The Deal Is Done

So, here they are. These five contracts you see above encompass thirteen books and ten years. The general details of these contracts were agreed to six months ago, but the fiddly bits took time to sort. I got the final versions of the contracts, signed by me and the folks at Tor, just this morning. This means that, finally and officially, I’m on the hook for writing all these books in the next decade, and Tor is on the hook for, well, everything else. We’re both all in.

My understanding is that there are still some people who are flummoxed as to why either I or Tor would enter into a deal of this size and length. From the point of view of strictly business,  I explain Tor’s rationale using financial terms: Essentially, Tor is buying Scalzi futures — paying a set price now as a hedge against potentially having to pay more upfront later. Tor absolutely believes they can make back what they’re paying me upfront over the length of the contract based on my sales today, but if my sales increase over the decade, then they get the future books at a discount (they still have to pay me royalties, of course, but that’s out of money that’s already come in, not money that’s fronted out). It’s an entirely rational move, economically speaking, on Tor’s part.

As for me on the strictly business end of things, well. I’ve noted before that the sums involved in the Tor contract represent the floor of my earnings for the next ten years, not the ceiling, and subsequent contracts and agreements that I and my team have made (Yes! I have a team! I know, it’s weird for me too) have already boosted what I have coming in by a significant margin — contracts and agreements facilitated by the fact the Tor deal was the foundation. Nothing is as assuring to potential partners as the idea that other people are already invested in you. Tor’s deal with me was smart for it; it was also smart for me, and not just in relation to Tor. There are other advantages as well, not directly related to money, chief among them being how I get to structure my time, and my ability to intelligently explore other opportunities that these contracts will allow.

This is why, as an aside, the Monday morning quarterbacking of the business aspects of my Tor deal was and continues to be interesting for me to watch — not only because people were opining based on incomplete information about the deal itself, but also an incomplete understanding of what it was that I and my folks are trying to do. This makes it sound like I’m sitting here, fingers steepled, Monty Burns-style, bellowing You foolish mortals! You know nothing of my master plan! and cackling while a camera captures my visage from a low angle. It’s nothing that sinister or complicated. But in fact, people don’t know what I want, business-wise, or how I’ve structured things to get as close to what I want as possible. It’s fine to speculate, of course. Go right ahead. But unless you hear it from me, it’s only speculation.

Away from the strictly business aspects of things, there are other reasons that I like this deal. I like the people I work with at Tor. They generally like me (I hope!). I like the fact they’re competent at things I’m not, or have no interest in being, so I can focus on the things I am competent at. I like the idea that some of the money I make goes back in to pay other writers Tor publishes. I like being a part of a house that has published some of my favorite genre writers. We have a similar philosophy about where my career could go and how to get there. We’re both happy to be able to plan long-term instead of just book-to-book. It’s a good match.

I also have personal reasons to like this deal, some of which are obvious (money!) and some of which are not. The short version of the latter is that there are now a lot of things I had to worry about before which I no longer have to, and I am more free, rather than less so, to do a number of things I would like to do. Additionally, and bluntly, the jar containing all the fucks I have to give about a whole range of things is just about empty now, and is likely to stay that way from here on out. This is a rare gift, made possible by these contracts. I intend to take advantage of it.

Ultimately, though, these contracts mean this: I get to do what I love to do for at least another decade, and I don’t have to do anything else but the thing I love to do. This is freedom, simply put. I am looking forward to it. I hope you’ll enjoy what comes from it, over the next decade and beyond.

81 thoughts on “The Deal Is Done

  1. Congratulations, sir. We look forward to reaping the benefits in the years to come. Stability and certainty are cool things.

  2. It’s like you’ve now got an authorial version of tenure, albeit medium-term rather than permanent. Hard to see that as anything other than a massive net good.

  3. Do you have any worry that you or your work will suffer without the stimulus of economic anxiety? Or that your output will disappoint them, despite your best efforts? Or that having to meet these obligations will hamper higher, as yet unimaginable, ambitions or opportunities? I suppose, by your age you know yourself well enough to shrug off these concerns, but I’d be paralyzed.

