Q&A: How to ensure quality when the publisher is cutting costs

textbook stackQ: How do you work with a publisher to ensure the final product is a quality work even though they are cutting costs?

A: Mary Ellen Lepionka, co-author of Writing and Developing Your College Textbook: A Comprehensive Guide

“The best way to ensure quality of content is to make sure standards are referenced in your contract, e.g., that your manuscript will be professionally edited and indexed. If such provisions are not made contractually, then you should pay for them yourself. Your advance may pay for that, and you may be able to negotiate a higher royalty rate or a grant in exchange, but don’t count on it. Many publishers are no longer investing in the kind of editorial development that makes books commercially successful, except for titles with very high projections of sales. You can do your own development, however, and affordable editorial services are readily available. If you are referring to production quality rather than quality of content, a book’s budget and market specify whether it will be black and white or full color and how much will be spent on production, including photos and art. Your book has to look like other books in its market, and the publisher will produce your book just as it does its others. The best way to ensure production quality, then, is to choose a publisher whose books you like the looks of.”


Writing and Developing Your College Textbook Mary Ellen Lepionka is the co-author of Writing and Developing Your College Textbook: A Comprehensive Guide. She is a retired publisher, author, editor, textbook developer, and college instructor with a Master’s in anthropology from Boston University and Ph.D. work at the University of British Columbia. In the 1990s she worked in higher Mary Ellen Lepionkaeducation publishing as a developmental editor of college textbooks, principally for Houghton Mifflin and Pearson Education. Between 2002 and 2011 she established Atlantic Path Publishing as a retirement business and published two editions of Writing and Developing Your College Textbook and related titles. She presently is an independent scholar writing a history of Native Americans on Cape Ann.

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About Kim Pawlak

Kim Pawlak is Director of Publishing & Operations for the Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA). She has been writing about the textbook and academic authoring and publishing industry for 20 years.