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Q&A: Definition of ‘camera-ready copy’ & how it could affect your contract negotiations

Q: “The contract that has been offered on a book based on my dissertation specifies ‘camera-ready copy.’ What does this mean?”

A: Michael Lennie, Authoring Attorney and Literary Agent, Lennie Literary and Authors’ Attorneys:

“The best answer is that you should ask your publisher what it means, since it might have a different meaning to your publisher than it does to other publishers. This information may be on your publisher’s website or in print form available from your publisher. Generally, camera-ready copy is the final layout of a page (or in your case all the pages) of the book, looking exactly as it should appear on the printed page when it is published. [This definition is modified from a definition appearing in Lingua Links Library, Version 4.0, published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 1999.] If you Google camera-ready copy, you will find 16,800,000 hits, including some publisher websites.”

A: Richard Hull, Former TAA Executive Director:

“Publishers, after estimating the market potential of your book, will either absorb preparation of final copy ready for photo offset or ask you to do it. If you are asked to do so, you are in a position to attempt to negotiate a higher royalty rate as you will be absorbing a cost that other books will incur for the publisher. Camera ready copy is literally copy in the format that the book will ultimately take, and will be requested in a standard format, such as .pdf files, complete with any pictorial material, tables, charts, diagrams that you want included. You may want to hire a producer to work with to produce this camera ready copy if you have no experience doing so. Or, if your department is sufficiently traditional to have secretarial help, that may prove to be your best resource. Consider employing a graduate assistant with some editing experience.”