  4. Part of me thinks I’d be intimidated by all the work I’d need to do to fulfill the contract, and at being committed to it for the next 10 years. On the other hand, I’ve worked at my current organization for almost 30 years, so I clearly prefer stability to risk. In any event, congrats to you, sir. Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. Hey. I havent read any of your books (yet), but the recent Hugos/Puppies farago caught my attention, reminded me how much I love sci-fi, and I love the bejaysus out of the way you handled the Puppies thing, and the things you had to say.

    Anyway, where would you (or your minions) recommend I start?

    My top three sci-fi novels are, Joe Haldeman’s Forever War, Michael Marshall Smith’s Only Forward and Jeff Moon’s Vurt.

    (I already have a copy of Redshirts on my to-read pillar (it is taller than a pile), but it’s waiting until after I finish Peter F Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy, and I’m only 400 pages into the first one, so I have *a lot* of tree flesh to consume before I get to it).

    Congrats on the deal!

  6. congrats on the deal and the ability to focus on the things you are competent at and not worry about things you once had to. Don’t forget to recycle those fucks appropriately.

    I cannot fathom anyone being “flummoxed” about a deal that doesn’t concern them. What does concern me is that there are 13 potential Scalzi books in my future unless something happens to you. or me.

    I assume none are in draft form right now?

  7. Well it’s comforting to know that the kitties won’t starve! But otherwise, it’s nice to look forward to reading those 13 over the next decade. Nice one!

  8. Matt: I don’t think anyone will contradict me if I say that the best possible intro to John’s work is Old Man’s War. It was his first big success, it introduces most of his usual tropes, and it’s typical of his style. So I always tell people, start with that.

  9. I know that it wasn’t intentional, but I think it’s funny that there’s a typo in the following sentence:

    “I like the fact they’re competent at things I’m not, or have no interesting in being, so I can focus on the things I am competent at.”

  10. bskinn:

    Well, when the contracts are done, I’ll be 57, and barring a global catastrophe or abject stupidity on my part, I’ll have more than enough to retire on, if I so choose. So the tenure is actually fairly close to permanent, in a real world sense

    (NB: I don’t plan to retire from writing. I suspect I’ll be doing it until I drop.)

    Artifex Prime:

    Bluntly, it’s been more than 15 years since I’ve had genuine economic anxiety (the last time was when I was laid off from AOL in 1998, and that was relatively short-lived), so no, that won’t affect me. I also don’t worry about opportunities I will miss; at this point I know myself well enough to know what I like doing. What I like doing is writing.

  11. Oh yeah: Congratulations, John, on the deal and everything that comes with it. Very true that if Tor is happy to invest in you to this degree, it’ll persuade others to do the same.

    Yeah, 13 books over ten years seems like a lot at first. But then, you’d be writing those books anyway, right? (Assuming they keep selling, of course.) So you might as well lock in (heh) the best possible deal for them.

    Anyway, it’s good for you, it’s good for Tor, and its good for us readers. Because, if I may embarrass you for a moment, you’re a damn good writer–probably the closest thing to a Heinlein that our generation has produced–and I’m all in favor of anything that keeps you writing.

    So, cheers! (lifts chai and nods toward Ohio)

  12. I don’t get why people are flummoxed about this deal.

    You (JS) were out of contract. You’re possibly not their biggest author, but certainly one of their big producers. You write fast, have great variety, work your ass off to go on tour and generally do good things for sci-fi. You’re fairly young, and at the top of your game author-wise. They were worried that they could potentially lose you.

    So when the Scalzi-Phone rang in Tor HQ, they were probably worried that you were telling them that you were done and had a better deal. Instead, you said (I’m guessing here, of course) “Hey, I’d like to fly up and talk to you about the next books I might write. Have your legal people and the money-truck drivers on standby.”

