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  1. #1
    Drew barton

    Traditional Publishing Questions

    Since I am trying to gather more information before deciding whether to use a POD or traditional publisher, here are more questions. If there is anything else you feel that is valuable to consider please feel free. Thanks.

    Regarding traditional publishing:

    1. Do you usually send submissions to many publishers at the same time?

    2. What is the time schedule from start to being
    available in the bookstore?

    3. What do publishers ask of the writer?

    4. What does the contract say?

    5. When do they stop printing the book?

    6. When would you decline a contract?


  2. #2
    Ann Crispin

    Re: Publishing Questions: Commercial vs. POD

    I guess I should tackle this one...

    1. Simultaneous queries are fine, but simultaneous submissions (of the full manuscript) are still frowned upon. Nevertheless, it takes many commercial publishers so long to read submissions and queries that most writers now go ahead and do sim-subs. It's basically up to you. The submission guidelines in Writers Market or the Jeff Herman Guide will tell you if the publisher objects to simultaneous submissions, and at that point you'll just have to decide on a case-by-case basis.

    I repeat: simultaneous QUERIES - no problem! Send out a hundred of them if you can find that many potential markets for your book.

    2. When you're talking commercial publishers (I prefer that term to TRADITIONAL because PublishAmerica has co-opted and ruined the term "traditional," IMHO) you can figure on a couple of years, minimum, between first submitting the book and seeing it on the shelves in the bookstores. The important thing to remember is, your commercially published book WILL be on bookstore shelves. Your POD published book WON'T. POD publishers will tell you this doesn't matter, that you can make huge sales just via Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com, and that's technically possible, I suppose. But highly unlikely. Especially for a novel.

    3. Commercial publishers require the writer to do the following:

    a. Discuss their book and revise it in accordance with comments made by the acquisitions editor. This is a back and forth dialogue that usually winds up with both parties agreeing to requested changes, often compromising on how changes are to be effected. (I've had 22 novels published, and during that time, only one editor has ever demanded unreasonable changes. Luckily, by the time that happened to me, I had enough seniority in the business to Just Say No to the changes that I felt would hurt the book.) With commercial publishing, the author has the last word, in my experience. Editors do NOT just rewrite your work willy-nilly, though that's a common myth among unpublished writers.

    b. Read the copyedited manuscript and check what the copyeditor has done. [Copy editors edit for things like consistency, punctuation, grammar, typos, etc. They (usually) do not concern themselves majorly with content editing. That's the acquisition editor's job.] (See (a) above.) Authors also have to proofread the page proofs/galleys of the book as a final check for typos, missed text, printing errors, etc.

    c. Authors are expected to promote their book as much as they're comfortable doing. This can include events like booksignings, newspaper interviews, radio interviews, television (often cable/PBS television) appearances, convention or writing conference appearances, speaking at libraries, etc. The author generally arranges these events himself/herself, but the publisher's publicity department lends support and provides things like press releases. They also pass along to the author requests for appearances, interviews, and the like.

    POD publishers, as a rule, don't do any editing of books. They usually run the book text through a spellcheck/grammarcheck program. They don't do any promotion or support of the author. They do encourage (and sometimes require) the author to buy large amounts of his or her book for resale. Some POD publishers will send out a notice about the book to a list of friends and family provided by the author.

    4. For sample POD contracts, go to the POD sites. Many POD publishers (the better ones) post their boilerplate contracts on their sites. For sample commercial publishing contracts, go to the SFWA site to see some boilerplate sample contracts. www.sfwa.org

    Be aware that if you don't have a legit agent to vet your contract for you, you'd be well advised to hire an attorney experienced in IP (Intellectual Property) law to read the contract before signing. Any publishing contract can contain pitfalls to trap naive authors, and your average DUI or divorce lawyer doesn't have the experience to spot them.

    5. POD publishers will print the book, in theory, forever, until you tell them to stop. PublishAmerica takes all rights for a full 7 years and their contract is fairly ironclad. Since POD books are, in theory, printed one at a time as they are ordered, there are no "first printings," or "second printings" in the picture.

    Commercial publishers keep books on the shelves for as long as they're selling well. A typical first printing run varies tremendously according to genre, the author's name, the publisher's investment, etc. However, a first time author in science fiction/fantasy (my field) can expect a hardcover book printing to run perhaps 5000 copies and a paperback mass market original to run at least twice that. When book sales fall below a certain rate, the publisher will then declare the book Out of Print and the author is then free to demand that the book be reverted to him or her so he or she can pursue selling it again. If the book continues to sell, the publisher can keep it in print for a long time. [One of my books (NOT a tie-in) was first published in 1984, and Tor is still selling it. Not a lot, but enough copies per year that I get a little check every six months. Other of my books have gone OP and I've reverted the rights and they're for re-sale.]

    Good sales for a POD book would be 1000 copies sold. Extraordinaily good sales for a POD book would be 5000 copies sold.

    If a commercial book sold that few copies, it would be considered a failure.

