46. Publishing 301: Licensing & IP
This week JJ and Kelly move into the higher levels of publishing with their Publishing 301 series, this time talking about LICENSING & INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. Also they answer more listener questions about publishing and writing, so keep 'em coming!
Licensed Movie and TV Tie-In Publishing by Jordan Hamessley London
Very broadly, "IP" or "intellectual property" in publishing refers to situations when the story idea does not or did not originate with the author, i.e. the "intellectual property" belongs to the publisher. You can learn more about IP disputes from Intellectual property protection attorneys.
IP projects can run the gamut from a more handshake sort of agreement to a very strict, requiring-NDA sort of agreements.
On the informal end, some IP projects start with an editor saying "Hey, wouldn't it be great if we could have a story about X? Do we know any writers who can do it?" and then going out to find writers to fulfill it. The copyright remains in the author's name, and the entire story is under the author's creative control, it's just that the idea originated with the editor. Often in these instances, the pay structure is very akin to a traditional deal, where the author gets an advance and royalties.
On the other more formal end, you have projects generated by a packaging company (idea generation houses) where the story and characters are outlined by the packaging company and the writer is hired with a flat fee ("work for hire"). The copyright is in the packaging company's name, and the writer doesn't get royalties.
Work for hire can be steady and lucrative, and even really rewarding. Some really great ghostwriters can negotiate royalties and some will even have their name alongside the person for whom they are writing the book (like celebrity memoirs).
How to land work for hire projects can be a bit of a catch-22. Usually publishers will reach out to writers with whom they have an established relationship, but you can also break into traditional publishing having ghostwritten project.
The most common scenario for landing work for hire is when you are already agented but have not yet sold a book. For example, if your manuscript does not get acquired by a publishing house, said publishing house might say "we're looking for a writer who might be able to deliver X" and ask if you were interested in writing it.
Another way is to audition for projects for big packaging companies (you do not need an agent for these), but these are incredibly competitive.
Tie-in novels for huge established properties (Disney, Marvel, DC, Star Wars, etc.) are often licensed out to other publishers, and the publisher then goes out to find writers for those projects.
Books Discussed/What We're Reading
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
The Princess, The Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken
Batman by Marie Lu
Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo
Catwoman by Sarah J. Maas
The Reader by Traci Chee
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
The Giver by Lois Lowry
What We're Working On
JJ got an extension on book 2, and not a moment too soon, as she only just had a breakthrough on it.
Kelly is working on Morning Pages.
Off Menu Recommendations
What You're Asking
I can never get myself to finish my ideas. How do I make myself follow through? —Ana
The honest truth is that no one can make you finish writing. You either have the will to finish, or you don't. You have to to finish writing a book more than you want to do other things. Another thing that's useful is developing a habit of writing. Consistency contributes to progress.
I currently have a nearly finished book, but I'm confused as to where I take it from there. —Abby
First piece of advice: FINISH YOUR BOOK. You can't do anything with a book that's not finished. If this is your first novel, set your book aside (I usually advise a month) to let the story "settle" in your mind. Distance gives perspective. Send your manuscript out to critique partners and revise, revise, revise.
When writing a first novel, is it helpful or harmful to end on a cliffhanger (to be resolved in a sequel)? —Haley
Harmful. There is no guarantee a publisher will buy more than one book from you, and in fact, they are less likely to buy a book with a cliffhanger because it will come across as "unfinished." Now, you can leave greater plot threads unresolved or left ambiguous, but you must tell a complete emotional story.
I recently saw a reader include this comment in her review about a book that was recently released: "And sometimes great characters like [...] get kicked to the side (or out) because the author [themself] starts crushing on some random new character."
How do you keep yourself from getting too excited and sidetracked by the introduction of a new character or setting into your story? —Amber J
...wow. Okay, so there are some things to unpack here. First is reader expectation (and honestly, sometimes entitlement). A reader cannot control what you want to write. You should write the story you want to write and own the choices you make. If a reader does not like the choices you make, that's not on you; that's on them. (Related to this: you cannot control a reader's disappointment, and you cannot control how they choose to engage with your work.) Second is authorial intent. Now if you intended to portray something and the reader doesn't pick up on it, that's a failure on the writer's part, not the reader.
I'd love to know both of your opinions on Warner Brothers wanting to turn The Cursed Child into another Harry Potter movie trilogy. (I say another because some people consider Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them a trilogy). —Emily
Hahahahahahahahahaha, neither Kelly or JJ are fans. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
What You're Saying
Great Podcast for Writers ★★★★★ TheGirlsDistracted As a writer in the throes of revising/rewriting my first novel, I can use all the writing advice I can get. I look forward to listening to this podcast on my commute every week. JJ and Kelly are both really knowledgable about the publishing business and I love that we hear about the publishing experience from multiple angles—from authors, to marketers, to editors. While every writer knows to take any writing advice with a grain of salt (what's right for you might be the very worst thing for me, after all), I love the friendly and open advice, and the candid way they talk about what works, or doesn't, in stories they love. Currently LOVING the episodes on characterization. Keep 'em coming. :)
Thank you! We have LOTS of opinions about what works and doesn't work in stories, so, uh, expect a lot more of that in the future.
That's all for this week! Next week we'll be continuing our Publishing 301 series with PERMISSIONS & FAIR USE. As always, if you have any questions, please sound off in the comments!