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  1. #1
    A Roby

    Publishing with a UP

    Hi all,

    Editors at the top houses rejected my nonfiction proposal. All raved about it. All passed because it wasn't commercial enough. (I disagree, of course.)

    Now I have interest from a university press. I really want to write this book, but I'd be writing for a tiny advance, or none at all. It's a matter of art versus commerce.

    I could use some input from anyone who's published with a UP. Pros and cons? Would you do it again? Also, will a UP give you a few years to write your book so that you can accept paying gigs?

  2. #2
    Mya Bell

    Re: Publishing with a UP

    How long they are willing to give you probably depends upon your negotiation skills and the likelihood of your topic being scooped by another publisher in the meantime.

    I've always had to negotiate for more time than the publisher originally wanted to give me. I keep reminding them, better to take eighteen months to write a good book that sells than eight months to write one that makes them (and me) look bad.

    I believe Iris had four years to research and write her most recent book. My nonfiction books take me about one to two years, but that involves LONG workdays---it's a tough schedule.

    Congrats on getting the interest of a university press. Many of them have very good reputations.

    It's tough writing a book for a small advance. One of the problems with UPs is that many of their books are written by professors with regular salaries who are basically writing to get promotions (tenure, etc.) and so aren't concerned about the low advance. This makes it more difficult for a writer who needs to earn money through his or her writing to get a good return.

    In the end, you have to weigh whether you believe the book will sell better than the commercial publisher expected and whether having a book under your belt will open future doors against how much sweat equity you are willing to invest in your writing career.

    --- Mya Bell

  3. #3
    Anthony Ravenscroft

    Re: Publishing with a UP

    Depends on the press. IU see that Nebraska is courting more classic sf/f reprints, & New Mexico has a line of Southwest mysteries.

    The downside is that few university presses have a huge marketing budget, & none has a sales force that browbeats bookstore buyers into massive prepub sales. The upside is that they know how to get reviewed in places like Library Journal, & the chances of getting picked up here & there for classroom use & in university bookstores are probably higher than the general run.

  4. #4
    June Casagrande

    Re: Publishing with a UP

    I don't know much about University Presses.

    But it seems that, if you're a really good and energetic marketer, you might be able to do some of the stuff a more "commercial" house would do to make the book a financial success. Lots of hard work, though.

    And, while I understand that you're in an awkward position, huge congratulations are still in order. That's very flattering stuff! Congratulations.

  5. #5

    Re: Publishing with a UP

    Close calls are hard to take. But keep in mind that even if you had a big house going for it, your advance would probably not be all that big.

    If my book had not sold to a standard publisher, I would have taken the UP route if offered.

    What does your agent say?

  6. #6
    Joe Zeff

    Re: Publishing with a UP

    For some types of book, the UP imprint can be very prestigious. Being able to say that you have a book published that way can help with your next book, so the (possibly) smaller sales can be considered an investment in your future.

  7. #7
    A Roby

    Re: Publishing with a UP

    Thanks, everyone.

    Update: Now two UPs are interested. I'm talking to one editor tomorrow; the other says h/s will get back to me in a few weeks after reading the proposal. BTW: According to Writer's Market, both offer advances. The question is, how much? Again, it's not about the prestigue of a hefty advance. It's about being able to buy food and pay the mortgage.

    I haven't told my agent about their interest yet. I'm kind of embarrassed to. I mean, his percentage of a low advance could be under $200. What high-powered agent will be interested? And since I could just write another, more commerical proposal, he may think I'm an idiot.

    Of course, I have to tell him. I guess I haven't figured out how I feel about the whole thing...if anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

  8. #8
    Wendy George

    Re: Publishing with a UP

    I think what I'd do, after discussing it with my agent, is ask for a short term contract. If enough copies sell, maybe a bigger publisher will pick it up? I think they'd have to note that it was first published by the UP, but that's as good as an accolade for the back cover, isn't it? I'm guessing, but it's worth thinking about.

  9. #9
    A Roby

    Re: Publishing with a UP

    Hi Wendy,

    Thanks for your reply. Not to be a dimwit, but what's a short-term contract, and in what instances are they issued?

  10. #10
    Misty Keith

    Re: Publishing with a UP

    You can gain high recognition through UP presses. I've used many of the books printed through some of them for research of my own. The downfall is what has already been stated, and what you've already become aware of. The advance monies for publication is low. However, if your book becomes a big seller, well the better it is for you. Also, there exists a good possibility that a traditional publishing house will pick it up or at least acknowledge you as a known author later.

    Short-term contracts can be established through your agent. These can vary from 6 months, 9 months, or even a year. Perhaps a little longer. It's just where you agree to allow that press to have exclusive access to your work for a specified period of time. At the end of the contract all rights revert back to you. Or at least that is how I've interpreted that scenario. However, I'm not sure about first publication rights once it has been published. Someone else probably can fill in more blanks than myself.

    Anyway, all the best to you! ;-) I'd be thrilled myself if a UP was interested in my work. Some are very well known and carry extremely high standards. Such as Oxford University Press, Harvard University Press, etc.

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