Friday, June 24, 2011

What I believe in...

One of the most rewarding things I get out of doing this blog is the spirit of sharing of great ideas and insight from the people who come here. Today's post comes to you compliments of Suzanne Adair, author of Paper Woman, The Black Smith's Daughter, and Camp Follower, all nicely priced at $3.99 for the kindle. In the comments to one of my recent posts Suzanne pointed me to the a great TED Video by Simon Sinek. For those of you who are not familiar with TED - it is a FANTASTIC site. TED provides, "Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world". I think of TED as better than any MBA program on the face of the planet - and it costs nothing. I encourage you to make a regular practice of viewing a TED video - even if its only once a week.

So below is the video that Suzanne linked to me. It is WELL worth watching - so get a cup of coffee and enjoy it before reading on.

Wasn't that inspirational? That's just a single sampling of TED there's lots more just like where this came from.

Simon's talk and John Locke's book both solidified for me things that I was doing at a subconscious level. They have provided me with "ah-ha" moments and I wanted to take a moment today to share them with you.

It's not bragging, simply stating a fact, that both Michael's writing and Ridan Publishing are doing phenomenally well. While taking the dog for a walk yesterday I was remarking to Michael that I finally got some movement going on Leslie Ann Moore's Griffin's Daughter series (which she truly deserves it as she is a gifted writer). This makes me four for four as Nathan Lowell (Recently #2 Science Fiction Best Seller and poised to cross 10,000 books this month), Marshall Thomas (who sold 17,000 books last month and may crack 20,000 this month), and Michael (who has eclipsed my six-figure salary and made it so I can work on Ridan full time) are making more money than most traditionally published authors.

Recently I've been approached by podcasters and bloggers wanting to interview me and by writing conventions that have asked me to be a guest speaker at their events . Next week I'm going to be interviewed for an article in the Huffington Post. I just signed, Joe Haldeman, a science fiction grand master to bring his classic The Forever War to ebooks and have a number of high profile authors coming to me (one is a thriller writer who received over half a million dollars for a 3-book deal overseas) to publish their books.

Why is all this happening? It's because Ridan is truly doing something revolutionary and to understand what that is I have to tell you a bit about my company. When I wrote the Ridan contract Michael and I sat down and looked at all the things he hated about the AMI contract (his original small press publisher) and threw them out the window. Here are some key points of the Ridan contract.
  • The Author gets 70% Ridan keeps 30%. After all the author spent months or years writing the book - our contributions of editing, layout, cover design, and marketing are not worth 75% - 92% which is what traditional publishers take.

  • We only take rights for what we use - that means ebook and print books. The author maintains all foreign language, movie, graphic novels, merchandising, on and on. Most contracts pay the publisher a percentage of subsidiary rights because they had the brains to see the value in an author's work first and now want a "piece of the action".

  • We don't have an option clause - If you don't know what an option clause it is basically the right to get an exclusive "first crack" at any other books written by the author. While on the surface of things this doesn't hurt to be in a contract, it is also not necessary and puts a limitation on the author that should exist. If the author likes what I'm doing he's going to present me with his next book anyway...why do I need to "contractually require" him to?

  • The author has a voice in marketing decisions such as price, cover design, title, distribution channels, etc. If we can't agree on these things, and Ridan feels that they can't be successful with the book under the conditions the author desires, we simply end the contract and the rights revert to the author.

  • An author is not "required" to perform marketing as a term of the contract. Do we hope that the author will? Sure. Will we do marketing regardless of whether they do? Absolutely. Does this seem strange that I even bring this up? No - most contracts have language that put the publisher in control of the author in this regard. - A topic for another post someday.

  • The authors sole responsibility is to deliver a manuscript and approve the work that is produced. All other aspects of production: editing, cover design, layout, ebook formatting is the responsibility of Ridan and paid for out of our cut.

  • Money flows to the author. Again this should be obvious but there are a lot of "creative" publishing arrangements running around these days that require "investment" by both "interested parties". The authors investment is the time to create the work - period.

