The "CALL"

You sent in your query. The editor requests a full manuscript which you sent and then you wait. Then at the most unexpected time you get “the Call.” When I got my first “call” I was in complete disbelief, hyperventilating, without a coherent thought it my head. Most of those getting that first call will have similar reactions. No one can or wants to dispel the disbelief or the hyperventilating but information can provide you with some articulate questions instead of incoherent rambling. Keep these points or those you think relevant close at hand for when your “call” comes.

A disclaimer--I have used points from a handout by a published author I got in Denver at the 2002 RWA Convention as a starting point. Unfortunately it does not have the name of the presenter. I have googled but have had no luck finding out whom to credit it to. I have heard or seen several of these points in other documents over the years and so have paraphrased, edited, and embellished several as well as adding my own. The original handout noted that you needn’t cover all the points during the first phone call but should get the information as soon as possible.

1. The most repeated piece of advice I’ve heard and read is to NEVER say yes to a contract offer during “the call,” even if you mean to say yes later. Instead get all the details you can in your “call induced inebriated” state and say something like, “I am so excited I can’t think. Let me consider everything after I calm down.” Do thank the editor for the call and make arrangements for further contact.

2. Have you acquired an agent since you submitted the work? Do you want to get one to handle negotiations? Tell the editor now whatever the case. If you have the agent will carry it from here and give you another “call.”

3. If you want to use your “real” name bring it up now. If you don’t, discuss your preference for writing name (pseudonym). When I first sold, my pseudonym had to be approved. The editor completely rejected the use of my real name but under the weight Wesolowsky I wasn’t inclined to argue. A few years later they wanted all rights to my pseudonym which is when I got an agent who was successful in blocking that. Be clear if you do not want restrictions of the use of your pseudonym.

4. Is there and advance? How much is it? Brenda Hiatt’s Show Me the Money web site can give you some idea of reported advances.

5. How many author’s copies is the editor offering? This is usually the most easily negotiated but don’t get hung up on it or press for an exaggerated number of copies.

6. In what line or imprint will the book be published?

7. When will the book be published?

8. What is the print run? You may not get this information in category romance but ask anyway. It will determine whether or not you have a chance at royalties above and beyond the advance. A 10% royalty on any sales beyond say 5,000 copies won’t do you any good if they only print 3,000.

9. What is the average amount new authors in my line/imprint can expect to earn with a first book?

10. Will you be my editor or will I be assigned to someone else?

11. Are any revision necessary? This is very important. You need to know if the editor’s vision of your story is the same as yours with minor revisions or if it is so different that if will require massive revisions so altering the book that it makes the original story unrecognizable. You may or may not want to do this but you do need to know what the editor expects.

12. What are the terms of the option clause? Will I have to submit the next book I write whether it is suited to this line or not?

13. Which subsidiary rights are part of the contract and at what percentages? This may be e-book, audio, foreign, movie etc. Make sure you know which are in the contract and what the payment for them will be. This may or may not be negotiable but its best to be aware of what they are.

14. How many times a year would you like to see me published? Category romances are published each month, usually four a month in most lines. You could be published three or four times a year if your editor likes your work and you can write at that pace.

15. Ask the editor, “What appealed to you about my book? Where do you see me fitting in with your publishing list?”

16. When would you like to see my next project, or a proposal for another book?

I’m sure I missed some points or details. I’d appreciate those of you who have received “first calls” to post your experiences and advise. May each of you who want once some day receive the “call


Reese Mobley said...

Great post, Joan. I know that if or when I get THE CALL I'll be so excited I probably won't even remember who called. Thank heavens for called ID.

Joan Vincent said...

It is THAT exciting, Reese. A day you'll float on cloud nine and never forget.

Rox Delaney said...

Joan, you covered more than I would have thought of! I had an agent at the time of The CALL, so it came from her, but I did get a call from my new editor shortly after. I had the opportunity to ask questions then about the book itself, while leavig the $$$ questions for my agent to ask. :)

Joan Vincent said...

Having an agent to handle the contract details while you work with the editor would be the best of worlds. If you don't have one you'd better do your homework on contracts. Thank goodness for the internet these days. One article I breezed through (my apologies for not making notes of whose) said that it was much easier to get an agent once you got the "CALL" --that you should contact published authors and asking who represents them. Don't know if that would work or not.

Tina said...

Joan: I learned a TON from your article. I didn't realize there was so much involved and shows how clueless I truly am.

I am saving this informatin.

Becky A said...

Joan, wow and double wow! That's a lot of info in one short blog. I don't even know what some of it means which only shows that I have more homework to do. Now I know for sure that I want an agent. They're percentage would be well worth it to understand all the contract mumbo jumbo.
Joan, if you had let your publisher have all the rights to your pseudonym does that mean they could have other people write books under it? And why would they want to do that anyway?
Thanks for a great blog, Becky

Joan Vincent said...

Thanks for the compliment. It means a lot to know I've given useful information. I was perfectly clueless when I got my call. I was just lucky it was a standard contract and that they didn't take advantage of me. In today's world I'd worry about that.

Joan Vincent said...

If I had agreed to sign away the rights to my psuedonym they could have done anything they wanted with it and I couldn't have done anything with it--would never have used it again. They were trying to keep the identity established with their line at their disposal. Harlequin used to do this--maybe they still do.

Rox Delaney said...

Harlequin used to "own" the pseudonyms, but a few years ago, the new CEO, Donna Hayes, did away with the practice.

The main reason publishers wanted to own the pseudonym is to keep that name tied to their company. I think it's been discovered that using the name in more than one venue or with one publishing company often benefits all. It's all rather silly, if you think about it. If an author uses her own name, she gets to take it wherever she wants. Why tie down authors only with pseudos? Harlequin didn't choose my pen name, I did. They okayed it, but it was the one I took to them.

Starla Kaye said...

An excellent post, Joan, with lots of useful information. Getting the first "Call" is exciting. Seeing your first contract in black and white, in your very own hands, is equally exciitng. It makes the whole thing real. But each "call" and each contract after that is also exciting.

Joan Vincent said...

Rox, thanks for confirmation on Harlequin's policy. They made a good change in dropping the policy to "own" names.

Joan Vincent said...

You're right. Getting the contract is almost as good at the call. Right now a call that I sold would give me a mighty high!

Penny Rader said...

Terrific post, Joan, and what a great checklist to keep handy.

I heard Laura Kinsale speak at an RWA conference a few years ago and I remember her saying something similar about not saying YES right away. Her workshop cracked me up, but that point has always stuck with me.

My 'call' was an email, so I could say yes, yes, YES! and not worry about the editor hearing it before I was ready for her to hear it. Now, for the people in my office, that's another story. :D