5 “Must Haves” to Look for in a Publisher
Despite the surging sales of self-published eBooks and the potential success shown to writers by the Amanda Hockings of the world, (the woman who made millions self-publishing her eBooks and then contracted with St. Martin’s Press for a healthy royalty split) most authors prefer writing to advertising. Successful self-promotion requires enormous amounts of time, time we would rather spend creating than selling. Therefore, the subject of what to look for in publisher is, I think, an important one to consider. After much thought, two decades of writing for large publishing houses, and the launch of my first self-published eBook, WITCH WOMAN, I’ve narrowed the topic to the following 5 must haves in a publisher:
A reasonable reversion of rights clause which includes e-books
There will be a time, when you and your current publisher part ways. When this happens, and it will, the severing will be easier if you have the equivalent of a pre-nuptial agreement with that publisher which includes the ability for you, the author, to publish your books again, in print and electronically, either with a new publisher or on your own. A reasonable length of time is somewhere around the 5 year mark, particularly if your book has not been reissued. Because of surging eBook sales, publishers are becoming more and more reluctant to return these rights. Beware and make this clause a deal-breaker. The alternative is to effectively give away your ability to bring your books out again at a much higher royalty rate than offered by a traditional publisher.
Hands off foreign rights
Foreign rights, when kept by the author, can be amazingly lucrative. Midlist authors in the U.S. have reaped sales and gained celebrity status in Europe and Asia due to foreign publishers. Large publishers will deny an author her royalties on foreign sales until an advance is earned out. Don’t let them. Insist on keeping your foreign sales.
Covers are huge. They determine who picks up the book to read the back cover copy which leads to the sale. An author’s vision of the cover of her novel is rarely the same as the publisher’s art department. It’s difficult for a fledging author to insist on sending a cover back to the artist, but it isn’t difficult to send suggestions and ask for an approval clause up front in the contract. Most publishers request that an author send ideas, photos, even colors but, in the end, what drives sales is based on what previously worked for other books in your genre. If you would be terribly embarrassed to see a shirtless hero and half-dressed heroine on your cover, suggest that a cover approval clause be part of your contract.
Splitting royalty checks in house
If you’ve ever wondered what would happen to your royalty check if something happened to your agent, you’re not alone. In fact, if you’ve never had a conflict with your agent, changed agents or had an agent leave the business, the country or predecease you, you’re in the minority. Unless your agent has a trust in place for distributing funds, you may wait until probate is complete before receiving due royalties. Include a clause in your contract where royalties are split in house with your percentage coming directly to you. It’s a much cleaner arrangement.
An interactive, up-to-date marketing plan
The truth of the matter is, publishing houses budget very little for an author’s first book. There are no numbers, awards or reviews on past books to advertise and, with competing novels coming out in the same month, marketing departments push the tried and true, previous bestselling, award-winning authors. That doesn’t mean a first time author should be left high and dry. Self-promotion is expensive. A publisher should assign an author’s novel to a contact in the marketing department who furnishes an author with a sound plan that includes interviews, blog posts, reviews and a presence on the publisher’s website. Email and talk with this person fairly often during the pre-publishing period. Never assume they are handling everything without you.
Good luck and may your search be successful and your decisions wise.
Please visit me at: jeanettebaker.com
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About Jeanette Baker
Jeanette Baker is the award-winning author of fifteen novels, published by Pocket, Kensington and Mira Books, many of them set in the lush countryside of historical and contemporary Ireland where she lives and writes during the summer months. Her ancestors, the O’Flahertys, hail from Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands located off the coast of Galway. She takes great pride in the prayer posted by the English over the ancient city gates, ‘From the wrath of the O’Flahertys, may the good Lord deliver us.’
Lauded as an author who has created a niche in the world of the time-travel paranormal, Jeanette’s previous stories have all taken place in Scotland and Ireland. Convinced that America has its own mystical elements, she set WITCH WOMAN in Salem, Massachusetts.
Jeanette graduated from the University of California at Irvine and holds a Masters Degree in Education. For the remainder of the year, she teaches in Southern California, reads constantly, attempts to navigate the confusing world of Facebook and, more recently e-publishing, concocts creations from interesting cook books and enjoys the company of friends and her grown children. She is the RITA award-winning author of the paranormal NELL.
You can visit Jeanette’s website at jeanettebaker.com
About Witch Woman
The first time Maggie McBride set foot in contemporary Salem, Massachusetts she was two years old, completely alone and stark naked. Now, thirty years later, a clairvoyant with a gift for profiling kidnappers, she is back to fulfill a personal quest. Armed with an ancient spinning wheel inherited from Annie McBride, her adoptive mother, she intends to solve the mystery of her sudden, unexpected appearance in The Old Burying Point Cemetery. Her only clue is the recurring dream of a woman from another time, a woman with a spinning wheel, an unusual whistle, and the same genetic mutation Maggie has, one brown eye, the other blue. As Maggie’s spinning improves, her ability to visit the past strengthens and she finds herself being drawn into a world that existed four centuries before, a terrifying world she would have inhabited except for the courage and magick of one woman.
In the meeting room, Inquisitors advance upon Abigail March and her child, Margaret She marshals her powers and channels the forces of nature. The world shifts and blackens. A strange roaring obliterates all sound and the air is thick with smoke. Bystanders are painfully seared, unable to move or breathe. Eventually, the air clears. But Abigail has been only partially successful. Three-year-old Margaret has disappeared through a time portal. For years Abigail searches to recall it. One night as the earth passed between the moon and sun, she is able to slip through the window, but the small community of Salem is no longer recognizable. Abigail turns to her powers and her spinning, sending out her summons to the universe, mindful of her shrinking time table, the enemies who followed her and the narrowing portal that will lead her home.