About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Audio Rules!

Once upon a not so very long time ago, it was virtually impossible to sell audio rights to anything in the way of science fiction and fantasy. This, to me, was not a good thing.

Why was this? I do think sf/fantasy is an acquired taste, so much so maybe it's in the genes, and for some reason it's been an acquired taste that is looked down upon. To the rest of the world, the entire sf convention is going around in Star Trek costumes and taking Klingonese lessons from Lawrence Schoen. Why do indie bookstores have better mystery sections than sf if they deign to have an sf section at all, why do libraries have better mystery sections. Do sf readers avoid libraries because they don't have sf, or do the libraries avoid because sf readers have an allergy. That's clearly part of it. In order for them to buy sf/fantasy they first had to be educated about it.

There were also these rules. Fixed cost in audio can be high because of recording costs. You need to have some prayer of geting the fixed costs back. So audio companies would say they would only buy books if they knew the publisher would be shipping 100,000 copies and if they could have them in time to be out when the hardcover was out and if they didn't go a clause over 79.940 words in length. All told, only a smattering of very top authors like Robert Jordan had audio editions out unless they were with smaller publishers selling their wares at conventions. Cutting had a little bit in their Graphic Audio line, like some of the Deathstalker books. This did not stop clients from wanting audio editions, but it was an easy time to explain why the odds were against. I had to work hard even at selling Charlaine Harris as she started to climb up the bestseller lists before finally getting Recorded Books on board.

And then six months ago, the world changes.

Audible decides there is more of a market for sf/fantasy than they have product. They start to put the word out to their content providers that the order of the day is more, please, more. And if you don't want to give us more maybe we'll go out ourselves and get it. Now, pretty much all of the top clients at the agency are under contract for audio editions or soon will be. Where I never had anyone wanting to buy, now I can have multiple people competing against one another in actual bidding wars. I can have this publisher wanting the abridged and that publisher the unabridged. Whodathunkit. It's nice to finally have the revenue stream kicking in for my clients. More work, but the right kind, though it might have been nice if there had been a steady group of sales over many years instead of having to sell the entire list all at once.

As a side issue, never a good idea to sell publishers more rights than you need to. If you sold audio rights to your publisher when nobody was doing sf/fantasy on audio, it's not as if they were going to sell them, because nobody was buying them. Now, everyone wants to buy them and it's not so difficult all of a sudden, and the publisher gets 50% for being in the right place at the right time. Maybe 100% if your advance isn't earned out. As an agent, I like for the author to get as much benefit from right place at right time as I can.

I wanted to do one more post before Malice Domestic, at least one. Done! Probably next week before I''ll have another. But May is a much lighter travel month until Balticon on Memorial Day weekend, and should totally be a better Brillig month than April was.

1 comment:

Maria said...

Thanks for the info. I assume that if SF audio sales picked up, perhaps other types have also become more popular? I know there are several short story podcasts for fantasy/sci/fi, but not so many for mystery/crime. I don't know if that is due to different audiences or different producers (ie the people buying audio rights prefer spec fiction.)

I'm glad to see audio taking off. Maybe if more is produced, the cost will come down.