  • The contract is for the work we are acquiring only. The author is free to write as many books, in whatever time frame they desire, and put them on the market any way they wish without asking our permission to do so. -- You might think this is a given in any contract but then you've probably not seen some of the standard language - again a topic for another day.

  • Our contracts end. Most publishing contracts have terms of "the life of the copyright which means until 70 years after the author dies". Now most don't last that long as authors go out of print, but with ebooks and POD a publisher can keep an author "in print" indefinitely. All Ridan contracts have a term of three years, although that term is really moot because of the next point.

  • A Ridan author can leave anytime they want. If New York comes knocking, or they think they would be better off self-publishing, or they want to switch to another press. All they have to do is tell me, and I'll take their books off the market and send them a nullification agreement proving the rights are theirs again. (So far no Ridan author has ever asked to make use of this clause).
To say it's an unusual document is an understatement. Only those that have had a publishing contract in the past can truly understand the significance of ours. Yes, I'd call it "author friendly." The Ridan contract is the outward representation of what I believe in...
  • Authors deserve to make a living wage doing what they love

  • An authors contribution to the project is far more valuable then that of the publishers

  • Ridan is more interested in the authors success then their own. They can continue to pursue their dream of "big-six publishing" and if they get called up to the majors we rejoice with them and are glad that we played a part.

  • The publisher should take what they eat and eat what they take (i.e. don't gobble up all the rights just so someone else can't have them)

  • The publisher should be confident in their ability to make a project successful such that they shouldn't be concerned about competition from my author. In fact, if my author puts out other works it will be a win-win as more books = more ambassadors and readers will likely buy both.

  • If the author is dissatisfied with the job the publisher is doing on their behalf, they should have the right to fire them.
So there you have it...Ridan's "why."

Our "how" is through ebooks and print on demand which keeps our costs low and enables us to be profitable almost from day one and produce a product that is competitively priced. We aggressively market our authors, keep abreast of developments in the industry, and adjust in order to maximize author's earning potential within the confines of ensuring that the readers (who make it all possible) receive value.

Our "what" is hours of enjoyment at a fair price by providing engaging books by talented storytellers. We are neither the cheapest nor the most expensive. But select a price that is fair to both the reader and the writer. We'll never put out an inferior product because we value the loyalty of the readers who have come to trust the quality of the talent handpicked by Ridan.

There you have it. My why, how and what. I encourage you to start thinking inside out and what yours are combined with Locke's loyalty marketing its a winning combination.


E.C. Belikov said...

"Ridan is more interested in the authors success then their own."

That statement is a great example of precisely why I believe Ridan will continue to be successful.

Great post. I certainly hope that eventually I will be able to say that I'm published with Ridan, or another publisher who 'follows the Ridan example'.

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

I'm curious about the origin of your company name. I note that "Ridan" is "nadir" spelled backwards. Wikipedia says about nadir:

"The word is also used figuratively to mean the lowest point of a person's spirits, or the quality of an activity or profession."

So, is "Ridan" in fact a synonym for zenith?

Libby said...

That's a very healthy contract. I'd have to say I support that business model and the respect for the author. Judging from your author's sales, I believe the marketing Ridan does is quite successful.

Isabella Amaris said...

What a great example of 'build and they will come':) This a great business model for fairness and simplicity at its best. I'm certain that Ridan will only grow in success with terms like this in your contract. What authors want is support without being screwed, and you're offering this in very, very generous and ethical terms.

As EC Belikov said, I hope someday I'll be able to boast that I'm published by Ridan, or at least be signed to a publishing house that is as similarly confident and ethical as you are:) Cheers.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Robert - you are correct Ridan's name originates as being the opposite of nadir.

Gold star for you!

Robin Sullivan said...

@Isabella and EC - wouldn't it be great if the new trend indie publishing forced other publishers to behave as Ridan does?

They just makes "good sense".

Isabella Amaris said...

'yours is', I meant, not 'you are'. Yours is...:) Sheesh, too excited about the Rowling-Potter news:)

Isabella Amaris said...

