Can I help you in any way? Publishing strategies (part 2)
“Hello, thank you for visiting. Can I help you in any way?” If you’ve browsed our TAA website, you’ve likely seen those words in the chat box that appears on the screen. We’re often asked by visitors if we’re “real”. Then those who realize that we are, and that we are there to help, ask questions that you may have as well.
In this series of “Can I help you in any way?” posts, we’re highlighting some of the questions people have asked through the TAA Live Chat feature of our site and the responses we have for those questions.
In the first post on questions about publishing strategies, we focused specifically on the process of finding a publisher and submitting a book proposal. In this second post on the subject, we’ll explore other related questions receive through the chat.
The first question for this discussion was, “How can I find out about publishing houses I am interested in, whether they are ethical, what they do for the author and don’t do, and how they treat their authors?”
Although I am not familiar of a review site such as Angie’s List or Yelp for the publishing industry, I did offer the advice of checking out author guidelines from potential publishers. TAA maintains links to many of the textbook publishers’ author guidelines on our site, and reputable publishers should be willing to provide them to prospective authors.
Another visitor asked about the format for submitting a proposal and sample chapters. Specifically, “Will a publisher accept an initial proposal in Pages or E-Book format?” My response to this visitor was that most will, but (as mentioned above) it’s best to check the author guidelines for specifics. Further, some publishers prefer not to receive sample chapters until requested.
This visitor also asked for recommendations of publishers that specialize in their discipline. Although TAA doesn’t maintain a list of publishers by discipline, I suggested starting with the publishers for textbooks used in the classes they teach. Beyond that, I recommended browsing the catalogs to make sure that their title doesn’t directly compete with something already in their library before submitting a formal proposal.
Once the initial proposal process is complete, authors are faced with new questions like, “What should I look for for signing a contract for writing a text book?” I offered the following factors for initial consideration:
- Money (i.e. royalties)
- Which rights you allow the publisher to retain
- How the publisher will use your material in other forms
- Deadlines, marketing expectations, etc.
Although each author has different priorities and goals in their writing efforts and expectations of a publisher relationship, I can personally recommend Steve Gillen’s book on negotiating textbook contracts that was published by TAA. I used it myself in my last contract negotiation.
Another visitor to the site offered the following information about their negotiation, “the publisher provided a quote for royalties (10% on the first 2500 copies sold; 12.5% no the next 2500 copies sold; 15% thereafter)” asking “Does this sound reasonable?” and “Is there a standard for Royalties?”
I shared with this visitor that “while there is not a ‘standard’ for royalties, a survey conducted a couple years ago, showed an average of 12-15% with some authors reporting over 30%.” I also mentioned that escalation clauses such as what they described balance risk and reward for both the author and publisher and are fairly common.
In response, the visitor asked if they should “try to negotiate for more up front”, to which I advised “That is really a personal decision. Naturally you want to make as much as you can as an author, but you need to consider what you have to negotiate with.”
This conversation ended with a request for “advice or resources” that they should consult as a potential new author. In addition to the aforementioned book, I noted that our blog has over 1000 articles on various topics, we have over 200 presentations on demand, and we have three excellent books in our TAA store.
From a personal advice perspective, “trust yourself and what you have to offer”. If you have a book idea, someone needs to read it, so persevere and write it.