Skip to main content

Questions You Should Ask The Publisher Before You Sign

There are days when I feel as if everyone I know is a writer, and that they are all looking for the same thing, to be heard. The pursuit of finding someone to accept a manuscript for publication is at best disheartening. Many begin to feel that continued rejection is about as miserable as a writer will ever feel – it is not. Signing with the wrong publisher not only brings misery in a new and clever package, but it can also quite possibly destroy the inclination to write.

Greed and deception are as prevalent in publishing as anywhere else. There are many companies willing to take an authors money and hard work. The irony is that it is given just for the asking. Choosing a good company to work with is equally important as the words chosen in the manuscript.
In an author beware world it pays to be informed. This guideline is designed to help you make decisions based on information, rather than emotion.

The Company

Like it or not, you and your publisher enter into a kind of marriage, the kind of marriage where their name attaches itself to you. Think about that. An important facet of the relationship is the reputation your new partner has in the industry. If their stature is questionable, it may be difficult to find reviewers, distributors and even readers. It’s called guilt by association. Therefore, your first order of business is to do research.

One way to establish a publisher’s reputation is to visit your local bookstore and ask the owner if they are known. If so, what are they like to do business with? Using the Internet to investigate the company’s name and their officers is also an advisable avenue. Still another approach is to post questions within various writing groups. By far, writing groups can be your best source of information.

Be direct and ask the publisher how many books they put into print last year. How many to date? Are they are willing to provide you with a list of their authors for references? A useful gauge in picking a publisher is knowing how well the company treats its authors. Find out how many books the average author has with this house – you want to know if authors stay for more than one book.   

The Product

Something else to consider is the book itself. Just what is it this company is going to produce for you? A hardback? Trade paperback? Paperback? E-book? Ask them what the size is going to be, along with an estimated page count. What is the proposed list price?

What you need to establish is how well your book is going to stand up to the competition – other books sitting on the shelf in your genre. If similar titles are selling in the $13 -$15 range, and the publisher wants to list yours at $22, your book may be tough to sell. Price does matter.

Find out what services the publisher provides. Editing? Copy Editing? Format? Cover Design? Copyrights? How about help with the permissions for songs or quotes? Are there any fees attached? Will the publisher help you locate a well-known author or celebrity to write a forward? What about that all-important back cover blurb – any help there?

Is the editing accomplished electronically or is it sent snail mail? How many edits should you expect? How long does the process usually take? Will the product have an ISBN? How about a bar code? Will they provide the author with any free copies? How many? Is this publisher willing to send you a sample of their current work? The sample should ultimately be a reflection of something you would be proud to put into public view.

The Contract

Read it, read it again and then have somebody else read it – like an attorney. The last thing you want to do is to sign away the rights to your manuscript without understanding every single detail.
What are you getting out of the deal? Royalties? Movie rights? International rights? Anything? You need to know exactly how much you are going to get paid and when. Watch out for percentage contracts with variable rates. Does this publisher pay their authors? What is the average pay for an author? Are they willing to give you verification?

When was the last time this company was audited? Is the company in good fiscal health? How long is the contract for? Six months? A year? Your next two books? Is the publisher asking for any money from you? Why? A reputable publisher pays you – not the other way around. How long do they plan on keeping your title in print?

The Marketing

While many will produce, few will promote. Even an outstanding book will not sell unless it is correctly marketed. The major expense in publication lies not in book production, rather book promotion. Some publishers would like you to believe that once your book is in print, it will sell – but that isn’t the truth. A successful author will tell you that it takes a lot of hard work to get a new book into the public’s eye. If your publisher is unwilling to show to you a proven marketing strategy, look for another company.

What you need to find out is how the publishers marketing system works – in other words, who is going to distribute your book? Ingrams? Baker & Taylor? A regional distributor? Will sales be restricted to giants like Amazon or Barnes & Noble? Does the publisher have adequate contacts with independents like BookSense? Grocery stores? Chain stores? Warehouse Stores? Are they willing to service the local stores in your area?

What are the sales percentages for each distributor? This is extremely important. Some publishers will claim to list your book with many different distributors, but just how many are actually being sold? Listing isn’t selling. You may want to ask yourself how this company stays in business if it doesn’t actively promote and sell books.
Ask what the terms of payment are for a given distributor. Most retailers are accustomed to an open account with books being taken on a returnable basis. Check to make sure that your publisher allows returns and doesn’t demand orders to be paid in advance. This type of business practice will get few, if any orders.
How many books does the publisher plan on initially distributing? Don’t get tricked with some type of  “Print on Demand” language – you need to know if your publisher will commit to running a thousand books or more at their expense, because “demand” is only created after a number of reputable people have read your work and then communicate to others in a positive manner.

Your book should be circulated to reviewers, newspapers, bookstore owners, retailers, radio stations – even to your friends and family who will give you a tremendous boost through their contacts – months before it is ever “released.” This gives potential retailers a chance to preview the product and opt-in. So, another piece of valuable information is the number of copies the publisher plans on printing for advance review copies.
Ask if the ARC’s are going to be distributed in the form of a book or professional galley. If it is a galley, ask for a sample – again, it has to be something you’d be proud of. Who will be paying for these copies and the mailings? Will the publisher furnish a professional media kit? This is a regularly updated promotional tool used to highlight your interviews, signings, reviews, awards and appearances. If so, ask to see a sample.
Do they provide posters? Shelf talkers? Bookmarks? What about a web site? Will the publisher provide you with this service or are you expected to furnish your own?
Are authors given an in-house publicist? Who is it? What is their experience level? How many authors does the publicist work with at one time? Will your publicist set up a book tour? Are they going to pay for it? If so, ask where, when and how long you will be expected to be away from your family. How about the scheduling of radio and newspaper interviews? Will your book be introduced at tradeshows?


