Delays In Book Publishing

When the contract has been signed, authors can get on with completing their text, but a number of things can hold them up. One of these, in particular, is having to obtain permission to reproduce tables, figures and quotations from previously published materials — even if they are your own originals . . .

Some people counsel authors to start doing this almost as soon as they think they will need to copy something when they set out writing their text. However, because permissions have to be given by the copyright holder (who may not always be the author), a more legal letter is required, specifying the terms and conditions of the publishers. In the case of Academic Writing and Publishing, for example, a letter supplied by Routledge outlined the possible print run (in hardback and paperback) and the book's likely price. It also indicated that the publisher would be seeking to produce an e-book edition and required non-exclusive English language world rights.

The publishers will supply an outline of the format for such letters - but not until the contract is signed. Then, obtaining permissions can take a long time. Routledge, for example, advise authors that obtaining permissions might take up to three months and that they cannot contemplate proceeding with the book until all the permissions have been obtained.

Some pieces may not need permission - short quotations, or prose extracts of up to 400 words, for example. Even so, it may be courteous to ask. And, indeed, all sources should be acknowledged (with page references), even if actual permission to reproduce them is not applied for.

In producing this text-book, I note that I have been held up by:

• tracing where the originals of figures I have used in the past and want to use again have come from;

• finding out that the original attribution to a source that I had in my files was wrong;

• tracing original authors' new addresses, after they have moved;

• wondering who had the copyright to a table when the original publisher had been taken over by another one, sometimes more than once;

• writing to Routledge for permission to reproduce material that I had previously published with them;

• resending requests in response to publishers' changes in their electronic processing of requests;

• rewriting to publishers and authors who did not respond to the original requests;

• revising practically all of the figure and table captions to fit the requirements of the copyright holders.

One cannot help but wonder if all of this is a charade, or an out-of-date practice. It seems to authors that publishers who push bits of paper around, and charge each other for the privilege, have not heard of open access. On the other hand, it is extremely irritating to see pieces of your work quoted without acknowledgement.

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