Tips on selecting the right publisher for your textbook

Q: “I’m shopping a project around to a number of different publishers, but I’m having trouble figuring out exactly why I should choose one publisher over another, should more than one of them be interested. Assuming that each publisher makes approximately the same offer, and that my project fits in well with each publisher’s list, what other factors should I take into consideration? Does anyone have any personal experience (or warnings) that they would like to share? I’m particularly interested in hearing about people’s experiences with Cengage (formerly Thomson Brooks/Cole), Freeman, and Wiley, in the science/math college textbook divisions. It would also be very helpful to have any advice regarding questions I could ask of the editors to determine which publisher would be best to work with.”

A: Rebecca Plante, PhD, Associate Professor, Sociology Department, Ithaca College:

“I don’t have any specific knowledge of the science/math text market, but I have some general ideas.

1. Is there a publisher particularly known as the place to go to for books on [your specialty/subject here]? For example, if adopters know Wiley as a great source of books on X, your book would be more easily part of the adopter’s search.

2. I’ve found that book publishing is about relationships as much as it is about my ideas or trying to reach students. It has been much easier to work with, gripe to, take feedback from, and learn from the editors with whom I was able to develop a connection – same sense of humor, age contemporaries, similar backgrounds – something to start the relationship on a good foot. If things were otherwise equal, is there an editor whom you think you’d enjoy working with and would be able to be honest with about the labor of actually bringing the proposal to fruition?

3. Another thing to consider is what sort of marketing/publicity the publisher will coordinate. How did earlier, possibly similar texts fare in terms of sales? What aspects are handled in house vs. freelanced (eg, cover design, back cover copy writing)? A question to pose – that may not apply to your subject – would be what kind of market the publisher would see for your text – A to D-level – based on size of potential market (an intro text in a widely taught discipline would be A-level, and so forth). Does this correspond with your perception or the reality of potential market? If there are illustrations, graphs, charts and/or CDs, software, etc. – how will the costs & design for these things be handled?”