You’ve Got Questions…


Q Should I publish a book on my own or try to sell it to another publisher?

It depends. If you have a great platform, such as public speaking, you will make far more money by creating your own publishing house. Because I speak nationally at several conferences a year, I come away with a lot more money than if I sold my book to a traditional publishing house and collected royalties. It’s a financial decision for me–I can sell 5,000 books and net the same amount of money if I collected royalties from a publishing house that sells 50,000. The average non-fiction sells 6,500 copies. Do the math.

It’s also about timeliness, Quality and control. As a small press, you can make decisions Quickly; you can make changes Quickly … try that with a traditional publisher. As a small press, I know that with the contacts that I’ve created over the years, I can produce the same Quality, if not better, than the big boys. And last, being able to say yea or nay to a cover or an interior design without starting WWIII is a real plus. At least in your book, it is.

So, you need to crunch some numbers, determine how much time you have to invest in your book project, and what contacts you have to pull it off. A good Book Shepherd can be the missing link. Or, if you want nothing to do with the process and want to turn it over to a publishing house, then you’ve got to create one outstanding book proposal and manuscript; find an agent and hope that an editor loves it.

Q Do I really need an editor?

NO exceptions—yes, you do. Lack of editing—content and grammar—p is the single biggest ding authors and publishers get. Every book needs another set of eyes: Does the content make sense? Is the
grammar correct? Are there typos? Is the book readable?

You should hire at least one editor who will look for passages that are unclear or poorly constructed. A second reading, either by the same editor if she has the skills, should be for spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Q Do I need to hire a cover or interior designer?

You bet–you should work with both a professional cover designer, as well as layout designer. An amateur-looking cover or interior will sink your sales. So will a sloppy looking interior. If you are a wiz at the book layout design and proficient with page layout programs such as Quark or InDesign, go for it. Otherwise, a book interior designer is essential for your team.

Book cover and interior design is a special niche within the graphic design field. Hire a designer who has experience with book design. Make sure you look at several samples of their work and get bids. Most charge by the project or hour — know what you are paying for before you turn over your files. Talk to other publishers and authors. Did the designer deliver on time? Was the price reasonable in his or her opinion? Were there any problems?

Q How many books should I print?

If you are contracting with a printer, get multiple (at least 3-5) bids for 1000, 3000 and 5000 copies. Ask what a reprint will cost. Many printers will automatically include a Quote for additional 1000s over your reQuested bid. How many you print will directly tie into your marketing and distribution plans. Do you have one? Do you have the money to support it? PS–even though the Quote for 10,000 books is so much less than the one for 3,000–don’t do it unless you can really move/sell that many books within a year.

Q Should I do a POD (print-on-demand) or a regular print run?

Good Question. Here’s a few back — Are you going to aggressively market it? Are you spending money on PR? Do you plan to sell to wholesalers and distributors? Do you have the money to finance a print run of at least 1000 books — don’t forget to include cover design, layout and editing?

PODs certainly take some of the work away — layout, print and put your books together for the initial fee you pay them. Rarely do they do cover design or any type of editing without charging more. Books that come from PODs usually cost Quite a bit more per book than if you had printed copies with a traditional printer.

If you are planning on only selling a few hundred copies over the life of your book (such as a family memoir), or are bypassing book stores for sales, then POD could work for you. If your vision is to sell thousands, bypass the POD route.

Q Do I need bar codes on the cover?

If you want a book store to sell them, yes—no exceptions. All books now carry a 13-digit bar code. Be smart and also put the price of your book in a bar code format. Your book cover designer should be able to assist you here.

Q Should I do hardcover or soft cover?

Depends on your market — you can get Quotes from printers for both a hardcover and soft cover version — hardcover will cost more, but usually carries a higher retail value. If you are doing a soft cover, consider getting flaps, just like the hardbacks dust jacket has. There is a perceived value that it’s worth more than the traditional soft cover.

Is your book one that will be read and reread many times, or is it one that will be used once and discarded or passed along? Who is your market? Certain markets expect books to be in hardcover, while others soft cover. Do you homework — check out what the books in your area are presented as, including price so that you are competitive. Your printer rep can be helpful here as well.

Q How do I copyright my work?

Register with the Library of Congress when you get your finished, printed book.


