The Two-Wheeled Writer covers writing and motorcycling but not in any specific order. I write about other things too, but all are connected in some way.

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January 2016

The Two Wheeled Writer – Heather Ellis


The Book Contract

After the ‘Offer’ from Black Inc. Books to publish my first book, a travel memoir titled Ubuntu: one woman's motorcycle odyssey across Africa came ‘The Contract’. With my pen poised, I felt an overwhelming compulsion to sign immediately because like any first-time author, there was a part of me that feared ‘they’, the publisher would change their mind. ‘Oh, sorry, we’ve decided, on second thoughts, your book doesn’t fit our list after all’.

But the advice of Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild, came back to me as if she had miraculously appeared over my left shoulder. Back in June, I attended her 10-day writing workshop ‘The Art and Craft of Literary Nonfiction’ in Chamonix, France (as part of the annual series of Mont Blanc Writing Workshops. It’s a must-do experience for any aspiring author in an inspiring location). Cheryl told me that when I received ‘the offer’, I would be so humbled that I’d do anything to please them ‘the publisher’. Stop, she’d said. ‘Get an agent and let them do all the negotiations. You’re then free to concentrate on what you do best––writing’. The agent or not to agent dilemma became an ongoing discussion amongst the students in Chamonix and it seems, we do things differently here in Australia, one of the few countries where publishers will read unsolicited manuscripts. The complete opposite is true in the United States, I was told. My decision was sealed after listening to Australian bestselling author Graeme Simsion (The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect) at the Melbourne Writers Festival in August. Graeme decided against an agent saying: ‘why should I give 15 percent to an agent when the publisher does the same thing’ (his publisher is Text Publishing based in Melbourne). After signing the contract at Black Inc. Books at their Melbourne office, the conversation with the editorial team turned to the ‘agent dilemma’. Why bring in a third party when we can work together as a team, I’d said. They agreed.

In the weeks leading up to signing the Contract, I contacted Alex Adsett Publishing Services for a review of the initial offer from Black Inc. Books. Alex was recommended by the Australian Society of Authors and for $120 she provided a brief review that mostly advised the offer was industry standard, but outlined I needed to negotiate on key clauses relating to royalties, international rights and the option on a second book. As Black Inc. assured me they have contacts with international publishers and would promote my book to these publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair, I had no qualms about their credentials. I was also happy for them to have the second book option (although this is not legally binding). After all, Black Inc. would have put time and effort into building my, and my book’s profile, so why take this away and give it all to another publisher.

Once the Contract was drawn up, I forwarded this to the Australian Society of Authors contract assessment service ($130 including their contract assessment booklet). Two weeks later I received an eight-page assessment that basically stated the contract represented ‘a satisfactory offer and was within the broad parameters of commercial publishing’, but some of the terms offered fell short of the terms recommended by the ASA. Basically, it was fair and I signed. And in that signing, I formed an allegiance to work together as a team with Black Inc. Books and to share my story, my adventure and my search for meaning. A search that lead me to Ubuntu and our interconnectedness as we evolve to become the very best we can for the benefit of all.




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