Robin, I have to say that's what I'm hoping for, not only because it's the 'right' thing for publishers to do but because I think terms like this are win-win for everyone involved. All parties are getting value for money for services provided, and benefits are commensurate I think with what is brought to the table...

Unfortunately, though not extinct, 'good sense' seems to be a shockingly rare creature in our world as of late:D Present company excluded, of course:) But I'm still hoping!

Suzanne said...

Gosh, I should poke my head up out of my first draft more often. Thanks for floating my name and book titles around cyberspace.

Thanks also for floating that TED video around cyberspace some more. The lesson truly needs more air time.

Ridan is really different from the publishing model that I left to go indie. I wish you much luck with it.

And now I'm off to Tweet this. :-)

Suzanne Adair

Rob Cornell said...


Please open your submissions back up. :)

I've been awed by your work for a while. Now I know why. Because your "why" resonates with my "why."

Keep up the great work. Hopefully, the publishing world catches up with your innovation.

Steven Whibley said...

What a great post! Thanks for sharing that clip, Robin. Inspiring indeed.

KevinMc said...

Bravo, Robin! =)

Thanks for the link to the TED site, loved the video and looks like the others there are outstanding.

And thanks for setting the standard that all publishers should aspire toward.

Very well done!

cidney swanson said...

Robin, thank you for standing up for authors. Thank you for doing it thoughtfully and persuasively and with passion. It is so clear to me that by doing what you feel is right for your authors, you are changing the picture for all authors. I'm grateful.

And I'm off to RT Michael's article on fantasy. I know a few people who will love it.

Robin Sullivan said...

Isabella - I agree doing business this way is win-win both for the publisher and the author. I'm encouraged that things will change - after all they have to in my opinion in order to be competitive. I'm all for every publisher "stealing" my idea - or improving on it (if they can) - I say don't do what Langley did and quit...find a way to make a good thing better.

Robin Sullivan said...

Suzanne - you are quite welcome - brining such a good insightful post is worth a bit of free advertising.

Robin Sullivan said...

Rob - Thanks - I'll try to get it opened up again soon. But bandwidth will always be a problem - you are correct that we need to get more publishers to follow Ridan's lead.

Robin Sullivan said...

Thanks Steven and Kevin - I'm glad you found them inspiring. And yes Ted is a great site in general - well worth regular visits.

Robin Sullivan said...

Thanks Cindy...and thanks for retweeting Michael's blog potss - I found them wonderful (even with my "objective non-wife" hat on.

Annie said...

*picks up jaw* Are you serious? Uhm...what that guy said about opening up submissions. Please? Pretty please?? I'll make you cookies (and really fun ya sci-fi). :D

Alex said...

I discovered Ridan when Nathan Lowell joined them and been watching as there catalog has been growing impressively (by quantity while maintaining quality).

I have been trying to buy my books (ePub for me now) through them directly to ensure they get the most for each sale. Well worth the wait of a day or two to support them as they start up! I encourage others also to do this also.

Kate said...

*sigh* While I applaud your publishing design and contract, as a reader I fear greatly for the authors who've already been signed into slavery by these houses. HQ (who I've lost respect for FOREVER) and RH AND their decisions in the past couple of weeks make me wonder for authors out there. I don't think I've ever been so afraid for my fellow writers and my heart breaks at the way they are being treated.
I AM sorry for Trad Publishing, but they made their own bed. It just seems that now they expect the authors to lie in it.

Alex Lindsay said...


As a reader not familiar with what has been going on with the publishers recently. Could you provide more info, links etc?

Kate said...

I'd be happy to provide some links:

Honorée Corpron Corder said...

Great post. I just discovered your blog today, but I will follow it intently. Thank you for all of your valuable information and cheers to you and your husband ... and your continued success!

Robin Sullivan said...

@Kate - those are some great (though disturbing) links - I think both Passive guy and Rusch are great blogs but I've been busy and missed these so thanks for pointing them out.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Honorée - Thanks - and welcome - glad you find the site useful.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Alex - thanks so much for your support of Ridan authors - we are VERY selective and appreciate you encouraging others to try them out. Each and every one of them deserve success and I'm proud to play a part in providing that.

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