Question: We are about to release our first book, ScreamFree Parenting, Raising Your Kids While Keeping Your Cool, and have an audio 4-cd set that is also for sale. The folks at a web site have expressed interest in selling the cd's, but the royalties they have offered us (they would reproduce and do all of the work and just send us a check) seems incredibly low. They also want the right to sublicense to others, which seems an affront to me. Would you have any thoughts on working with them and/or what would by a typical royalty to receive in this type of setup? Thank you so much for your help.
Answer: The sub-licensing allows them to sell more of your CD set. Since you didn't say the amount of the royalty they offered, I can't comment on whether it was fair or not. The important thing is to offer then a non-exclusive license to reproduce and sell your CD set. That allows you to license others as well -- and to sell rights to another audio publisher at some point. You should probably also set a time limit on the license or some other limit that allows you to take back the license if things don't work out well between the two of you.
Personally, I'd probably sign with with the company if the royalty were reasonable (5 to 15%) and I didn't have a good chance to sell the rights to a more recognized audio publisher. Any sales they make will be the icing on the cake, since I would still be selling the CDs as well on my own and maybe licensing it to others as well. Any sales made by them will only increase the size of my audience for future books, CDs, seminars, newsletters, reports, etc. Plus they would help to create the word of mouth that helps to sell the current book and CD set to other people.
The key to rights sales is to sell to the best buyer, the one who can get you the farthest reach. Until you find that buyer and get them to make a commitment, you could license rights to others on a non-exclusive and perhaps temporary basis. Whenever you grant any rights, be sure to limit those rights as much as possible so you can exploit other rights or license them to others. Some neophyte publishers give away far too many rights in the beginning just because they are happy to sell some rights. That's bad business in the long run. Do your homework. Be sure what rights you want to grant, and then limit them in writing.
I'll be covering this whole subject more thoroughly in Chapter 17 of the new 6th edition of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books. The new information and coverage in that alone will be worth the price of the new edition. Coming this summer to a bookstore or web site near you. -- John Kremer