Reflections on negotiating a contract 4: Royalties

NegotiationMy previous posts have been concerned with the large number of different issues in my contract as well as the general question of what ability I had to negotiate/renegotiate with my publisher who has a ton of leverage compared to me, a relative unknown. This post follows that basic theme, but looks specifically at the question of royalties.

One of the first things I’ll mention is the variety of different royalty clauses. To start, there were the basic book formats: hardback, paperback, and e-book. Following these were another dozen or so clauses, split into “rights and royalties” and “subsidiary rights and royalties,” which included things like international rights, audio and video rights, book club uses, use of excerpts and more.  [Read more…]

Reflections on negotiating a contract 3: Emotionally loaded details

NegotiationThis is more of my neophyte reflections on negotiating a contract. My previous post looked at the many different issues covered by a contract and the basic difficulty of handling so many issues. This post on focuses on some of the more emotionally charged clauses.

For me, part of the stress of contracts is that they force you to think about extreme cases because it’s easy to get emotionally charged while thinking about extreme issues. For example, there are clauses related to future editions and to the publisher’s rights for future editions. Future editions are an “extreme case” because they only become an issue if the book does extremely well. [Read more…]

Reflections on negotiating a contract 2: Myriad details

NegotiationIn this, the second of my posts on the contract and negotiation process, I consider the wide variety of issues that came up as I read my contract. Not being a lawyer, contracts always seem long and intimidating to me.

As I said in my previous post, my contract was some 13 pages long, and like most legal documents, very detailed. It was not something I would like to handle from a place of ignorance, but it was also not something that I thought required hiring a lawyer to help me. [Read more…]

Reflections on negotiating a contract 1: Leverage and the power to negotiate

NegotiationWhen I wrote my last series of posts, I was waiting to hear whether a publisher would offer me a contract for my book for graduate students. The publisher—Routledge—did make an offer, marking the pleasant culmination of the 10+ month proposal process, and I could begin to look forward to publication, most likely in 2020 of my book titled Literature Review and Research Design: A Guide to Effective Research Practice. Getting the offer was a great milestone, but it didn’t put an end to the larger process of getting published. The next phase began with the question of whether to accept the offered contract and whether and how to negotiate for changes. As with my previous series of posts, I offer the reflections of a relative novice, not the advice of an expert. [Read more…]

Reflections on seeking a publisher 5: On giving sole consideration

book publishingSome publishers ask for sole consideration of your proposal. In my process, I have mostly given sole consideration to the publishers to whom I have been proposing. This has been largely a product of my approach: as discussed in previous posts, I feel that it’s best to write a distinct proposal for each publisher, to better match their list. Because that’s a pretty big effort, I don’t send out a lot of proposals at once. In August, I sent out one proposal that never earned any response, so I suppose that I wasn’t quite offering sole consideration on the two proposals I sent after that. Because it takes time to move from one proposal version to the next, and because the responses I did receive were generally quick (on 3 out of 5, I received a response within a day or two), I was basically offering sole consideration: as soon as I got a positive response, I focused my energies on responding to that one publisher, and not one making a proposal for another. [Read more…]

Reflections on seeking a publisher 4: On writing proposals

book publishingIn my experience, proposals are more difficult and nerve-wracking than writing the book. When I work on my book, I think about the strengths and about what I can offer to people through my writing. When I work on a proposal, it’s hard not to think about the possibility of acceptance and rejection, which is rather more stressful.

In writing, I find it crucial to hold on to my ideas as a foundation and focus first, before considering other people’s interests. But for a proposal, especially, I have to speak to someone else’s interests. It’s all well and good for me to believe that I have great ideas and that everyone could benefit from reading my book, but, realistically, the editor at a publishing house doesn’t much care about me; they care about their job and about finding books that will sell, and who knows what else? If I want that editor to do something—like read my proposal, or offer me a contract—it’s important to know what they want, because that knowledge gives me a better chance of writing something that will suit that editor. [Read more…]

Reflections on seeking a publisher 3: Write the proposal before the book?

book publishingBefore I started the proposal process for my book, I had written a complete draft (as well as two almost-complete early drafts), and also hired an editor to check that draft. I had, in short, a pretty mature draft. But the questions publishers ask about the completeness of the draft, led me to wonder whether that was the best plan for seeking publication.

Common proposal questions ask: “When do you plan to finish the book?”, and “When can you deliver the manuscript?”, which seem primarily relevant for proposals written by people who have not yet completed their book. [Read more…]

Reflections on seeking a publisher 2: A lengthy process

book publishingThe process of proposing and publishing takes a long time, so patience is important. I started the proposal process nine months ago, and there’s a chance I may be working on a new proposal soon. There are ways that I could have saved time in the process, but even if I had been maximally efficient, I would still have been looking at a process of several months.

In February, I sent my first proposal to an agent who specifically requested sole consideration, which was fine with me, given that part of why I was trying an agent was to avoid doing multiple proposals. (I will discuss the question of giving publisher sole consideration in a future post.) The agent’s website said if I hadn’t gotten a response within six weeks that I should assume that my proposal was rejected, so I waited (and avoided the difficult task of preparing another proposal).  When I hadn’t heard within five weeks, I started to work again, thinking about to whom to send my next proposal. [Read more…]

Reflections on seeking a publisher 1: Introduction

book publishingFor most of this past year, I have been seeking a publisher for my book for graduate students about using scholarly literature. As I write this, my proposal is scheduled to be discussed at a publication meeting a few days from now, and by the time this blog post gets published, I will either have a contract offer or another rejection.

In this and the following posts, I reflect on some of the issues that have come up in my process—issues that might be of interest to writers who are not yet experienced in proposing books to publishers. Those with more experience might view my reflections as naive (and if so, feel free to comment), but those with less experience might at least find comfort in someone else struggling with similar issues, even if they don’t find useful suggestions. [Read more…]

Dear dissertation advisers: Ask for short drafts, use page limits

Ask for short drafts, use page limitsIf you want to give better feedback and also save yourself time, ask for short drafts and suggest the use of page limits (or word count limits). Both you and your students will benefit.

For any reasonably intelligent and diligent graduate student, the problem of having far too much to say is more common than the problem of not having enough to say and is the much more difficult problem to fix.

With someone who has not said enough, all that is needed is a question that leads to the necessary addition: “What about X?” It is much harder to give concise feedback to someone who has too much to say, not only is there more to cover, but there is greater potential for problems of focus to arise. [Read more…]