Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

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John P. Moore
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Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by John P. Moore » Tue Dec 16, 2008 8:37 pm

As we have learned on the "Bloody Steets" thread some authors have been more successful than others in negotiating favorable terms with publishers. This thread could be a place where authors can post examples of the favorable terms that they have negotiated with publishers. These could be such things as text layout, photo placement and size, right to approve final edits, free copies, binding, advertising campaigns, royalties, etc. The publisher's name need not be disclosed.

John

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Frederick L Clemens
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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Frederick L Clemens » Thu Dec 18, 2008 9:19 am

I'm interested in hearing about follow-on rights, such as future print runs, new editions, translations, and MOVIES!!!

I know one well-known author whose books have been published in translation in Germany - for which he received no money due to the contract.

It is my understanding that you can limit the contract to one print run so that in case a bigger publisher wants the book, YOU can sell it to them, rather than your small publisher getting the money.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Mark C Yerger » Mon Dec 29, 2008 5:42 am

Some publishers have so many hidden clauses in their standard contract I'd suggest a lawyer read it so you fully understand what you're signing. Some of these I've seen include:

Saying you get a given royality (say 10% each of cover price), but in reality if a book seller/buyer is overseas, its cut in half. If the bookseller buys more than a certain number of books from the publisher at one time, its cut in half (or in half a 2nd time). So in many cases you actually get 2.5%. Same with foreign language editions, in some cases all you actually get is being able to say your book is in another language.

Have a specific date in the contract saying EXACTLY when you will be paid in each royalty period (once a year and specific date, twice yearly and the specific dates, etc).

Some publishers say (or list in their books with the publisher data) that they have an editor when in fact he just designs or does some other aspect of production. He never actually ever reads the book. Have several people you trust read your manuscript for any small mistakes, flow input, etc. After you read your own material so many times, a writer doesn't actually "see" errors or problems. These are different than hard facts. If a publisher does use an editor, have a clause giving you sole approval over anything he/she changes/edits. Editors have no clue as to what you've written about. If they did, they would have written the book. Some small publishers also think they are experts on everything and change facts to reflect "their knowledge" of a topic. As insane as that sounds, I've seen it done. You've corrected previously incorrect books and they change your material to the prior published mistages

Some contracts require first option on the author's next book, and then again with that one, and so on. So in actuality you can never break with the publisher even if given a horrible deal or experience. A clause to have removed in ANY case. You can always resign at YOUR option.

If you want any design input or say regards photo size, cover illustration, even specific title, etc, have it in the contract. A verbal promise is, after all, just talk. These can be general design or ability to prevent, as some do, photos being made overly large (and thus distorted) to increase page size or retail book cost.

Determine a price for you to buy copies of your own book, normal is 50% off. If your book costs $50 and you sell 40 signed copies directly to buyers vis forums, etc, you make $1000 profit. Looking at what some publishers actually pay in royalty, it is a considerable amount.

In all cases, demand blue line pages inspection and ability to make corrections to them before printing. If not, any mistakes you have in the book (wrong captions with photos, missing paragraphs, etc) are your own fault. Any mistakes are always pointed towards the author, even if a designer or publisher mistake. Probably the most important clause as far as the author being happy with the actual product.

One personal thing I have. Demand whatever length of acknowledgement page(s) is needed to thank those who have helped. A sentence or line is FAR more appreciated by anyone rather than just a column list of names. I consider the latter simply rude.

If you want copies sent to a specific public library or archive, have it in the contract. Otherwise they'll only get a copy if you buy one and send it to them. Likewise, very few publishers spend the money for review copies. While internet websites are a plus for free comments/reviews by readers, in the case of magazines in most cases a review copy is normally received from the author, and even that doesn't insure a review.

In the case of 3rd Reich topics, consider the cover with care. A large (or in some cases any) political emblem of the period can deter some outlets in foreign countries (bookstores or chains) from selling or displaying the book. Its the law in some countries.

Have the contract state how many initial free copies go to the author. Normal is 5-10. With every book I've done I've had to buy more than that simply to send a copy to those who helped.

Look at past actual products of the publisher. They will generally reflect what you can expect. If you expect something radically different than their norm, all points that differ must be in writing. Again, a verbal promise is simply talk.

