A PUBLISHING DEAL – YAY! – now what?

by Corinne

Congratulations. You have a publishing offer.

Before we pop open the champagne.  One question.

Is this publisher asking in advance for some real money?  Like for production costs?

If so, you do not have a publisher.  You have a Vanity Press.


Yes, they will deliver you promises and will send books.  Maybe 2500 of them.  They will sit in your basement until the day you die.  You will start hoping for a small flood.

You might sell some.  If you are very aggressive in promoting.  But you probably won’t retrieve your investment.

A real publisher will give you money. It’s called an advance.  Probably about a dollar for every book they anticipate they will sell.

After you pay back the money advance through sales, you will start earning a commission for every book sold.  Varies, but let’s say about half of the price.  Your agent gets a small cut of this too.

So, let’s presume you have a real publisher.

The first call will be a verbal offer.  Then they will send a contract.

You are going to tell me –

These people are soooooooooooooo sweet. They LOVE my book.

I believe in love.


Please don’t think I am raining on your parade here.  Just a few suggestions for you to think and inquire about.  In a nice way of course.  Because they are so sweet.

Because I didn’t.

I am hoping you have an agent.  The boilerplate small print on the contract will make you go blind.

I happen to sell my last book myself through a contact. (Unlikely, but it can happen)  I also happened to have an agent.  A good one.

Shipped that hot potato right to her.  She gets a percentage but worth her weight in knowledge.

There were still things we missed.  But a lot we caught.

Here are a few.


We missed this one.

Of course they would not change it.  It was such a great title.   But it happened to be in the contract.

They changed it.  I could not convince them otherwise.

My title was A Woman Without A Man. Catchy, huh?

They changed it to Reflections from a Woman Alone.  Blah.  They thought my title would offend gay people.  What?  I got scores of emails and letters from gay people.  They loved it.  They all said the same thing.  The book was about relationships.

Even with their title, the biggest lesbian bookstore in Chicago would not let me present there.  It was too heterosexual.  They did stock it but no talk.

HOW LONG DO THEY HAVE PUBLISHING RIGHTS?  You always own the copyright but when can you have it back?  Make sure that is clear.

WHAT ABOUT FILM AND TV RIGHTS?  Don’t give these away.

Yes, I know you are writing on the sex life of the tsetse fly.  It is not Steven Spielberg’s thing.

But film companies are known to buy the rights of a whole book if they want one scene from it.  Now, they will probably take your work and make it into a cowboy movie set on Mars but you want the right to sell it.


I know.  You think all those relatives will buy your book.  They won’t.  They think they have rights to a free autographed copy.   If you ask in advance you might get 50 free ones for your own use.  Ask.

HOW MUCH IS THEIR BUDGET FOR PUBLICITY? You will want to go the Book Expo and perhaps have an allowance for travel to TV shows or book signings.  Negotiate this in advance.  You won’t get much but you will get nothing unless you ask.

WILL THEY SEND OUT REQUESTED REVIEW COPIES ON THEIR DIME OR WILL YOU HAVE TO PAY? This used to be a given.  Publicity budgets are tight.  Get clear on this.

IF YOU WANT TO BUY YOUR OWN BOOK, WHAT WILL THEY CHARGE YOU FOR COPIES? You’ll run out of your freebies fast.  You may need more for publicity you are doing yourself.  Or God forbid have more relatives and friends ask.  Like your mother’s best friend.  Can’t you give her a book?

WILL THERE BE A “GALLEY” COPY AVAILABLE FIRST? A galley is a cheap little paper book which is the preamble to the actual book.  It is used to get some advance buzz going with reviewers, media and the like.

IF SO, CAN I HAVE A SUPPLY? You might want to start a little buzz of your own.

WHEN IS THE ANTICIPATED PUBLICATION DATE? Usually, unless you have a current affairs book it could be six months to a year.

