General Procedures

In order to publish a book, it is useful to think first about an appropriate publisher. Some publishers will have books on similar topics in their 'list', and others won't. It might be best to look to the first kind, for they will know the market better. Then it is a good idea to check these publishers out on the Web. Each will have a homepage with details about submissions — and possibly the names of their commissioning editors for the different categories of texts that they publish. A letter to such a person, making general enquiries about the suitability of what you propose to do, is then in order.

Many publishers have actual proposal forms on the Web. It is interesting to compare them, but they are fairly similar. What the publishers require is a synopsis of the text, probably one or two sample chapters and, sometimes, some indication of the author's prowess in the field. What they also require is an estimate of the 'competition' and of the size of the market: in other words, how many books will sell? For a proposal to succeed, the book 'needs to be of high quality, original, with no or few competitors, have a clearly defined audience, and promise to be a product (the publisher) can market at a reasonable price' (Woods, 1998, p. 129). Figure 3.1.1 shows an extract from the Web-based proposal form for Routledge — the publishers of this

Submitting a proposal

Four main areas need to be addressed:

1 A statement of aims including 3-4 paragraphs outlining the rationale behind the book:

- Quite simply, what is your book about?

- What are its main themes and objectives?

- What are you doing differently, or in a more innovative way, or better than existing books?

2 A detailed synopsis and chapter headings with an indication of length and schedule:

- Please list working chapter headings and provide a paragraph of explanation on what you intend to cover in each chapter.

- This may be all that the reviewer has to go on, so a list of chapter headings alone is not enough.

- If sample chapters, or a draft manuscript are available, please send them or let us know when they will be available.

- How many tables, diagrams or illustrations will there be (roughly)?

- Roughly how many thousand words in length will your book be?

- Does this include references and footnotes? Most of our books are 80,000-100,000 words long.

- When will you be able to deliver the completed typescript?

- Please be as realistic as possible.

3 A description of the target market:

- Who is your book primarily aimed at? Who will buy it? Who will read it?

- Is it aimed at an undergraduate or postgraduate student audience?

- What courses would the book be used on?

- Is it a research monograph that will sell primarily to academic libraries?

- Is the subject area of the proposal widely taught, or researched?

- Would this subject have international appeal outside your home country? If so, where?

4 A list of the main competing books:

- We would like some indication that you are familiar with competition to your proposed book. What are their strengths & weaknesses? What makes your book better then the existing competition?

It will also be necessary to include:

1 one or two sample chapters, or a draft manuscript, if available;

2 a curriculum vitae of all authors, and notes on any other contributors.

Figure 3.1.1 Extracts from Routledge's book proposal form.

Available at; reproduced with permission of the publishers.

text. Examples of authors' actual proposals can be found in Haynes (2001, pp. 8-10 and 164-70) and Woods (1998, pp. 135-41).

If the commissioning editor likes the proposal, (s)he will take it to the relevant committee and, if they like it, the proposal is then (usually) sent out to referees. Sometimes authors are asked to nominate two or three such persons themselves, but not always. If the referees are favourable and make helpful suggestions, then the book might be deemed acceptable for publication

- subject to a forthcoming contract.

Haynes (2001) considers the pros and cons of submitting a book proposal to one or more publishers at the same time. He comes to the conclusion that it is better to submit proposals to one publisher at a time as:

a) commissioning editors will be annoyed if they find out that you have sent the proposal to other publishers behind their backs; and b) feedback from rejected proposals will help to improve the next submission.

Once you have got as far as the contract, you need to study it carefully

- and perhaps discuss it with other authors that you know. There are things to look out for and to see if you can change - such as a low royalty rate -and there are things you might delete (such as guaranteeing that your next book will be considered first by this particular publisher). Other questions to ask include:

• Are royalties paid as a percentage of the list price (e.g. ten per cent of the cost of the book in a shop) or as a percentage of the publisher's net receipts (e.g. ten per cent of what the retailer returns to the publisher)? The latter will be less.

• Is the royalty rate increased after a given number of the books have been sold?

• If there is an advance against royalties, is this paid when you sign the contract, when you submit the manuscript or when the book appears?

• How many free copies of the book do you get?

• How long are you given to correct the proofs and to prepare the index?

Items such as these are negotiable.

Haynes (2006) contrasts 'authors from hell' with 'dream writers' in terms of their behaviours (see Table 3.1.1).

Finally, these days authors need to consider their electronic rights. Many publishers now publish electronic versions of their printed texts as they occur, and they want to control the electronic book rights. Such rights require careful consideration. Advice can be found in the Society of Authors' Quick Guide 8: Publishing Contracts (2003).

Table 3.1.1 Authors from hell versus dream writers

Authors from hell

Dream writers

• Behave as though their book is

• Read their contracts

the only one the publisher is


• Alert the publishers to any


• Believe their reputation is greater

than it is

• Are happy to negotiate their


• Believe their own marketing ideas are

incontrovertibly good ones - regardless

• Write on the right subject, at

of reality, cost or time

the right level to the right length

by the specified date

• Break their contracts serially

• Are far too busy to contemplate collecting

permissions or to create an index

Adapted from Haynes (2006) with permission of the author and the Society of Authors. © Anthony Haynes.

Adapted from Haynes (2006) with permission of the author and the Society of Authors. © Anthony Haynes.

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