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Writing Books/Selling Story Rights


I will be meeting soon with a well published author to discuss a novel or bio based on an outline I provided of a famous (living) family member. The family member is iconic in his field and there is the potintial for a motion picture if the book is written.  The icon is on board with the project and will give permission for his life to appear in print. Can you please provide guidelins for monetery compensation for story and motion picture rights. My main concern is to understand the process so I can speak fairly and intelegently during our initial meeting with the author. I do understand if a deal is struck any contract will need to be reviewed by a lawyer but I need a starting point for a flat fee and/or royality interest to open the conversation. Thank you in advance for your guidance.


Most publishers have pretty standard royalty schedules for the books they publish, but of course, they can vary quite a bit from publisher to publisher.  You're essentially looking at three factors: royalties, advances against royalties, and publication rights.

For royalties on sales, the most you can probably expect would be around 15% for hardback sales, and maybe 10% for paperback.  As for an advance on your royalties, I wouldn't really get my hopes up.  In today's market, they're the exception more than the rule.  Sure, you might very well get an advance.  But it probably won't be for much money (maybe a few thousand), and you may not get it all at once (they may split it over a few installments).

Since you're looking at the possibility of a film adaptation, what you want to watch out for is the "all derivative rights" clause in the contract.  Since you want to keep potential film rights for yourself, you don't want that clause to be in there.  

You're absolutely correct - you DO need an attorney or agent to look it over.  A literary agent will be able to advise you better than the common lawyer, so if you choose to use an attorney, make sure you get one with experience in publishing law.

Hope this helps.  

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Vincent M. Wales


I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.


For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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