Ask Tania: Who pays for what if we get a publishing deal?

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Dear Tania, 

A friend and I are writing a book that includes lots of styling and photography. Who pays for photography and props, if we get a publishing deal? Do we pay or does the publisher cover those costs?


Hi, Mark,

Your question depends on a few factors.

With the type of book you're planning, you have a lot of work ahead in terms of time and money investment. It's kind of scary to work on a book with no guarantee of publication--this is what creators the world over face, and no matter how much financial investment you need to outlay (if any), you still have to put in the time, heart and effort, with no guarantee of publication, let alone financial success.

So, I guess the first thing to say is this: welcome to the world of publishing! It's a place where relying on income doesn't really exist--at least, not at the beginning. With recent reports saying most authors earn as little as $13,000 p.a. from their writing (and that's often active, full- or near-full- time writers!), it can be rather discouraging. But the good news is, income does increase over time, and with dedication.

But back to your question.

When I created Handmade Living, it was done via an organisation, so it wasn't traditionally published. I did most of the photography and absorbed a small amount of prop cost (and of course, donated all of my time). I knew the book would do well (it did) because there was an established audience for it, so I was happy to do this. We had contributors create items for the book, then I photographed most products, wrote blurb and designed and laid out the pages.

Overall, other than time, there was little financial outlay for me, and I more then recouped the costs when the book sold (though labour, unless you sell a million copies, will never be recompensed for any kind of book--this is why it's called a labour of love!).

Through a traditional publisher, unless you are commissioned to create a book, and/or are super famous and will have everyone do it all for you, I do believe you are up for the same kinds of outlay costs and time. I haven't created a book like yours through a traditional publisher, but I know that in the children's book industry, any creative input to any book is the responsibility of the creators--whether it be writing, typography, drawing, photography or styling.

So, if there's an author and an illustrator for a children's book, they receive a contracted payment or advance and royalties for the BOOK, ie: not for the hours or money they put into it, but the book itself. Again, this is the way of things. It's very rare for a creator to be paid well for the actual hours they put in. For example, if an illustrator spends 100 hours illustrating a book, they'll be paid the same as someone who has spend 10 hours on illustration.

Yes, it's a labour of love.

To make your initial outlay costs less expensive, make your contributors creators. You and your colleague as the 'authors', then the person you hire as the 'photographer'. All of you would receive cover credit (or title page credit). If the photographer is involved in the actual creation process, rather than just hired to 'take snaps', they will have greater emotional investment, and it will end up a far more cohesive book. You'll also have another person to promote the book!

If you do it this way, the photographer would sign contract for a cut of the book's royalties, or they could be paid a single contracted amount by the publisher (either way is good, and is dependent on the publisher and projected possible sales; do what seems right for you). Or, the photographer might prefer to be paid a contracted amount and the authors receive royalties--it's something you would need to nut out between yourselves and with the publisher.

If the photographer was interested in royalties, this would mean, of course, that you authors would earn a smaller cut royalties (book royalty percentage--in total--rarely goes above 10% of RRP), but it may be worth your doing it this way if the upfront costs of your photographer are enormous.

Alternatively, you might decide it makes better sense to pay a photographer a one-off fee yourself, then share all royalties between the two authors. In this case, the photographer would not receive cover or title page credit, but would be credited on the imprint page.

As you can see, it all depends on your situation, who is involved, and how you want to divvy up responsibility. Think creatively about it. It also depends on who you end up publishing with. Whatever the case, if you want to sub the idea to a publisher, you will need to showcase the writing, styling, photography and a full outline of what you're doing, so you're up for upfront costs, anyway.

Best of luck!

See all the questions so far ...

1 comment:

Sheryl Gwyther said...

Excellent overview, Tania. Your blog posts are so good and very helpful for many. :)

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