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How to choose a textbook publisher

When selecting a publisher for your manuscript, don’t leap Textbook Publishingbefore you look. Most authors are so happy to find a publisher interested in their proposal that they accept the first offer that comes along and sign the standard publisher’s contract. After all, if it’s standard, then contracts from all publishers must be alike. Not so. All contracts are negotiable. Not only do you need to do your homework before accepting any publisher’s offer, you need to do your homework before you ever submit a proposal to a publisher.

Before choosing a publisher:

Find out what publishing houses publish works in the area you are writing. It frustrates publishers to receive manuscripts in areas they do not publish. It adds to the author’s aggravation to watch rejection letters pile up needlessly. Save yourself and the publisher time by selecting publishing houses that will consider your manuscript. Begin with Literary Market Place. It will list all the publishing houses and the fields in which they publish. Look at your own bookshelf. Which publishers have produced the books in your field? These are the most likely prospects. Also, look at the book catalogues promoting new books. They can be a good source of information on which publishers are doing what.

Decide whether you prefer a large or small publishing firm. This may be dictated by the kind of book and the market for which you are writing. If the book is an introductory text for a mass market, then a large publisher with the resources to invest in producing a competitive text may be more appropriate. However, large publishing firms will have several introductory books in many fields, including your own. The advantage of the small publishing house is that your text probably will be the only text they publish for that market so you will get more individual attention. Find out if they have the resources or sales force to sustain the book once it gets into print. Talk with other authors publishing with the firms you are considering.

John W. Webb, coauthor of Programmable Logic Controllers: Principles and Applications, offers this advice for choosing a publisher: “Pick a publisher who has a complete line of texts in the area of your book. Check their sales record and reputation. Ask your school bookstore if they are good to work with. Find out if the publisher’s sales people come around your school and how often. Does the publisher publish a new competitive book every three years or so and drop the previous book? If so, that is a bad sign.”

Don’t be dazzled by the lure of an advance. You are entering a business agreement. A substantial advance is usually a good thing because it indicates a publisher’s willingness to commit to the project, but the advance may detract from other things you want to negotiate and have a publisher pay for. Make sure the advance is non-refundable.

Don’t make your decision based on how much you like the acquisitions editor, either. He or she may not be there next year. Don’t be persuaded by “wining and dining”; be hardheaded and focus on what the publisher will do for you and how much the house wants your book.

Select a publisher with which you can be happy and with whom you will develop positive, constructive relationships. Eliminate from your list publishers you don’t want and investigate the rest.