You want to know this in case you have a substantial amount of money to invest in your own –


You’ll need time to do research on what publicist handles your type of book.  That’s where their contacts are for media and print.  You’ll want to get costs and interview a few.  They start work well before the publication date to get you listed in many possible outlets like libraries and review sites and TV and radio shows.  Their deadlines are earlier than the publication date.

Whether you go this way depends on how much publicity support your publisher will give you.  These days not much.  The romantic book tours and cocktail receptions are mostly a thing of the past.  Unless you are already a bestselling author.


I hope so because this is going to be the most exciting hairpin rollercoaster ride of your life.

A WORD OF WARNING.  You will never be completely satisfied with the book. No one ever is.

As it is going to press, you will make a hysterical call –

“Can you give me ten minutes?  I want to make a SMALL  change.”

They will say no. Because all we crazy authors do the same thing.

When you finally have it in your hand in all its glory –




Editors note:

Sneak preview.  I’m going to reissue A Woman Without A Man with updates soon.  Yes, with my name!  Stay tuned.

For a head start on publicity, look at Talking Books TV

For media coaching, come see me.  Hire Corinne Edwards

Picture by mitchelkat2000

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle Vandepas May 18, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Excellent article Corinne, lots of great tips.These many people publish themselves, and now self publishing isn’t the same as a vanity press. Self publishing means taking 100 % responsibility – there are some companies to help, like LULU or CREATE SPACE but you still have to do all your own marketing. .. The best thing I got from this article if you have a publisher – ASK FOR EVERYTHING!
.-= Michelle Vandepas´s last blog ..Richard Wanderer – The Holiday Party: (A Tale of a Corporate Takeover) =-.


Corinne May 18, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Dear Michelle –

Yes, self publishing is where most authors are going.

They are not being tricked by the Vanity Press deals. At least not so often anymore.

But they self publish when they have exhausted every avenue to have the prestige of a real bricks and mortar publisher.

That is the ultimate. But the publishers are not taking many books. They are broke.

I have addressed self publishing in other articles. I am starting to do it myself.

This post is particularly geared to an author who has a publishing deal.

What you got out of it is right.


Or you will end up begging.


Debbie May 18, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Thanks Corrine.
After all that, maybe I don’t want to write a book. Thanks for the info, because it really is like a lot of things we do the more information we have the more prepared we are for anything.
Knowledge is valuable.
.-= Debbie @ Happy Maker´s last blog ..T-Shirts =-.


Corinne May 20, 2010 at 6:43 am

Dear Debbie –

My experience is that you don’t have to sit down and “write a book.”
That is an overwhelming thought.

Do a little at a time. Could take a year -more.

At the end you have a book.


Bruce May 18, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Whew! And I thought the writing was the hard part. How naive of me!
It amazes me how much you get across in so few words! This article is really packed with facts, but it flows so smoothly. I agree with Debbie, knowledge has value and empowers us. What Michelle mentions sounds even worse. The hard work has just begun when you go to publish.
.-= Bruce´s last blog ..Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-16 =-.


Michelle Vandepas May 18, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Oh Bruce, I didn’t mean to scare you! Marketing is FUN and you get to keep 100% of the proceeds!
.-= Michelle Vandepas´s last blog ..Richard Wanderer – The Holiday Party: (A Tale of a Corporate Takeover) =-.


Corinne May 20, 2010 at 7:00 am

Hi Bruce – (and Michelle)

Not too scary. You have already started with your BlogTalkRadio show.

Michelle started there too. Now she has a blockbuster publicity blog called Talkingbookstv.com.

Check it out.


Dawn May 18, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Publishing is far far more difficult than writing the book, as I discovered. Thanks for the great advice!
.-= Dawn´s last blog ..Camptown Races…. =-.


Corinne May 20, 2010 at 7:02 am

Hi Dawn –

You are my inspiration.

I figured if you could publish on cratespace, I would too.

Your book is selling!

2nd Hand Roses
The Junktiquing Road
By Dawn Edwards
Second Hand Roses: The Junktiquing Road documents my journeys into the world of second hand and the life lessons gleaned along the way.