    6. I would decline an offered contract if my agent advised me not to sign.

    If I were a beginning writer, I'd decline contracts under the following circumstances:

    a) If the contract were offered by any of the scam POD publishers. American Book Publishing and PublishAmerica are two of the biggest scam POD publishers out there.

    b) If offered a commercial book contract from a major NY publisher (not a small press) that offered an insultingly low advance (less than 3000 dollars, say), or had a really nasty options clause that amounted to indetured servitude, or if the publisher insisted on basket accounting for a series/trilogy, etc. But I doubt you have the experience to spot any of these or the other possible pitfalls. That's why you should have a (legit) literary agent negotiating your contract, or, failing that, should seek the advice of a lawyer experienced in IP law.


    I hope this has been helpful.

    -Ann C. Crispin
    Author: STORMS OF DESTINY/HarperEos

  3. #3
    Christina Rundle

    Re: Publishing Questions: Commercial vs. POD

    Thank you Ann for explaining that. I'm starting out too, so after you mentioned the basket accounting, I did a search on the web to better understand it.

  4. #4
    Nathan Nicholl

    Re: Publishing Questions: Commercial vs. POD

    I'll add my thanks for such a comprehensive post.

    Thanks, Ann. 8)

  5. #5
    Drew barton

    Re: Publishing Questions: Commercial vs. POD

    Ann, thanks for the info.

    One big difference is the time. POD can be done now and traditional publishing takes two or more years. Although two years is usual, it seems to be a drawback because some of the information in the nonfiction book will be outdated. I would have to start writing the next edition now. Nobody wants to read old info.

    On the other hand, I guess we have to get in line as publishing takes time and writers need to be patient.

  6. #6
    Brandon Sharp

    Re: Publishing Questions: Commercial vs. POD

    Two years is a lot of patience when you are looking for a paycheck.
    An entire market can dry up in two years.

    As Tradish companies wean writers from advance payments, the market for POD and other vanity companies will proliferate.
    People, in mass, will choose to eat Micky D's NOW, rather than wait on Mom and Pop's quality.

  7. #7
    Ann Crispin

    Re: Publishing Questions: Commercial vs. POD

    With major NY commercial publishers, the writer does receive a paycheck early on. Most contracts provide for a portion of the advance to be paid "on signing" of the contract.

    So that can be within a month or two after the publisher makes an offer and accepts the book.

    Advances these days are typically divided into thirds. One third "on signing," one third "on acceptance" and one third "on publication."

    Don't pay attention to POD's like PublishAmerica that try to scare you with boogeyman claims that writers have to pay back advances if the books don't sell well. They don't. (I gather musicians have to, but writers don't.)

    Since the average paycheck for six months of royalties on a POD published novel is typically less than 100 bucks...(often FAR less, like 12-30 dollars), receiving 1/3 of even a minimum 3000 dollar advance on-signing says to me that commercially published writers, by comparison, aren't foregoing ANY "paychecks" by comparison with POD writers.

    -Ann C. Crispin
    Author: STORMS OF DESTINY/HarperEos

  8. #8
    Frank Baron

    Re: Publishing Questions: Commercial vs. POD

    Great info Ann. I'd just like to add that particularly with nonfiction, some timely topics can be published much more quickly than two years. Lots depends on how how much editing and vetting is required but we've all seen those "instant books" that appear within weeks/months of a major world event. Those too are outside the norm of course but my book (which wasn't time-sensitive) went from acceptance to print in about 14 months.

  9. #9
    Brother Schenker

    Re: Publishing Questions: Commercial vs. POD

    It's early days for POD...and more & more books are being published via POD.

    I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that A.C. Crispin will one day publish a POD book. She'll get sick of the Trekkie thang and/or simply feel impelled to write something else that no TradPub will want...and hello Lulu.

    With Lulu you keep all your rights; you set the price and the royalties. You keep the book in print for as long as you please.

    And yes, I know full well the difficulties of then marketing the damn thing...and the prejudice from the brick & mortars, but we mustn't let that stop us. POD is becoming more and more acceptable with each passing day. Soon you will see famous authors/artists/comedians release their out-of-print materials through Lulu-type POD companies.You watch.

    Glad you have had some success through the TradPub deal, Crispin. It really is quite an achievement. Are those books works-for-hire? You sell away your copyright for a one-off payment, yea? A book is a book is a book.

    I understand that Publish America really fu**ed up the reputation of the whole POD industry, but look into Lulu and you will see the future. It treats the writer and artist the way they should have always been treated.


  10. #10
    Ann Crispin

    I don't need this crap!

    Screw you, Brother and the green-eyed monster you rode in on. If you don't want me and Writer Beware here on Writers.net, say the word, and I'm outta here, sweetcheeks.

    More than half my books are original books set him my own universe. My new book, for example, is Book 1 of an original trilogy. I own copyright.

    I will NEVER publish one of my novels POD unless I did something like a special collector's edition for my fans. If I switched over to POD, my family would starve.

    I'll leave POD for the likes of you, honey. You can have it all. Eat your heart out.

    -Ann C. Crispin
    Author: STORMS OF DESTINY/HarperEos
    Available on bookstores shelves everywhere!

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