Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Discussion, background, reviews, and critical analysis of works by Feldgrau.net members who are published authors.
John P. Moore
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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by John P. Moore » Wed Dec 31, 2008 11:35 am

Mark and Richard have commented about the right of first refusal on the part of the publisher for the author's next work. Is that a fairly common condition that others have experienced? This seems rather one-sided to me unless the authors are receiving some form of added compensation in return for giving up the right to select a publisher of their choice. As Mark has learned some publishers are a better match than others and writers risk being linked to borderline unconscionable contracts if they expect to write additional books.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Mark C Yerger » Thu Jan 01, 2009 2:13 pm

While I don't have details on every publisher, the clause to demand next book must be thought over with care. Especially by 1st time writers who are simply eager to have their book done and don't appreciate the possible negative aspects of the clause. One odd point mentioned I had not heard of previously regards a publisher was a limit or agreement on size (pages count) of the book or number of photos. I've never had any publisher say "there are to many photos." Perhaps some have a format price with a printer as to page number, page size, binding, phot plate counts, etc for extended cost savings.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Uncle Joe » Thu Jan 01, 2009 8:21 pm

Well, e.g. Osprey authors do have to work within very strict word count limits. One quite recent book on a Pacific War campaign was laid out by the authors themselves as it allowed to cover price to be reduced from $50 to $35, with a substantial increase in sales potential for US market. It has now sold well over 10,000 copies.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Mark C Yerger » Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:45 pm

Due to both their retail cost and narrow subject market, I know none of my books has sold 10,000 copies. However, for me personally, a restriction on word or photo count would only allow me to do a book in part of the detail I'm capable of or want. For what I want to do, its better for me to be complete and sell less copies than be superficial and sell many times more for a wider market. I assume for many the number sold is a factor, or the actual amount earned. Royality payment per book is less the less the book costs. While this thread is to help people from being abused by publishers, all my factors of why and what I do are unrelated to the payment. If I take into consideration costs for photo labs, archive trips, archive copies/microfilm, reference books, travel, postage, and all the other expenses involved with a book, I've never made actual pure monetary profit from a book. That doesn't even take into account the actual time involved and its value. I get other rewards, for want of a better term.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Uncle Joe » Fri Jan 02, 2009 8:49 pm

Mark, the book I mentioned is probably on your shelf as well: Shattered Sword by Jon Parshall&Tony Tully. Roughly put the book has perhaps the same word count as your first 2 DKiG vols in total (=bigger page size, denser text, far fewer illustrations). In other words, they weren´t restricted to a specific word count. It has been reprinted at least twice.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Mark C Yerger » Sat Jan 03, 2009 7:29 am

Thanks for the info. As I said, a text OR illustrations limit (documents or photos with extended captions) would be a negative for me in selecting a publisher. I'm not familiar with the mentioned book, but I forgot to mention I also prefer hardbound projects. For general comparing of various projects for formats, size, etc, my German Cross in Gold vol. 2 was 105,000 words, not counting 247 photo/document captions.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by John P. Moore » Sat Jan 03, 2009 11:37 am

I don't feel that Osprey publications are germane to the discussion here since I don't believe that any Feldgrau author here writes for Osprey or has any real inside information about negotiating with that publisher or their terms and conditions.

John

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Frederick L Clemens » Sat Jan 03, 2009 12:00 pm

I have attended Historicon in Lancaster PA a couple of years in a row. Osprey has given seminars there for new authors.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by John P. Moore » Sat Jan 03, 2009 12:44 pm

Fred - Is there something specific that you can tell us about the Osprey presentations that relates to this specific topic?

John

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Frederick L Clemens » Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:13 pm

Yes, if anyone wants to meet with publishers like Osprey and discuss these issues firsthand, that is a great way to do it. I don't know of another place to do that so easily. This past year Simone Drinkwater from Casemate also made a presentation for authors - she had previously been the pitchman for Osprey but got lured away to Casemate. The next Historicon at Lancaster is July 16-19. I plan to go again. There are other seminars on military history topics. Col Glantz does several there and he is easy to approach.

