I have a manuscript ready to go for a book on Information Management and I'm about to start approaching publishers. As I do, what should I be looking for in a publishing deal? What should I be looking out for?
What kind of book are you writing? Is it a paperback or an e-book? The two are very different today. I have less experience with paperbacks though the journalists I work with tell me they are a very long process and much more difficult to find publishers for. It's about a year for the whole process and what you should look for is a publisher who is:
- good at editing? (one of my colleagues found a bunch of typos in the second to last edit before printing which caused her a lot of panic, as well as poorly organized index that did not make sense)
- whether they will give you an advance?
- does your publisher have good contacts to help you arrange book tours and other promotions?
- how many revisions they are willing to go through and how many times will they patiently change the cover and title?
- of course, how much revenue do you get off sales, how do the royalties work?
- are there chances for sequels or other projects related? (e.g. will they build a website to help you promote...)
- will they help you find a designer for the book cover?
- what are your rights? This is maybe the most important because you must be very clear what your right is to republish the contents of your book (if they decide to publish a revision to update it, what happens? Do you have the rights to translations? etc...)
For e-books, things can be simpler. You can self-publish if you don't find a publisher. This is a choice many authors take in the Kindle, iBooks, Google Play stores. In this case, the barriers for entry are much lower. The main things you need to worry about are:
- What's the turnaround time? Apple is famous for a much longer lead time so you need to take it into a account if you're trying to release on all platforms at the same time
- formatting issues
I've heard from newspapers printing e-books that it is very possible to self-publish so you don't have to pay a company to do this for you if you need to cut costs.
Frankly, if this is your first book, and you are not already famous, I would not be too picky. Take any deal that does not include selling your daughter into slavery.
Getting your first book published by a major publisher is very, very difficult. You don't want to reject a decent deal in hopes of finding something better, because the odds are, you won't find something better.
Once you've had one book published, THEN you are in a position to negotiate.
It's like getting your first job. You don't go to the fast food place demanding a corner office, chauffeured limo, and 12 weeks vacation. You accept minimum wage and a paper hat. Once you've been working a few years and have some experience, then you are in a position to make demands.