Q How do I get an ISBN?

Go to the RR Bowker website at ISBN number

Q How do I convert my old ISBN to the new system?

Glad you asked … it’s a simple procedure when you use the ISBN-13 Online Converter.

Go to http://www.isbn.org/converterpub.asp and it’s a “wala…she’s done!”

Q How do I list my book on Amazon.com?

Go directly to the Amazon.com site and click on their Publishers and Vendors Guide link.

Q How do I list my book on Barnes & Nobles website?

Go directly to the Barnes & Noble web site and click on their Publisher and Author Guidelines link.

Q How much will it cost for me to get a book published and promoted?

This is a hard Question to answer, and not the same for every book or every author. As a round figure, you can expect to spend between $10,000 and $15,000, but many authors have spent two and three times that much and many have spent less.

Then there’s PR and marketing costs that can be done on a shoestring to creating a hefty dip in your savings. This ranges from a thousand dollars or less to buy promotional copies and send out email flyers to as much as $30,000 or more to finance book tour travel, a website, and promotional marketing pieces. A lot of money can be wasted here, so be smart and make sure that you have a plan put together before you start writing checks.

Q How do I get started?

Do your homework. Read about self-publishing through the many books authored by both Dan Poynter. A must is Dan’s Self Publishing Manual. Learn about the industry. Judith is co-writing a book with John Kremer and Brian Jud, Show Me About Publishing (it will be available in 2010). Understand that it’s a business, not a hobby. Know what authors and books compete with yours and know what and who your buying market is.

Q What books do you recommend for marketing ideas?

Two surface immediately. The first is John Kremer’s 1001 Ways to Market Your Books and the second is Brian Jud’s Beyond the Bookstore. Both are loaded with ideas that you can immediately put to use. They are considered “must haves” for all my clients. Both authors have websites that are updated freQuently along with an eNewsletter. Sign up at www.bookmarket.com and www.bookmarketingworks.com.

Q If I sell my book to a publisher, what are the key areas I should be aware of in a contract?

Always remember that a contract from a publisher is created for the benefit of the publisher, not you. With that said, there are a variety of books that have general information of contracts and negotiations. I would strongly recommend that you join the Authors Guild (www.AuthorsGuild.com). It has a complimentary review service for its members. Below is a reprint of several of the key points that they highlight on the website for book contracts:

Improving Your Book Contract: Negotiation Tips for Nine Typical Clauses

1. Grant of Rights

What the clause does:

The Grant of Rights clause transfers ownership rights in, and therefore control over, certain parts of the work from the author to the publisher. Although it’s necessary and appropriate to grant some exclusive rights – e.g., the right to print, publish and sell print-book editions –don’t assign or transfer your copyright and use discretion when granting rights in languages other than English and territories other than the United States, its territories and Canada. Also, limit the publication formats granted to those which your publisher is capable of exploiting adeQuately.

Negotiation tips:

Never transfer or assign your copyright or “all rights” in the work to your publisher.

Limit the languages, territories, and formats in which your publisher is granted rights.

2. Subsidiary Rights

What the clause does:

Subsidiary rights are uses that your publisher may make of your manuscript other than issuing its own hardcover or paperback print book editions. Print-related subsidiary rights include book club and paperback reprint editions, publication of selections, condensations or abridgments in anthologies and textbooks, and first and second serial rights (i.e., publication in newspapers or magazines either before or after publication of the hardcover book). Non-print-related subsidiary rights include motion picture, television, stage, audio, animation, merchandising, and electronic rights.

Subsidiary rights may be directly exploited by your publisher or licensed to third parties. Your publisher will share licensing fees with you in proportion to the ratios set forth in your contract. You should receive at least 50% of the licensing proceeds.

Negotiation tips:

Consider reserving rights outside the traditional grant of primary print book publishing rights, especially if you have an agent.

Beware of any overly inclusive language, such as “in any format now known or hereafter developed,” used to describe the scope of the subsidiary rights granted.

Make sure you are fairly compensated for any subsidiary rights granted. Reputable publishers will pay you at least 50% of the proceeds earned from licensing certain categories of rights, much higher for others.

