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7 questions to ask a potential publishing partner

Yesterday was a real career high: I was interviewed by Joanna Penn for her legendary podcast The Creative Penn - one of my all-time favourites, and one that inspired me to begin my own podcast. She has such a natural, warm way about her and obviously enjoys talking to her guests enormously, and that gave me the confidence I needed just to be myself too. (There's so much slick shiny stuff out there - Joanna is professional, but real, and I love that.)

We could have talked all day. And we didn't have time to cover all the questions she'd sent through, so I thought I'd address one here. She asked, 'How can would-be authors avoid the less ethical publishing operations out there?'

So here are the questions I recommend you should ask any potential publishing partner (ie one using the author-pays model): 

1.     Who holds the publishing rights? If they want exclusive rights to publish, this means you can’t take your book elsewhere whenever you want, and you might even find yourself unable to use the content on your website or in other products such as courses – if you’re paying, I’d suggest you want to retain those rights.

2.     If they are asking for transfer of rights, ask what they’re going to do to exploit those rights – will they actively be looking for translation deals on your behalf, for example? If not, keep the rights yourself and look for others to help you with this.

3.     What revenues do you receive, and what revenues do they receive? Again, if you’re paying them to publish the book, they shouldn’t be keeping a substantial part of the revenues. If they’re asking for more than 10 or 20%, ask them what they’re doing in terms of ongoing marketing to justify that.

4.     Can you buy books yourself at a reasonable price, and can you sell them yourself without giving them a cut? Many publishing partners sell you copies of your own book at 50% discount off the list price, which is a big mark-up on cost. I charge my authors cost price plus a 10% handling fee.

5.     Ask what happens after your agreement ends: will you get copies of the print and ebook files so you can continue to publish the book? Again, you’ve paid for these, so in my opinion you should get to keep them.

6.     How flexible can the publisher be when it comes to creating new or updated versions of the book? Will they be flexible enough to allow you to create one-off custom versions, such as branded editions for conferences? 

7.     If it’s important for this book to be published quickly, what’s their standard production schedule? Traditional publishers will usually take 9-12 months from delivery of the manuscript to publication – mainly because they work around the bookshops' long sales cycles. My standard is 3 months from delivery to publication. 

If you're not happy with the answers - or you can't get answers - keep looking. 

This entry was posted on 07 March 2017 at 22:48 and is filed under publishing. You can leave a response here.

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