Granted, if you are a first time author, you may not get everything that you want, but the company should still offer you fair compensation and a reasonable chance for success.

The best advice that I can give to you is to keep your checkbook closed, be patient and do the homework. Don’t take the word of the publisher or agent at face value, instead, confirm their responses with others who have had past business dealings and then make sure everything is in writing. Keep in mind that web sites and promo literature are often clouded enough to the point of being untruthful. Protect your work, protect your dreams and keep trying.


Popular posts from this blog

Discover What Good Writing Is All About

Writing is a form of preserved talk, talk that has been pinned down on paper so the words can be heard again. The basic principles of good writing, apart, from grammatical correctness, might be presented as follows:

1) written sentences should sound like natural speech;

2) the words we use must be exact, fresh, full of strength and vitality. Picture making words are better than vague, general words;

3) fresh point of view will give flavor to the style;

4) humor will lighten it.

Though, it is true that written sentences should sound like natural speech, they fully present an image of the natural speech. The reasons for this are fairly obvious: natural speech is a great deal more than words; it is also tone of voice, facial expression, gestures, and even the speaker’s appearance.

The whole point of writing is to create something better than we really talk – something more interesting, more thoughtful, and more effective in every way, for “effectiveness is what matters, and if an expres…

Article Submissions - Pointing You in the Right Direction

All of you who have been thinking of publishing articles probably seem to be noticing a lot more ads showing up when you search Google for article submission sites. So what does this all mean for you?

Well it leaves you the choice of where you wish to submit your article to. Lately new software is out that can let people get an article directory up and running in just a couple of hours and it seems every little fish wants a piece of the action.

So how do you choose the correct article directory for your article submission?

Here are a few tips to get you in the right direction:

Design - You probably are asking yourself why the design of the article directory has anything to do with how good this directory is for you. Well it is, it shows how serious the owners of the site are taking it - the more professional and maintained it looks the longer the site will be online and the more popularity it will gain.

RSS Feeds - Make sure the article directory you are submitting your article to h…

Marketing for Writers When Writing Just Isn't Enough

Many writers write for the experience.

Others dream of having a number one best seller. Both are wonderful reasons for writing. What many fail to realize is that these two do not have to be mutually exclusive. With a little research, you can enjoy writing incredible stories and see to it that they generate a profit.

The first thing that is needed is a business like attitude toward the process. From day one you must:

1) Know your niche.
Research which books are popular in your genre. Go to bookstores and start reading popular authors in your field. Also pick up writing magazines and see what publishers are looking for today.

2) Know your audience. If you are writing for children, for example, know the developmental stage that a child reading your book needs to be and cater to them.

Ex. A five year old would not be a good candidate for a chapter book.

You can also talk to your future readers and find out what really sparks their interest.

Ex. If you are a sci-fi writer, you can go into…

How A Sense Of Wonder Makes Life Richer

It always amazes me when I meet someone who has a disdain for expansion of knowledge.

The other day, over lunch, I was arguing with a girl about a principle of abundance. I illustrated this principle with anecdotes about historically famous millionaires who had applied this principle successfully.

Her response: “I can't use this information. It doesn't come from my experience.”

Since her idea of reality was only what fell into her immediate experience she was discounting the possibility of knowing anything outside it. Yet, unless she was willing to acknowledge the possibility of something outside her immediate circle of influence, how could she invite the actuality of the experience. Unless one has a hypothesis, experimentation is not an option.

Here is another example. During a certain period of time, a friend of mine and I, while working and living in similar circumstances, developed a completely different view of reality. During this time, I read books on super-string theo…

Learn To Trust That Gut-Feeling

It just might save your life
Think of the many times throughout your life when you experienced a strange feeling that turned out to be an early warning of danger.

Use your early-warning radar.

Did you take heed of that warning and avoid the impending danger, or did you ignore your built-in early warning radar and walk right into harm's-way?

The funny feeling in the pit of your stomach or the feeling of the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end are ways of your body telling you that something is very wrong.

Any veteran police officer or soldier who's seen combat and lived to tell about it will explain that part of their survival was due to trusting their "gut-feeling" that they were in danger.

Here's how it works:
There is nothing magical about this sixth-sense. It's simply your body's first reaction to adrenaline entering your blood stream.

As your digestive system is being shut down to allow more blood to flow to your muscles, you get a queasy …

7 Blocks To Creative Thinking And How To Solve Them

Each of us has the power to be creative. It's part of our natural make-up as human beings. The trouble is that, too often, we block our natural creativity and so make errors in thinking and give ourselves more problems than we should. Here are 7 ways to open up your natural creativity and keep the channels unblocked.

1. Don't Make Assumptions. When we assume, we often make an "ass" out of "u" and "me". Assumptions are examples of lazy thinking. We simply don't wait to get all the information we need to come to the right conclusions. There is the story of the customer at the bank who after cashing a cheque and turning to leave, returns and says: "Excuse me, I think you made a mistake." The cashier responds, "I'm sorry but there's nothing I can do. You should have counted it. Once you walk away we are no longer responsible." Whereupon the customer replies: "Well, okay. Thanks for the extra $20."
Tip: When y…