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by RaymondG » Mon Jan 05, 2009 3:41 am

Hi

I think this thread can be of great value to budding authors and seasoned writers alike.

I have experience on both sides of the fence, having worked with writers to get work published in the past.

In my experience, most first time authors are just happy to get their work in print, and seem to forget about the financial side of the deal with a publisher. They may also find themselves being tied to a 'next book clause' and very low loyalties for their efforts.

There are a fair few issues to tackle that have been mentioned already, so I will address a couple of them.

The most important thing is to find a publisher that you are comfortable with. All will make promises, but I would advocate actually trying to contact published authors in their stable to ask their opinions. The publisher may furnish you with a list and be happy to help in this area. I would be wary of those who are not so forthcoming. In short, do your research on the publishing firm. You want the process to be as enjoyable as possible and crucially, the end product to be something you are proud of, rather than one of regrets of what it could have been. You must look at their back catalogue, assess their house style and the quality of their output. There are big differences between the output of different firms in terms of quality.

Royalties - these vary enormously and if the author is not careful, they may find themselves tied to a contract that yields very little financially, even if the book is successful. It surprises me that no author asks for a banded royalty rate based on sales. So, the more the publisher sells, the more the author benefits. A publishing firm will certainly not offer this as a matter of course. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting the opinions of other authors (if they are forthcoming). You will be in a stronger position to negotitate better terms armed with some industry knowledge.

Free copies - it is only fair that the publishers gives their authors free copies as part of the deal. This is commonplace and is only courteous. Personally, if a publisher does not give a few free copies, then it tells me a lot about that firm.

Editorial control - this is a thorny issue as I have seen the other side of the fence, with authors severely delaying the process by wanting to make continual minor' last minute' changes. There is a balance between getting the book right and delaying the whole project. On saying that, a good publisher should work with the author to create something both can stand behind. This will involve mutually agreed deadlines for changes and additions to keep the project intact. I have found that some authors have a very clear and defined vision and turn up with something that is like a final proof. Other needs much more guidance.

Formats - some publishers will have set parameters for their books. For example, it must be 224 pages, with 120 images etc etc. This is for economic reasons with paginations, as well as their firm belief that this format works. Experience has told me that one model does not fit all. Try and find this out information before you partner up with the firm as you certainly do not want to see your 300 page book butchered into fitting their model.

I am sure I have missed some of the points covered, but to conclude, I cannot stress enough the need for authors & budding authors alike to actually talk to each another, rather than accept the first offer that comes from a publisher.

Raymond

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Tom Houlihan » Mon Jan 05, 2009 4:39 am

Raymond, you say you've worked both sides of the fence.

May I ask what outfits you've worked for? Solely out of curiosity, no axes to grind.
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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Mark C Yerger » Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:17 am

Raymond

I believe a number of your points, contacting those who have had books published with a potential publisher, multiple publisher submissions, free copies, editing facets, certain royalty specifics or pitfalls to avoid, were already mentioned. Regards contacting those who already worked with a given publisher, perhaps anyone here with experience can make themselves available (via private contact) regarding their experiences with given publishers. I've only worked with Fedorowicz, Schiffer, Bender, and a private individual. Also did one book myself.

Mark

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by John P. Moore » Mon Jan 05, 2009 9:10 am

Raymond - Thanks for taking the time to provide those comments.

Mark - Even though some of the concerns that Raymond mentioned had already been covered, it is good to hear about them from the perspectives of others.

For those who don't know - Raymond Griffiths was a member of the partnership of a successful publishing house. I asked him to post some comments here as I knew that he would be objective with his advice.

John

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Re: Negotiating the Most Favorable Terms with Publishers

Post by Frederick L Clemens » Mon Jan 05, 2009 10:27 am

I appreciate his comments.

I found my copies of writer's guidelines from Osprey if anyone is interested.

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