    Then you showed up to that meeting and laid out a 13-book, 10-year schedule of stuff you were thinking about writing. I can only hope you ended your pitch with a use-car salesman-like flair of “All this can be yours for the low, low price of 3.4 MILLION dollars!!”

    And the reasons why the money make sense you’ve delineated elsewhere. In addition to all of that–this deal is stability for TOR as well. They now have a guaranteed high-throughput high-quality reliable author, so that’s 2 or 3 mediocre authors they don’t have to find in the slush pile.

    Congratulations again, John! Whoo-hoo! Here’s to authors making money and doing awesome stuff!

  13. But consider this Scalzi:
    1. You would’ve made more money if you’d self-publish.
    2. You don’t sell because you’re unpopular.
    3. There’s the Tor boycott* which will hit you hardest.

    I myself participated in this by buying the last Jay Lake collection and preordering the End of All Things papeback. I hope I’m doing this boycotting thing right.

  14. In case I missed out the last time around….congrats. I’m glad that you are getting everything you want/need. I’m glad that Tor is getting what they want/need.

    I’m looking forward to what you produce in the future. (And still have a pile of your stuff to read through. Sadly, the autograph has worn off of my Nook.)

  15. opining based on incomplete information about the deal itself, but also an incomplete understanding of what it was that I and my folks are trying to do.

    One of these days, probably after I organize my sock drawer, I’m going to write a long rant about how we’ve entered an era where mere “facts” and “information” don’t matter and opinions do.

  16. I think most people who like their jobs would sign a 10-year contract to keep doing them for a nice lump of cash. This is particularly true if your job forms part of your identity and is something you would always want to keep doing. I know I would. Congrats, Mr. Scalzi!

  17. Congratulations to you! Also congratulations to Tor! I’m glad there’s this thing that’s going to work well for you. I hope as you say it also facilitates publishing additional writers too! Here’s to the future!

  18. So – when is the next book (or three) supposed to be out? I can wait for a while, say 2..3 months, then I will start seriously jonesing…. I’m sure your neighbors will not mind a small tent camp and port-a-potty on your lawn… We will even watch the cats ….

    (Congrats, BTW…)

  19. @bandit: Given that the books are going to be released by Tor (that’s rather the point of this whole deal), you might be better off camping on their lawn! :)

    Oh, and if you need some suggestions for other things to read while you wait, I think you’ll find that John’s blog regularly features a section called “The Big Idea” which might give you some ideas. ;)

  20. Details, Schmetails, you’re writing stuff you like and getting paid at level you’re pleased with. That’s a win.

  21. Gratz.

    How I know the people who are saying this is not a good deal are full of shit: The people who are saying this is not a good deal for you, and the people saying this is not a good deal for TOR are GENERALLY THE SAME PEOPLE…

    Hold on, that’s not how it works! Capitalism, right? A business deal is either fair, OR to one party’s advantage…

    It’s a good deal for ME at least… Thirteen new Scalzi novels over the next decade…Probably about a dozen, give or take, books I’ll enjoy reading!

  22. I have been perplexed by the number of people who appear to be simultaneously convinced that ‘the market rules’ and ‘the market does not rule’; I doubt that John’s explanation will do much to lift the fog of incomprehension, since people addicted to oxymorons seldom abandon them.

    However, the deal helps John, it helps Tor, and it helps other writers get a chance of being published since publishers use a part of the profits generated by successful writers to seek out more writers. It isn’t a zero sum game, no matter how much people want to believe that it’s a zero sum game.

  23. “Because, Ms. Meyer,” Holloway said, “with all due respect for your considerable skills and intellect, the fact of the matter is you have absolutely no clue what it is I want out of this.”

  24. You have financial security for the next decade, something a lot of people in the current economy probably envy far more than the actual sums involved (I mean, the money itself is nothing to sniff at, but knowing you’re guaranteed that sum as a minimum for the next ten years? Practically without price in an economy full of short-term contracts, impermanent employment, and “at will” terminations). As one of the people who does rather envy you that security, but who is honest enough with themselves to admit it, congratulations. I’ll just be over here gnawing out my liver.

