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About Writing Right: The Blog


A forum reader asked a question the other day: For how much can I sell the rights to my book?" As usual, plenty of respondents were quick to jump into the fray. Unfortunately, as usual, most were dead wrong or at least partially misleading. Here's how I responded.

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Well, of course the Queen of Wrong missed the boat again, and the ship has sailed once more without her. Unfortunately, no other respondents to this question fared much better. Rather than talking about self-publishing and your followers being "uneducated people," as on respondent called them (which I find a highly insulting), maybe we should drill down to your actual question: For how much can you sell the RIGHTS to your book? Not how much can self-publishing make for you or how many copies will your followers buy. Your question has nothing to do with self-publishing or ignorant followers. It has to do with conventional publishing and economics.


The real answer to your question (with apologies once again to Queenie) is that it depends. You don't say whether or not you've written the book yet, so that's a variable. You don't say how dramatic or marketable a story you have, so that's another variable. And, with both of those variables, you can't get an answer without doing a little more leg work.


My advice? Work up a killer pitch for your book. Start with a four-paragraph letter outlining the high points of your story, the book's potential market, and your qualifications (which include the number of your followers). Mention any other potential marketing advantages you may have. But, keep it brief!


Attach to that a short section listing all similar books already on the market (do an Amazon Books search), your complete author's platform (Google its meaning), your book's proposed Table of Contents, and a complete chapter outline. Again, keep the outline brief, touching upon only the most salient points for each chapter. Finish up with a proposed marketing plan (Google it!), and start sending the pitch around to various publishers and/or literary agents.


If you can't wow 'em with that, you can figure your 374K followers on Instagram aren't worth the ink it takes to publish their comments. But, if your story is marketable and you have 374K potential buyers (count on about 3 percent of them to actually buy, which is what a potential publisher will do), you may get a nibble. If so, ask to see the publisher's boiler-plate contract that includes information on an advance, royalties, and all the other legal stuff.


If you're still interested after that and you want to write the book yourself, just sign on the dotted line. If you're interested but you're no writer, cast around for some professional ghostwriters who will do the job for you for less money than what the publisher's advance offer is. After that, the decision on whether or not to proceed is up to you. Remember: Hire the ghost only after your publisher pays the first part of the advance. Otherwise, you may end up with a stiff ghostwriting tab and no publishing contract to help take the sting out of the deal.


To sum it all up: No, the process of determining the value for the rights to your book have nothing to do with self-publishing or the educational level of your followers. (Are you listening Queenie? No? I didn't think so.) Respondents here need to learn to read before shooting from the lip and leading future questioners astray.


Hope this real answer satisfies your actual question. Contact me at my Website if you need more information, would like to see a sample pitch letter, or have any other questions.


In the meantime ...


Smoke if you've got 'em.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack.com.

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