Getting to first base: How to pitch your textbook idea to publishers

You have a great idea. You know your book is needed. As you pick your way through the prospectus (or guidelines for authors), here are some thoughts about what editors are really looking for, the core messages to keep bringing home:

You know this market. Editors tell me that their number one question as they read a proposal is: ” Do we need this book”? To convince them, be familiar with every comparable text. Then, if possible, do your own informal survey to concretely make your case: “My colleagues at X, Y, Z university have been yearning for a book with this orientation.” “The existing texts do not fully capture the new trends (be specific) in my field.” ” Based on my intimate knowledge of our students my book will be ideal because it does A, B and C.” Inflated self-serving phrases such as this book is “utterly unique” or ” for all undergraduates” are total turn offs— signs of an author who doesn’t know the market, or, worse yet, is planning a text that is too weird ( won’t sell). [Read more…]

How to maintain a good relationship with your editor

coauthoringIf you develop a good business and personal relationship with your editor, you can get a better feel for how they can provide you with support, said Marilyn “Winkie” Fordney, the author of insurance billing and medical assisting books.

“Find out where the person came from and whether they have been in business for a long time,” she said. “Find out about their personal life. Do they have children? If they do, you’ll know that if sometimes they are unavailable, it might be because their children are sick. When you visit with them, bring toys for their kids. This shows that you remembered about their children.” [Read more…]

The statutory termination right: One copyright act provision your publisher hopes you never hear about

In the fall of 1977, Ralph Little had just received his Ph.D. in Elfin Studies and was beginning his first faculty job as an assistant professor at Middle Earth College. Elfin Studies was in its infancy – many universities did not even recognize it as a legitimate discipline — and there was no introductory textbook on the market. Each week Ralph prepared lecture outlines on ditto masters for the dozen intrepid undergraduates in his Elfin Studies 101. When a representative of Colossal Publishers, Inc., came by his office, Ralph, sporting the sideburns and bell-bottoms of the day, told him about his idea of writing an introduction to Elfin Studies.

Soon afterward, Colossal offered Ralph a contract to write his Introduction to Elves, for a royalty of 5 percent of Colossal’s receipts on every copy sold. The royalty sounded almost as diminutive as the subject matter. But Ralph was thrilled to become a textbook author, and the editor promised him that when the book came out, he would be invited to Colossal’s Midwestern sales meeting in Minneapolis. He signed the contract early in 1978, and the first edition was published on January 10, 1980. [Read more…]