and to be fair it’s not entirely their fault), is getting movement on non-negotiable terms. For instance, the contract’s term length being the life of the copyright. This is a ridiculously long period of time (until you die + 70 years), and if the “in print” thresholds are low (and they historically have been) that means that signing the contract means losing control of that book FOREVER. Now some agents can get “better” terms related to reversion than others, but in my experience, I’ve never seen any that are anywhere close to fair for the author. Let’s give some real-world examples. In my contract, if my book sells at least $500 in 2 reporting periods it’s deemed “in print” and not eligible for reclaiming the right from the publisher. A friend of mine has a threshold of $100. So my contract is “better” but I’d argue that neither one is any good. Personally, I think that thresholds should be more like $1,000 per reporting period ($2,000 a year) because if the publisher if the publisher can’t earn me at least that kind of money, they don’t deserve to have the right – they’re not properly monetizing it so they should revert to me…because I can certainly make more than $2,000 a year on books I have control of the rights to.
In theory, “anything in the contract is negotiable,” but that’s just not true. There are some aspects where the publishers walk “lock step” and that gives them tremendous power. As long as EVERYONE of the big five keeps the ebook royalty rate at 25% of net, no agent/author will be able to get anything but that.
Based on what was said earlier related to the terms. The contract seems to be “right in line” with big-five contracts. So, I suspect it won’t look much different than the rest of the industry. Authors without agents will be offered “boilerplate” contracts and modest advances. When an agent is involved, some of the terms will be a little better and the advance will be higher.
At least that is my reading of the tea leaves given the Wattapad Books contract seems to be following big-five contracts rather than digitial-only imprints or small-press contracts.
Good questions Michael its always a pleasure seeing you open up the pot of curiosity for us less knowledgeable folk. I was curious about audio rights myself. Also I’d love to see literary agents get in on representing authors who are picked up by the imprint. Additionally, from all your other questions, since Ms.Gardner is head of the publishing division, I’d really like to know if she/the imprint has a MSWL. Give writers a little inkling on the kind of content they might be looking for since agents do it all the time.
Sorry if someone already answered this, but will any undiscovered books be published?
I mean, one of the books under Wattpad Books imprint is 404K reads, so that means others who are undiscovered have a chance?
Most likely books with a fanbase. Books like these have proven readership which make them excellent candidates. While it would be great for unheard of authors to be published under the imprint and im not against it, at least so far as I understand right now the focus would be on YA books that have a wide readership. So write a good book with a good story, promote and bring in readers for your chance to be noticed by the imprint. And from what we have seen, your book doesn’t have to be in the millions. Also, for the next program the magical number seems to be around 8k.
How does one get into the chosen for the program?