Contact an author who has already done a book with the publisher you are considering and get his input directly regards the experience. Consider that input when reading your contract and asking for changes or additions.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Frederick L Clemens » Mon Dec 29, 2008 7:13 am

That's great info, Mark! :up:

I am helping a friend edit his own book for the reasons you mentioned - if you are an expert on an obscure topic, how can you trust a stranger to edit the material properly? Even slight changes in wording can really ruin the point you were trying to make. I think the best editors, just as the best counselors, are actually good friends who are closely familiar with your subject. On the other hand, too many editors can turn into a circus - I hate finding out that I just edited other people's edits or vice versa. You as the author have to keep the reins tight.

On the topic of book reviews, I wonder how important magazine reviews are compared to the internet now. I think with the dwindling readership of hardcopy magazines, time would be better spent promoting through the internet, but I suppose any publicity is good publicity, especially if it is free.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Uncle Joe » Mon Dec 29, 2008 10:29 am

Fred, magazine book reviews is an interesting topic! For example, I have most experience with aviation magazines and to be frank, most of the reviews are quite worthless. For example, British FlyPast and Aeroplane Monthly have regular book review section, but at least 90% of them are nothing but book ads, so shallow is the "review". Usually non-commercial mags like WW1 Aero have much more reliable reviews, though one exception seems to be Warship International whose reviews are very much like those commercial avmag reviews. For example, one Squadron book on U-boats was given a very positive review in WI, yet on www.uboat.net the same book was ripped to pieces.

Personally I have much lesser trust of reviews based on free copies vs. a review where the reviewer has actually paid for the book.

As for editing, I know one author who bailed his manuscript out of Society of Automotive Engineers (i.e. should be a highly professional expert organization) after the editor SAE assigned to his projects had intruduced edits like "Martin Mercator was developed from the Martin Mauler".

Mark is very spot on on writer´s "blindness" of his own text. For example, one Finnish Lt.Col. wrote a big book on Soviet tanks in WW Two and self published it. Rumour has it that it was "proofread" by some teens working summertime at the Parola Tank Museum as the author refused to let any more qualified people to read it. Well, the result is a book that has huge number of spelling and grammar errors combined with many factual errors that any reasonably read person could catch.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by phylo_roadking » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:06 am

BTW - Joe, has FlyPast gone belly-up??? It seems to have vanished off the shelves here in NI in the last three months...
"Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle." - Malcolm Reynolds

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Frederick L Clemens » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:25 am

Uncle Joe wrote:...I have most experience with aviation magazines and to be frank, most of the reviews are quite worthless. ...
Further on that note - I remember that there was a "review " of my book published before the book was finished. Obviously, many magazines simply reprint the publisher's advance info on a book as a review, timed for the expected release. As such, unless the publisher pays for the review copies, in most cases, you could probably save yourself the expense of sending an actual book copy for "review" and simply mail around flyers on the book with a few paragraphs suitable for recycling as a review.

Nowadays, the only reviews I read are on amazon and the militaria boards. Of course, I know to keep an eye out for the planted reviews...

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by John P. Moore » Mon Dec 29, 2008 12:10 pm

Mark - Thanks for those excellent comments that provide some very worthwhile information. Finding a publisher willing to publish one's "masterpiece" is an early hurdle that many of us first need to overcome since few of us are likely to have literary agents. I recall how back in 1995 when I had finished my manuscript on the SS signal officers that I really was clueless on finding a publisher. Somehow I had the silly notion in my mind that all sorts of regional publishers would compete for the right to publish my unique book. I was wrong. That was back in the days before print on demand services were available and I don't believe that Amazon had yet started up. You had already published your "Knights of Steel" book back then and I had used your layout style as a model. I believe that it would be of interest to others if we broadened this thread to include how to find a good publisher.

john

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by phylo_roadking » Mon Dec 29, 2008 12:23 pm

One major problem with specialist magazines and their reviews...is that many THEN rely on discounted or cheap stock from said publishers to flesh out competition prizes or "owned" book discount schemes :wink: They're not going to kill the goose that lays the golden egg...
"Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle." - Malcolm Reynolds