  25. Welcome to full-time employment, you working stiff, you.

    We expect regular grumbling about the office coffeepot and your coworkers from here on out or these contracts are void, John!

    In all seriousness, congratulations. May the next decade do well by you.

  26. So now I’m going to be picturing a bunch of guys in vests on a trading floor waving tickets in the air and yelling “Scalzi futures! Buy 1000 Scalzi futures at 34!”

  27. I get to do what I love to do for at least another decade, and I don’t have to do anything else but the thing I love to do. This is freedom, simply put.

    Since you’re not getting paid by the word any more, the quoted bit is really all you need to say now… 8-)

  28. By the way, as JS said in the blog posts after the deals were announced (months ago), that the big amount mostly is the total of all the books’ advances, which will ONLY be paid once each corresponding book is DONE and DELIVERED for publication.

    He has a crapload of writing to do in the next 10 years to GET the money, it’s just that he doesn’t have to worry about sending any of it out, there’s an editing/publicity/publishing team waiting for each one.

  29. Matt Barton says:

    Anyway, where would you (or your minions) recommend I start?

    My top three sci-fi novels are, Joe Haldeman’s Forever War, Michael Marshall Smith’s Only Forward and Jeff Moon’s Vurt.

    Matt, the books of Our Guest Host are slightly different in style from the above, but well worth reading, and “Old Man’s War” is probably the best place to start. Can I suggest, however, that based on your tastes, you give these a go:

    i, http://www.amazon.com/Memories-Mike-McQuay/dp/0747233861/ref=la_B001H6QS7A_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448496899&sr=1-6 (Memories, Mike McQuay)

    ii, http://www.amazon.com/Armor-John-Steakley/dp/0886773687/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448496970&sr=1-1&keywords=armor+steakley (Armor, John Steakley)

    iii, The Takeshi Kovacs novels by Richard Morgan.

  30. Bravo, John. I think we are all enormously pleased for you! This deal also means a never-ending supply over the next decade of new work from you, and that is cause for celebration all ’round. :)

  31. Yeah, in my case it’s not so much the amount of money (which is a big stonkin’ amount, but I figure the agent and other business people get some of that, as does the IRS and the college of Athena’s choice), it’s the amazing guarantee of job security. THAT’s what I envy.

    But you deserve it, so write those fingers off in between cat photos.

    (I also have a tiny bit of schadenfreude towards all those who said this would be terrible for both you and Tor — which are mostly people who have some fixation with hating on a division of a multi-national conglomerate, and a middle-aged Midwestern geek. I have the opposite of that for you.)

  32. Bravo. The ability to negotiate a long term contract must provide for some stability in a very fluid environment. Please take a deep breath and then write like your soul is on fire! Again, a very well deserved congratulations!

  33. It might be a good thing the money is to be paid as the books are written, or Athena’s ability to afford a Maserati would come down to her ability to stage a horrible, fatal cat-related accident. I mean, it still will, but at least you’ve got time to prepare.

    “Honest, officer, I have no idea how Sugar and Spice got ahold of a ten-ton block, a rope and pulley system strong enough to hold it up, a perfect sense of timing and the desire to commit cold-blooded murder. Well, the last part is probably just from being cats.”

    That’s exactly how we lost my uncle. Actually, it was for a Yugo, but close enough.

  34. And the “security” for the rest of us is that we now know that we have at least ten years of Scalzi books to look forward to! Yeah! So, sincerest congratulations and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  35. So, why 5 contracts? Do they cover different parts of writing & the business thereof, or do they just cover different books. (i.e. #1 is Head-On, #2 is The Phantom of the Space Opera, etc…)

  36. Well, congratulations on getting the deal all sewn up. I have to admit I’m kind of excited, since this deal seems to mean that I get to read 1.3 of your novels (on average) for each of the next 10 years. I always like to see my favorite authors doing well, both because I like them, and because I benefit by getting to read their output.