Andrew May 19, 2010 at 1:14 am

I have never gone down this route – I always have sold mine on-line – much, much easier.

BUT I do understand the profile and clout having your own book published can have. I am working on it – just not a top, top priority right now.


P.S. Did you notice I didn’t say I was too busy!
.-= Andrew @ Blogging Guide´s last blog ..Avoiding The Pitfalls Of Internet Scamming =-.


Corinne May 20, 2010 at 7:10 am

Dear Andrew –

(I have never ever heard you say “busy!”)

It’s not the profile and clout of having a publisher –


Try to get your book into one of the big chains. They will regard you as a fly on the wall. A small fly.


Jen May 19, 2010 at 1:27 am

Superb article. I know so many people who have been burned through dodgy contracts and lost their beautiful book.

When I first started out I had an amazing agent, but now I do it all alone as I know enough about how to get it published without contracting my first-born to the publishers!

The main point you make is that a proper publisher will never, ever ask you for money to publish your book. Brilliant to remind people of this!




Corinne May 20, 2010 at 7:12 am

Thanks Jen –

If one person does not fall for a vanity press scam, this article will be worth it.

I had a friend who did. $3000.

Took her a year to get books. They were tied up in customs in Odessa. Yes, they printed it in Russia.


Toni Andrews May 19, 2010 at 6:09 am

Wonderful, sane advice.


RhondaL May 19, 2010 at 6:15 am

Great article! And I like how you simplified all this crucial information. I like it so much that I spammed my genre fiction writer’s listservs with links to your post.
.-= RhondaL´s last blog ..Hunt Country Stable Tour – weekend getaway =-.


Mathew Bridle May 19, 2010 at 6:21 am

I have done both vanity (Doh!) and used Lulu for whom which I am truly grateful. But I finally got the interest of a small press. They wanted nothing but the book. Anyone who is asking for money up front has no reason to do anything for you as they have already been paid!


Corinne May 20, 2010 at 7:41 am

Such a hard lesson, Mathew.

I have a friend who still has about 2200 books in her basement.

I hear Lulu is great. How was your experience?

Tell us about it.


Pat Brown May 19, 2010 at 6:49 am

Some good advice, but some of it was unrealistic. Very few publishers today will give money for a book tour or signings. You have to have something they think is going to break huge before you can talk about that kind of thing.

And while you were very right about never paying a publisher a dime for getting your book out and doing so in any form makes it vanity publishing, it’s wrong to say all legitimate publishers pay advances. Many smaller one’s don’t, but they do still pay royalties. And having an agent is every writers dream, but for some it will never happen and you will have to sell the book yourself to a small publisher. There is nothing wrong with this. Many good writers do just fine without an agent or big publisher contracts.

That said, if you want an agent you better grit your teeth, they’re almost as hard to get these days as an advance paying contract.

Above all, you must approach publishing as a business. Treat your contacts professionally and present yourself at all times in a professional manner.


Corinne May 20, 2010 at 7:22 am

Hi Pat –

Thanks for your thoughtful and well informed comment.

As you said –

“Very few publishers today will give money for a book tour or signings. You have to have something they think is going to break huge before you can talk about that kind of thing.”

When I had a TV show interviewing authors, all but the “stars” paid their own way to get to Chicago. And times were better then.

My suggestion was to ASK. If they have booth at Book Expo, you might at least get that. What’s the harm. You are guaranteed to get nothing otherwise.

Agents are scarce. You know of what you speak. They don’t get paid unless they sell. You better be Sarah Palin. You betcha.

As far as small publishers, I certainly think you should talk if someone is interested.

As you correctly said, very few pay advances. Only royalties. OK.

They publish very few books in a year. My polite question would be “Where am I in the queue?”

And tell me how you distribute the books?

YEA for treating this like a business and being professional.

You obviously are.


Reed Badgley May 19, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Great article, Corrine, as the all are. I passing this along to a few of my friends who have a book in their heads. Reed


Corinne May 20, 2010 at 7:23 am

Thanks, Reed.