3. Delivery and Acceptance

What the clause does:

Most contracts stipulate that the publisher is only obligated to accept, pay for, and publish a manuscript that is “satisfactory to the publisher in form and content.” It may be difficult to negotiate a more favorable, objective provision, but you should try. Otherwise, the decision as to whether your manuscript is satisfactory, and therefore publishable, will be left to the subjective discretion of your publisher.

Negotiation tips:
If you cannot do better, indicate that an acceptable manuscript is one which your publisher deems editorially satisfactory.

Obligate your publisher to assist you in editing a second corrected draft before ultimately rejecting your manuscript.

Negotiate a non-refundable advance or insert a clause which would allow you to repay the advance on a rejected book from re-sale proceeds paid by a second publisher.

4. Publication

What the clause does:

Including a publication deadline in your contract will obligate your publisher to actually publisher your book in a timely fashion. Be sure that the amount of time between your delivery of the manuscript and the publication of the book isn’t longer than industry standard.

Negotiation tips:

Make sure you’re entitled to terminate the contract, regain all rights granted, and keep the advance if your publisher fails to publish on or before the deadline.

Carefully limit the conditions under which your publisher is allowed to delay publication.

5. Copyright

What the clause does:

Current copyright law doesn’t reQuire authors to formally register their copyright in order to secure copyright protection. Copyright automatically arises in written works created in or after 1978. However, registration with the Copyright Office is a pre-reQuisite to infringement lawsuits and important benefits accrue when a work is registered within three months of initial publication.

Negotiation tips:

ReQuire your publisher to register your copyright within three months of initial publication of your book.

As previously discussed in Grant of Rights, don’t allow your publisher to register copyright in its own name.

6. Advance

What the clause does:

An advance against royalties is money that your publisher will pay you prior to publication and subseQuently deduct from your share of royalty earnings. Most publishers will pay, but might not initially offer, an advance based on a formula which projects the first year’s income.

Negotiation tips:

Bargain for as large an advance as possible. A larger advance gives your publisher greater incentive to publicize and promote your work.

Research past advances paid by your publisher in industry publications such as Publishers Weekly.

7. Royalties

What the clause does:

You should earn royalties for sales of your book that are in line with industry standards. For example, many authors are paid 10% of the retail price of the book on the first 5,000 copies sold, 12.5% of the retail price on the next 5,000 copies sold, and 15% of the retail price on all copies sold thereafter.

Negotiation tips:

Base your royalties on the suggested retail list price of the book, not on net sales income earned by your publisher. Net-based royalties are lower than list-based royalties of the same percentage, and they allow your publisher room to offer special deals or write off bad debt without paying you money on the books sold.

Limit your publisher’s ability to sell copies of your book at “deep discounts” – Quantity discount sales of more than 50% – or as remainders.

Limit your publisher’s ability to reduce the percentage of royalties paid for export, book club, mail order, and other special sales.

8. Accounting and Payments

What the clause does:

Your accounting clause should establish the freQuency with which you should expect to receive statements accounting for your royalty earnings and subsidiary rights licensing proceeds. If you are owed
money in any given accounting period, the statement should be accompanied by a check.

Negotiation tips:

Insist on at least a bi-annual accounting.

Limit your publisher’s ability to withhold a reserve against returns of your book from earnings that are otherwise owed to you.

Include an audit clause in your contract which gives you or your representative the right to examine the sales records kept by the publisher in connection with your work.

9. Out of Print

What the clause does:
Your publisher should only have the exclusive rights to your work while it is actively marketing and selling your book, i.e., while your book is “in print.” An out-of-print clause will allow you to terminate the contract and regain all rights granted to your publisher after the book stops earning money.

It is crucial to actually define the print status of your book in the contract. Stipulate that your work is in print only when copies are available for sale in the United States in an English language hardcover or paperback edition issued by the publisher and listed in its catalog. Otherwise, your book should be considered out-of-print and all rights should revert to you.

Negotiation tips:

Don’t allow the existence of electronic and print-on-demand editions to render your book in print. Alternatively, establish a floor above which a certain amount of royalties must be earned or copies must be sold during each accounting period for your book to be considered in print. Once sales or earnings fall below this floor, your book should be deemed out-of-print and rights should revert to you.

Stipulate that as soon as your book is out-of-print all rights will automatically revert to you regardless of whether your book has earned out the advance.