What it means if I ask to share book revenue with you

I charge what I’m worth. Whether it’s a book proposal, book editing, or ghostwriting, I figure out how much work it will take, multiply by my hourly rate, and price accordingly.

My price is fixed. I don’t charge by the hour, I charge by the job.

If you propose to pay me out of your book revenues, I’m probably going to say no. But I might not. What does it mean if I want to share?

It means you’re likely to be very successful.

A case study in revenue sharing

I recently agreed to help an author create a book proposal. We’d done much of the work already, because he had written most of the book and I’d edited it. But the book looked promising enough to me that I thought it was worth doing a proposal and pitching agents and publishers.

My cost for the work to complete the proposal was $5,500. He wanted to save some money, since he’d already spent a lot on the book editing. So I suggested to cut the $5,500 in half, to $2,750, in exchange for 10% of any book advance.

I’d volunteered to give up $2,750 in fees in exchange for the highly uncertain prospect that (1) his proposal would get accepted by an agent, (2) the agent would be able to get publishers to bite, and (3) the advance would be in excess of $32,000, so that my cut (after the agent’s fee) would exceed the $2,750 I’d given up.

This is exactly the sort of deal I usually turn down. Why was this time different?

  1. I knew the content was excellent, since I’d collaborated on it.
  2. I knew the author had an excellent reputation, even though he’d never published a book in English before.
  3. I knew he had opportunities to develop a sterling set of promotional resources, including bulk orders from major corporations and endorsements from well-known businesspeople and other authors.

In other words, I had a high degree of confidence that the package was just what a publisher would find attractive.

This made for some interesting conversations as we pitched the book.

His original response to my offer was “Ok, since I don’t think we will get an advance, let’s do that.” When the agent was slow to respond, he said “Well, she is most likely not interested.” Even as the agent was pitching publishers, the author was skeptical that any would make decent offers.

I knew better. I’ve seen enough manuscripts and marketing plans to know this one was likely to sell — and well worth gambling away $2,750 of my earnings.

In the end, a major publisher picked up the book for an advance well over $100,000. My cut of that will exceed $12,000.

The author is happy; he has a book deal. I’m pretty happy, too, since our work is paying off much better than if I’d just kept the extra $2,750.

My offer of revenue sharing means you’re sitting on a winner

I’ve done this type of revenue sharing very few times. But each time it has paid off handsomely.

Despite that success, if you want me to work with you on a book, I probably won’t do a revenue share. I’ll ask to get paid in full for the time I put in. The result will be the best book, or proposal, that I can help you to create. It might be very successful — that is up to you.

But if I’m truly excited about your prospects, I’ll offer a revenue share. If I’ve put that kind of deal on the table, you probably have a winner on your hands. I could be wrong, though.

If you’re tight on cash, go ahead and take the deal. It will save you some money in the short term. And I’m quite happy to wait and see it pay off for me as you become a big success.

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  1. How do you typically do your payment structure? I’ve done “half upfront, half when finished” and “half down, 25% at half, 25% at completion.” Is there a better method?

    1. I tend to arrange payments to align with the work.

      For example, for a proposal, there is one payment up front, one payment when it’s all done but one part, and one payment on completion.

      Editing is half up front, half at completion — or, if there is more than one pass, each pass gets its own set of payments.

  2. Thanks! You gave me an idea to loosen up my “Never Will Do” list another notch–IF I find myself working on a project like yours. I’ve been pleased with my recent happy-ending story, but I see it’s time to bump up my risk-taking. A newbie self-pub author who was very coachable got extras without me charging for them. I knew he had other books in his pipeline. After he published his first book he mailed me a copy. As I began to flip through the book, gift cards began falling out. He called those “thank-you cards.” Very nice surprise! (And we’re working on his next book now.)