What about the book in your head?


Sharon Beck May 20, 2010 at 8:21 am

Wow, what a bonfire this article created. It just showed up in my email inbox, and when I went to make a comment, I had to get in line…a very long line. How wonderful!

I don’t want to write a book but boy I sure know a few who do and I’m going to pass this link on to all of them. And let them know that while they are here reading the post, to subscribe also. This isn’t the only interesting subject you write about.

And even if I’m not interested in the subject of your post, the way you write is so good that it always leaves me hungry for more.

Sharon Beck


Corinne May 20, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Hi Sharon –


A book for you? Maybe a cook book?

Never say never.

Appreciate your support always, Sharon


Jeff Kay May 21, 2010 at 5:18 am

Thank you, Corinne. I’m going through this process right now, and your article is helpful. You mention some things that hadn’t occurred to me…

I’ve been warned by writing friends about the lack of marketing funds, and am prepared to take on the responsibility myself. But your advice about negotiating free copies, etc. is something I hadn’t thought about. Thanks!

And you’re right, it’s a rollercoaster ride. I’ve already sacrificed part of my stomach lining to this thing. But so far: no regrets.
.-= Jeff Kay´s last blog ..Your Mid-Week Topic Dump, vol. 128 =-.


Corinne May 21, 2010 at 8:15 am

Dear Jeff –

I’ve been writing a series of articles on publicity, media coaching, interviewing, being interviewed –

I guess I wrote this one just for you.

I’m glad you could use some of it – and I sincerely wish you the greatest success with your book.

Now, as a family member, do I get a free copy?




Ted Hessing May 21, 2010 at 8:54 am

This is the problem I WANT to have!

Any tips on how one goes about with the accouting for book sales? I was wondering, specifically on the self-publishing route if it makes sense to have a separate corporation built for you to publish for tax reasons.
.-= Ted Hessing´s last blog ..Take Your Child to Where You Used to Work Day =-.


Corinne May 21, 2010 at 9:36 am

Ted – I wish you this problem!

Do you already have a corporation you can use? If so, most self publishing will pay it.

It will cost you to set one up and a pain to fill out all those forms every year but if you really start making some money, you can write off travel etc to book shows, interviews etc.

But don’t ask me. Ask your accountant.

This is just my opinion.


Dave May 23, 2010 at 6:40 am

Corrine, I followed this link from the comment you left for Jeff Kay. Outstanding article and very informative.

It just so happens that I stumbled across an old colleague of mine on the internet and found that he had several books for sale on Amazon. So, I purchased two of them just because I could not believe this guy was published.

They are real books but I swear, they look as though there was no editor involved, there are obvious errors in the printing, and honestly, it would appear that the guy sent a MS Word document to the printer and they slapped it between two covers and shipped it to Amazon.

Is this what you refer to as a vanity publisher? Yes, I payed $15 for each book, but really, I can’t believe this guy is getting paid for his writing or his editing by any legitimate publisher.
.-= Dave´s last blog ..A Little Bit About Me… =-.


Corinne May 23, 2010 at 11:51 am

Dear Dave –

The difference between a self published book and a Vanity Press is that self publishing will deliver as little as one book at time for you for your own use.

Vanity Presses sell you a couple of thousand books and make many promises to support your sales. They usually do nothing.

As far as the quality of the books on both self publishing and Vanity Presses is the old adage “Garbage in – Garbage out.”

They print what you send them.

Some of the self publishing platforms do offer editing services. People who are not experts in editing or have their own editors should probably use that.

But most do not.

I always employed an editor on all my books. Before I ever submitted them.

I also hired a similar service on my last book called a Book Doctor. They look at the whole book and advise you on what you might switch around in sequence. They don’t edit.

Are you more or less confused now?

But thank you for your question. It was a good one.

Regular publishers edit your book. They insist on the changes they want. They have whole departments who do nothing else.

So it is buyer beware.


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