  37. John Scalzi:
    I get to do what I love to do for at least another decade, and I don’t have to do anything else but the thing I love to do. This is freedom, simply put.

    I feel that a lot of people underestimate how important this is. This is why I would rather work a 9-to-6 job rather than run my own business. It’s a more efficient utilisation of resources so that jobs are done by people who are (hopefully) good at them and (again hopefully) enjoy what they are doing.

    It’s also a little bit about laziness, right?

  38. I’m happy that you’re happy with your future. I’m very much looking forward to reading your writing for many years to come. It’s great to see talented people (yes, that’s you) being rewarded in a manner that they feel is satisfactory. It’s a complete win for your fans too (yes, that’s me.)

  39. Hmm, how would S&S do in the villain cat role for your Burns-esque gloating?
    And congrats on well deserved financial success and security.

  40. I’m quite astonished that anyone thinks this is a bad deal for you, even *just* from the information given.
    You get to write books and work with people with whom you have a good working relationship, for the next ten years, at a relatively leisurely pace (given what you’ve said about your wordcounts and so on), and you get paid an amount it would take me… (gets out calculator and Googles pound-to-dollar exchange rates) sixty years to earn. And I’m not badly paid at all.
    I wish someone would offer me such an awful deal. I know I’d be devastated.

  41. Congratulations on your good fortune! I appreciated your explanation of “Scalzi futures”. As long as we don’t havea Scaliz glut, nor reach peak Scalzi, the next decade should work out well.

  42. I can’t wait to read them all. I hope at least one of them features an exploding bassoon (actually any of the woodwinds would work) but even without that I don’t doubt they’ll be awesome reads.

  43. Oh, how I want to reach a point again where I have a steady, sufficient income, and doing what I love to do. My life feels so screwy and so divided, and there’s only one of me to get it all done. I really want to be fully productive again. There are days I feel like I’m back doing that, and days it feels like I haven’t accomplished anything, though I’ve been “busy.”

    — But never mind about that. — I’m glad to know a good SF&F writer will be doing what he loves to do, writing good stories, for another decade, and making money doing so. That’s good news for readers, for writers, for the folks who do other things in publishing and arts, for sci-fi as a genre. It means there will be more Scalzi books. (I hope for more books by many authors.)

    I’m behind in my reading, due to trying to get my own stuff going, or due to prior burnout on reading a lot, and holdovers from past junk going on in life. So I have a towering, teetering stack of books to read, both physical and virtual. That’s fine, though. I like good books.

    I’ve only read Fuzzy Nation, the sequel to H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy books. I have (I think) another Scalzi book or two in the teetering stacks. Having seen the fantastic blog, I’m sure I’ll like your own original works even more.

    Getting paid to do what you love to do anyway is a fantastic thing. Knowing you have some stability in that is even better. Congrats!

  44. Ten more years of books from you, Mr. Scalzi, is something for which we can all be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  45. Congratulations!

    > I like the people I work with at Tor. They generally like me (I hope!).

    The only thing I’d worry about is after four or five years, many of the people may have moved up, retired, moved to a different company, etc. and now you have all new people.

    I read about this happening in the movie business all the time. An exec will buy a script. When she leaves her successor will tank that script in favor of his own properties.

    I’m sure you already considered this, but I just thought I’d mention it.

  46. Congratulations to you sir! Not for the deal, but for finally getting the contracts finalized and signed. That must have been fun. (No, John, you cannot have a rider for a chocolate fountain whenever you come for meetings. And we absolutely must have all the rights to your doodles of kittens, or at least an option.)

    This deal of course opens up a lot of opportunities for you elsewhere, should you chose them, from comics to web stuff to t.v., so we’re all looking forward to the Scalzi media empire.

