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.
THIS IS BUSINESS.
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.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE NAME OF YOUR BOOK TO YOU?
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.
HOW MANY FREE BOOKS WILL THEY GIVE YOU WHEN YOUR BOOK COMES OUT?
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.
ARE YOU STILL WITH ME?
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 –
YOU WILL BE IN LOVE WITH YOUR PUBLISHED BOOK.
IT WILL BE WORTH IT.
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