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Uncle Joe » Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:03 am

phylo_roadking wrote:BTW - Joe, has FlyPast gone belly-up??? It seems to have vanished off the shelves here in NI in the last three months...
Phylo, no, it has not. At least according to their site www.flypast.com. Could be a change in distributor? Personally I prefer Aeroplane Monthly, though even that has seen a reduction in quality (of the text articles) ever since Richard Riding was replaced by Michael "Moron" Oakey as the editor.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by phylo_roadking » Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:42 am

I'll have to check. Here in the UK a number of specialist magazines like this have recently been "uptaken" by chainstores like W.H.Smiths - they take ALL the monthly production to stock THEIR High Street stores...which is fine if YOUR High Street actually has a W.H.Smiths on it!!!

So unless you're a subscriber - several have just vanished off smaller newsagents' shelves...
"Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle." - Malcolm Reynolds

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by John P. Moore » Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:47 am

Please keep this discussion on topic. Magazine circulation issues don't belong on this thread. Thanks.

John

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Mark C Yerger » Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:31 am

Anyone can try a number of publishers based on their products or whatever other factors matter most to the author. The university publishers generally require a degree to publish an author. Rather stupid as many "academic" authors are clueless on a topic and many "hobby" writers know considerably more. From what I've seen, university publishers generally do texts that have a minimal number photos.

But I would NOT send everything to a potential publisher. There are well known examples of books being stolen or material used by others in whole or in part.
I would recommend sending:

a synopsis (1 page) explaining the book topic/contents, including why its new or better data on the topic
table of contents
a chapter as an example
page/word count and photo/map/illustration count
some xerox examples of the types of photos, maps, or other illustrations

and have your material copyrighted first, it takes minimal effort and cost

If you are refused by everyone for whatever reason (if its total rehash of already done, thats why nobody wants it) and are still determined, the option John gave is a source. Doing your own book requires knowledge and contacts of a lot of other aspects for book selling/distribution, etc. Unlike the "old days" this can be done at less cost with new technology and the ability to print books one at a time if needed. It also allows corrections or additions at any time. But also requires more computer skills and programs that just using your PC as a simple word processor. This is true for both actual books and for those done on CDs, like John's officer list. However, this is an especially attractive option if the book is all or majority text. The selling outlet is both the Internet and speciality booksellers. However, any bookseller normally gets a 40-50% discount from the retail price. Any copy a publisher (or author) sells himself makes a considerably higher % of profit, BUT the majority of books EVERY publishers sells goes to other dealers on the food chain who make their as stated profit margin.

If, God forbid, my own publisher were to quit, retire, etc there is no other publisher I have the slightest desire to work for. Therefore, in that event, I'd go the self done route for whatever I have left to do as the German CRoss series for the SS/Police is my final project.

I would never recommend anyone doing anything as a series or multi-part article for a magazine

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Frederick L Clemens » Wed Dec 31, 2008 6:27 am

Mark C Yerger wrote:...Doing your own book requires knowledge and contacts of a lot of other aspects for book selling/distribution, etc. Unlike the "old days" this can be done at less cost with new technology and the ability to print books one at a time if needed. It also allows corrections or additions at any time. But also requires more computer skills and programs that just using your PC as a simple word processor...
Very true. It's a major challenge to do a book from soup to nuts - research, write, layout, print, market, sell, deliver. Just like a graphics software program does not make a person into an artist, the new technology only assists you to do all the things, it doesn't do it for you, nor does magically give you more hours in the day. That's what makes Jason Mark's work all the more amazing. I wonder if he ever sleeps....

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Richard Hargreaves » Wed Dec 31, 2008 11:23 am

One thing which a lot of publishers tie into their contracts is first refusal on your next book. Mine do. What I don't know is what happens if they don't like Breslau and how easy it will be to take it to another firm, especially a rival; I already have my eye on one just in case.

Something I found in writing my second book was that I was on much firmer ground; while I could not dictate terms, I was able to determine the number of pictures and managed to preserve the word count - something I think would have been impossible without the success of Normandy.

For my part I've found my dealings with my publisher extremely easy. In fact, in this modern age, I've never actually met them in person, visited their offices. It's all done by proxy - e-mail, phone calls. Saves me expensive 500-mile round trips (because I doubt the publisher would pay...).
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