Re: Some questions about publishing

Subject: Re: Some questions about publishing
From: "Laura Lemay, Killer of Trees" <lemay -at- LNE -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 1995 15:52:56 -0800

>Recently, a publisher responded to my proposal to publish a hands on
>tutorial of WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows. ...

Congratulations! You've passed the difficult part....getting your foot in
the door.

Now its time for the really difficult part. :)

>1. What is a reasonable amount to expect/request for an advance? An hourly
>wage of $20/hr would work out to $19,200. Given that there will probably
>not be any royalties is this a feasible goal to shoot for? If not, what
>would be more realistic?

Computer books average an advance of $4K to $10K from the major publishers.
Smaller publishers pay less.

Given that you're going with a small publisher and royalties won't amount
to much you do have a right to negotiate for a larger advance, but $20K
is quite high. Quite high.

I hate to be the bubble-burster, here, but the publishing industry is
full of writers and people who want to be writers. The pay stinks.
It doesn't matter what you *can* make as a tech writer -- books are
an entirely different world.

This is why most computer books are written in the author's spare time.
You need a day job to survive.

>2. Does the time frame sound realistic? Or does it sound like I am trying
>to produce too much in too short a time span? Or vice versa?

Three months is about right for the draft. After that its just author
review, which trickles in as they get chapters edited. Three
months full-time, another three or so part time. Depends on how
quickly the publisher works.

>3. The publisher mentioned possibly following up with other similar books
>in a series. How would this affect the relationship? Would this affect the
>amount of an advance I should ask for now or the amount of future advances?

When you do multiple books for the same publisher, usually your advance
and your royalty rate goes up with each book. If your previous book
sold exceptionally well, then you will usually get a better deal on
the next book.

The promise of a future relationship does not count as a bargaining chip
for this book.

>4. If they decide not to publish my work do I have to return the money?
>How can I protect myself?

That should be explicitly written in your contract. Usually you're paid
for the writing of the draft and for answering questions they have on that
draft -- once you're done with that, the money is yours. You'll only
have to give the money back if you're late with the manuscript, if you
won't respond to quieries about particular sections, or if you give up
midway through and another writer needs to be called in.

>5. What about copyrights? Would it be possible to retain the right to
>market the book to another publisher that would reach a wider market? In
>what time frame would I be able to try something along those lines?

That's in your contract as well. Usually the publisher holds the
copyright and you do not have the right to market the book to anyone
else until the rights revert to you (when the book goes out of print).
Even if the contract stipulates that you hold the copyright, usually
there's an "exclusive right to publish" clause for the publisher.

If you're worried about the market being too small, then market the book
to a larger publisher in the first place. Once you sell the book to
one publisher, that's going to be the end of it.

>6. Is this type of book a good candidate for translation? What do I need
>to know about translation rights if anything?

It'll only be translated if it sells well in foreign countries. Given
the limited audience you seem to believe this book will reach, that
sounds unlikely.

Translation rights, as well as all the other "subsidiary rights" are
usually included with the normal publishing rights. You'll get a
royalty for any translations.

>7. What if the publisher asks for a huge amount of changes to the first
>draft - thus the project will take more time than expected - anyway of
>raising my pay?

Nope. Negotiate ahead of time, that's all that you get.

Usually the publisher won't ask for changes -- that's not what they
care about. Its your book, and your outline. They'll make changes
to the grammar and perhaps offer suggestions for how it might flow better,
but you're essentially in control of the content.

>8. Any other advice you may have would be greatly appreciated

Get a book called "The Writer's Legal Companion." (Bunnin and Beren,
Addison Wesley) It'll tell you all about publishing contracts and how
to negotiate them (along with a whole lot of other interesting legal
stuff). Its the book I used when I sold my first book, and
I've been able to negotiate slightly better contracts each time.

If you're confused about parts of your contract (when you get one), then
ASK. Have a long phone conversation with your editor and have them explain
everything to you so you know what's going on. Since you're a first-time
writer they should be willing to do this. But be wary -- the publisher
is not on your side. They are out to get as much as possible from you
for the least amount of money.

If you're really nervous about the whole deal, talk to an agent. Writer's
Market will usually have some names you can try. Agents will usually
have hourly consulting fees if you have questions, or you can engage
one to do the negotiating for you and get the best deal for the book.

Good luck! On a positive note I can say that the first time you see
your first real book on the shelves its the most incredibly
wonderful feeling.

scribbler of books
lemay -at- lne -dot- com

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