    As for the naysayers, these are the same people who thought books with videos were going to completely replace written books and that Tor/Macmillan was supposed to already be out of business by now. It’s not speculation, but simple ignorance.

  47. Congratulation!

    I love your explanation of what is going on. As a self-published author, one of the toughest things I face is trying to teach new writers who want to self-publish that they MUST recognize that writing is a business. They must learn the business of writing as much as they must hone the craft of and the art of writing.

    Your description excellently illustrates the relationship between publisher and writer, and how each side gains from this relationship. The writer gains a stable foundation of income. The publisher gains greater future profits through a quantity discount instead of having to pay top-dollar for each manuscript is approved. The publisher has taken on the risk of futures, and the writer takes on the risk of producing the goods. But both benefit in the long run.

  48. Congratulations! Looks like a sweet deal, and secure income must be some kind of God-send for most writers (even successful ones).

    A slightly boring, technical question; it’s thirteen books in ten years, but is that thirteen to be published in ten, or just you need to have written and sent in for editing thirteen books in the ten-year period (if that isn’t too nosy a question)?

  49. Congrats on getting the paperwork done. Getting paid a better than living wage to what you love is a blessing. Does it feel intimidating to have a team? What does the team comprise of (beyond the obvious agent/editor/lawyer)? When the Tor contracts were being worked out did they include or did you work out separate contacts for audiobooks? Last question, as someone above asked, have you started work on any of the books/do you have an estimated first release date you are allowed to talk about? I’m being nosy aren’t I? If you wanted us to know those details you probably would have shared them. But I’m always pushing edges when I’m curious.

    Again congrats on reaching full agreement on all the details and getting contacts signed. May you, Tor, and your team have much success and hopefully fun and laughter over the next 10 years. May your books continue to delight fans, old and new.

  50. Certainly, congratulations are due to Tor and Mr. Scalzi. The more interesting question for us fans though is: Is this likely to be replicated with other authors by Tor and others and, if so, what is the effect on other authors who are not the beneficiaries of such deals?

  51. Many congratulations! There’s nothing like being able to do full-time what you love to do, with the supportive Tor team behind you. Good for everyone, including us happy fans.

  52. @Quill likely deals like this will help debut authors. This would be a nice trend to see if the contract terms are reasonable and not huge rights grabs/non-compete clauses for mid-list authors. Obviously not at the same $$$ levels for everyone. But stability for authors and Tor could be a good thing. It could lead to taking more chances on new authors and/or giving authors 2-3 books instead of 1 to show they can make it because Tor expects a higher level of stability overall IMHO.

  53. @Quill, to give the short version of something other commenters will happily explain at length (*coughcoughKatcough*):
    A deal like this indicates a healthy publishing house with money to spend and positive long term outlooks, which is good for the entire industry.
    Tor agreed to this deal because they believe Scalzi’s books will continue to make a profit for the foreseeable future. That means Tor anticipates money coming in to spend buying other authors’ books.
    As for other authors being offered similar deals, one of the main factors to consider is that, according to Scalzi, Tor didn’t approach him with a 10 year, 13 book plan. It was the other way around.

  54. I’m sitting here, fingers steepled, Monty Burns-style, bellowing You foolish mortals! You know nothing of my master plan! and cackling while a camera captures my visage from a low angle.

    Gif! Gif!

  55. Congrats on getting the boring but important paperwork done. I’m sure S&S are happy with secured kibble supplies ;). It seems a win/win for both sides from the details I know.

    For those above who mentioned Jeff Noon, his twitter is @jeffnoon and he writes a lot – some pieces with incredible impact in 140 words. I think one of his closest comparisons is M John Harrison but Noon is more based in our sort-of reality

  56. John, projecting my own values into your deal, the dollar amount is less important than the number of years. I will probably have the same job for the next 10 years, but I could screw up, or someone else could screw up, or the economy could tank, and I could be out of a job.

    So my question is: can you screw this up? If you turn in five books that really suck and don’t sell, can Tor cut you?

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