by Vic Peters
you should ask the publisher before you sign up.
There are days
when I feel as if everyone I know is a writer, and that they are all looking
for the same thing, to be heard. The pursuit of finding someone to accept
a manuscript for publication is at best disheartening. Many begin to feel
that continued rejection is about as miserable as a writer will ever feel
- it is not. Signing with the wrong publisher not only brings misery in
a new and clever package, but it can also quite possibly destroy the inclination
Greed and deception are as prevalent in publishing as anywhere else. There
are many companies willing to take an authors money and hard work. The
irony is that it is given just for the asking. Choosing a good company
to work with is equally important as the words chosen in the manuscript.
In an author beware world it pays to be informed. This guideline is designed
to help you make decisions based on information, rather than emotion.
The Company, like it or not, you and your publisher enter into a kind
of marriage, the kind of marriage where their name attaches itself to
you. Think about that. An important facet of the relationship is the reputation
your new partner has in the industry. If their stature is questionable,
it may be difficult to find reviewers, distributors and even readers.
Its called guilt by association. Therefore, your first order of
business is to do research.
One way to establish a publishers reputation is to visit your local
bookstore and ask the owner if they are known. If so, what are they like
to do business with? Using the Internet to investigate the companys
name and their officers is also an advisable avenue. Still another approach
is to post questions within various writing groups. By far, writing groups
can be your best source of information.
Be direct and ask the publisher how many books they put into print last
year. How many to date? Are they are willing to provide you with a list
of their authors for references? A useful gauge in picking a publisher
is knowing how well the company treats its authors. Find out how many
books the average author has with this house - you want to know if authors
stay for more than one book.
Something else to consider is the book itself. Just what is it this company
is going to produce for you? A hardback? Trade paperback? Paperback? E-book?
Ask them what the size is going to be, along with an estimated page count.
What is the proposed list price?
What you need to establish is how well your book is going to stand up
to the competition - other books sitting on the shelf in your genre.
If similar titles are selling in the $13 -$15 range, and the publisher
wants to list yours at $22, your book may be tough to sell. Price does
Find out what services the publisher provides. Editing? Copy Editing?
Format? Cover Design? Copyrights? How about help with the permissions
for songs or quotes? Are there any fees attached? Will the publisher help
you locate a well-known author or celebrity to write a forward? What about
that all-important back cover blurb - any help there?
Is the editing accomplished electronically or is it sent snail mail? How
many edits should you expect? How long does the process usually take?
Will the product have an ISBN? How about a bar code? Will they provide
the author with any free copies? How many? Is this publisher willing to
send you a sample of their current work? The sample should ultimately
be a reflection of something you would be proud to put into public view.
Read it, read it again and then have somebody else read it - like an attorney.
The last thing you want to do is to sign away the rights to your manuscript
without understanding every single detail.
What are you getting out of the deal? Royalties? Movie rights? International
rights? Anything? You need to know exactly how much you are going to get
paid and when. Watch out for percentage contracts with variable rates.
Does this publisher pay their authors? What is the average pay for an
author? Are they willing to give you verification?
When was the last time this company was audited? Is the company in good
fiscal health? How long is the contract for? Six months? A year? Your
next two books? Is the publisher asking for any money from you? Why? A
reputable publisher pays you - not the other way around. How long do they
on keeping your title in print?
While many will produce, few will promote. Even an outstanding book will
not sell unless it is correctly marketed. The major expense in publication
lies not in book production, rather book promotion. Some publishers would
like you to believe that once your book is in print, it will sell - but
that isnt the truth.
A successful author will tell you that it takes a lot of hard work to
get a new book into the publics eye. If your publisher is unwilling
to show to you a proven marketing strategy, look for another company.
What you need to find out is how the publishers marketing system works
- in other words, who is going to distribute your book? Ingrams? Baker
& Taylor? A regional distributor?
Will sales be restricted to giants like Amazon or Barnes & Noble?
Does the publisher have adequate contacts with independents like BookSense?
Grocery stores? Chain stores? Warehouse Stores? Are they willing to service
the local stores in your area?
What are the sales percentages for each distributor? This is extremely
important. Some publishers will claim to list your book with many different
distributors, but just how many are actually being sold? Listing isnt
selling. You may want to ask yourself how this company stays in business
if it doesnt actively promote and sell books.
Ask what the terms of payment are for a given distributor. Most retailers
are accustomed to an open account with books being taken on a returnable
basis. Check to make sure that your publisher allows returns and doesnt
demand orders to be paid in advance. This type of business practice will
get few, if any orders.
How many books does the publisher plan on initially distributing? Dont
get tricked with some type of Print on Demand language - you
need to know if your publisher will commit to running a thousand books
or more at their expense, because demand is only created after
a number of reputable people have read your work and then communicate
to others in a positive manner.
Your book should be circulated to reviewers, newspapers, bookstore owners,
retailers, radio stations - even to your friends and family who will give
you a tremendous boost through their contacts - months before it is ever
released. This gives potential retailers a chance to preview
the product and opt-in. So, another piece of valuable information is the
number of copies the publisher plans on printing for advance review copies.
Ask if the ARCs are going to be distributed in the form of a book
or professional galley. If it is a galley, ask for a sample - again, it
has to be something youd be proud of. Who will be paying for these
copies and the mailings? Will the publisher furnish a professional media
kit? This is a regularly updated promotional tool used to highlight your
interviews, signings, reviews, awards and appearances. If so, ask to see
Do they provide posters? Shelf talkers? Bookmarks? What about a web site?
Will the publisher provide you with this service or are you expected to
furnish your own?
Are authors given an in-house publicist? Who is it? What is their experience
level? How many authors does the publicist work with at one time? Will
your publicist set up a book tour? Are they going to pay for it? If so,
ask where, when and how long you will be expected to be away from your
family. How about the scheduling of radio and newspaper interviews? Will
your book be introduced at tradeshows?
Granted, if you are a first time author, you may not get everything that
you want, but the company should still offer you fair compensation and
a reasonable chance for success.
The best advice that I can give to you is to keep your checkbook closed,
be patient and do the homework. Dont take the word of the publisher
or agent at face value, instead, confirm their responses with others who
have had past business dealings and then make sure everything is in writing.
Keep in mind that web sites and promo literature are often clouded enough
to the point of being untruthful. Protect your work, protect your dreams
and keep trying.
Where to Get Started:
Pre-ditors and Editors
A guide to publishers and publishing services for serious writers http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/peba.htm
Print on Demand Database
WritersWeekly Warning Reports
The highest-circulation freelance writing ezine in the world
Vic Peters is the author of Marys Field. You can
learn more about him and his book by visiting http://www.marysfield.com
© Vic Peters December 2002
See also Independent
Publishing by Ben Jonjak on POD
See also Making
the decision to use Print On Demand - New 09.09 2004
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