150 years has given publishing a certain efficiency. There are snafus, but we know that a manuscript is going to come in, there’ll be a contract, some more stuff will happen, and there will be a book at the end. (“Book,” here, includes verbatim electronic versions—ebooks).
That model is comfortable. The new environment isn’t; it’s totally different technology from what we’ve been dealing with for centuries.
But I propose getting over that. When a manuscript is read to go on submission, the agent has to start thinking about the potential package of products: PPP.
What should be sold to the editor? What should be taken elsewhere for development? What should be developed in-house? None of these questions can be answered without thinking about what the book could be—in physical and digital form.
Most agents still negotiate based on selling The Book, not on selling the PPP. With a comprehensive plan (design outlines for apps, ideas for revenue splits—without, of course, tipping one’s hand completely) the publisher is a lot more likely to insert language that allows for specific project(s), even if they refuse to fork over whole clauses (The Audio Clause, The Multimedia Clause).
Voila. Now we can all just get along, right? We just have to ask about specific applications for audio rights, and they’ll GIVE THEM TO US!!
Well, probably not. It’s not going to be that easy, and the majority of innovations are probably not going to come through the Big Six because they really do have corporate mandates that say there’s no deal without, say, audio rights. (Bummerrrrr!)
But that’s no reason to keep banging our heads into the same Book first, other-stuff-later-maybe-if-we-get-to-it-and-it-stops-being-so-scary wall.
Think outside the book.