Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Different Kind of Book Deal

by Holly West

My husband recently signed a contract to write a book about debunking false conspiracy theories, specifically, techniques for helping people who believe in them to stop believing. I debated whether to share the news here since it's not crime/mystery and it's only indirectly related to me, but I think publishing stories in general are interesting so I'm here to tell you about it.

First, some background. My husband runs a couple of web forums dedicated to debunking and has been involved in the skeptic community several years. On occasion, his coverage of conspiracy theories and related subjects intersects with media coverage on the same topics, and journalists often find his websites while researching their own stories. This has led to many media appearances and interviews, which, over time, has given him a fairly large platform as a debunker.

A few months ago, an independent publisher in New York approached him, asking if he'd ever considered writing a book. Of course he had. He'd already come up with a broad outline for one, so now,  he wrote up a formal proposal. The publisher loved it and sent him a contract.

You might be thinking, oh, if only it were so easy to get a fiction deal. In my husband's case, he's written thousands upon thousands of words, conducts endless research, and works tirelessly to keep current on the subjects he reports on. Though it feels like the deal came out of the blue, it truly didn't. There's quite a lot of time, energy, and expertise behind it.

From the outset, I told him he should consider finding an agent to help him negotiate the deal. I, too, got my first book deal without an agent, but used it as leverage to get one. More than that, I needed someone with experience to look the contract over and negotiate better terms where possible. At first, he resisted, but when he had the contract in hand there were some aspects of it he wasn't comfortable with. He decided he wanted to work with an agent.

As it happened, I'd gone to a writing conference the weekend before the publisher sent him the contract and met an agent I thought might be a good fit. She'd negotiated deals with the publisher before and represented several nonfiction titles. I sent her an email telling her he had a deal in hand and asked if she was interested in representing the book. She responded within an hour. A day or so later, my husband had an agent.

It's too early to tell whether signing with an agent is a good financial move. She negotiated better terms in some key areas, so obviously, that's a big win. But ultimately, sales will determine whether it will be worth the price of commission.

Of course, contract negotiation isn't the only reason to have an agent. The agent he signed with is interested in his area of expertise and excited about working with him on future projects. I can say from my own experience that having a professional in your corner feels a lot better than going it alone.

So that's it, the story of my husband's book deal. I'm super proud of him and can't wait to see the finished book.

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