Working with a Book Publisher

Workshop presented by Boreal Press
UPPAA Conference, April 21, 2001

Breaking into print:
Publishers want a book they can sell—hot topic, ready-made audience, or one-of-a-kind. They look for experience as a professional (paid) writer and writing of professional quality. Small and medium size publishers also look at your contacts who could help market your book.
Nonfiction: Become an expert in your field with name recognition and publication in periodicals
Fiction: Seek publication in smaller but respected venues (writing contests, scholarships to literary conferences, literary magazines for art fiction, short pieces in regional periodicals or specialty magazines for genre fiction)

Finding the right publisher
Unsolicited manuscripts and first-time authors do get picked up, but only a small percentage. It takes a very long time and your work must be very good.
If you have any contacts in the publishing industry, use them
Writers’ conferences are great networking opportunities
Professional and trade organizations, either for writers or for your specialty, also provide a network
If you must send an unsolicited manuscript, research that publisher thoroughly to learn whether your book is appropriate for their list and how to present it to them. Make a list of their titles, go to the bookstore, and look at them—subject matter and how they’re packaged.

Retaining an agent
Agents seldom accept first-time authors, and they normally won’t take an author whose book they expect to sell fewer than 10,000 copies.
Having an agent is no guarantee of selling your first book, but if you have an offer from a medium to large publisher and you expect your book to sell well, retaining an agent will help you negotiate a better deal and build your career over the long term.
Having a deal with a medium to large publisher will make getting an agent easy, but get one as soon as you get a verbal offer and notify the publisher immediately that you’ll be bringing in an agent
Your publisher will contract directly with the agent and pay him/her. The agent then pays you after deducting his or her percentage (15% standard).

Submission procedure
If publisher says query first, do; otherwise send proposal
Nonfiction books are often completed after acceptance, with creative input from publisher
Industry prefers to receive a proposal, consisting of a short introductory cover letter describing the book and your qualifications to write it, synopsis of book, table of contents, and sample chapter (usually the first).
Photos may be sent on 1.5mb floppy in jpg format, or good laser print
Include an SASE if you want your materials returned
Allow 2 months for unsolicited manuscripts—can send via receipt verified mail or enclose a postpaid postcard acknolwedging MS reached right person
Follow publisher’s specs for electronic submissions
Send query letter describing book and your credentials as a writer
Publisher will probably ask for full MS if query is accepted
Include an SASE if you want your materials returned
Allow 2 months for unsolicited manuscripts—can send via receipt verified mail or enclose a postpaid postcard acknolwedging MS reached right person
Follow publisher’s specs for electronic submissions
Simultaneous submissions are generally OK for unsolicited MS since turnaround time is so long, but indicate in cover letter that it’s being submitted to other publishers

If your book is accepted
You’ll receive a contract within a month.
Most items on the contract are boilerplate (nonnegotiable) for first-time authors, particularly royalty percentage and purchase of all rights
Royalty percentage is calculated on net price (percentage of retail that publisher sells the book for), not retail price
Hold out for a specific, not indefinite, publication date if you can
Except for very small publishers, a small advance against royalties is standard even for first-time authors
For nonfiction writers, your contract should spell out what research and travel expenses are to be borne by you. This is usually negotiable.
Examine the indemnity clause carefully and consult an attorney if you’re unsure. Even though it’s boilerplate, you don’t want to sign on for legal responsibility that’s unfair to you
Kirsch’s Guide to the Book Contract is an excellent resource for understanding your contract
Keep negotiations in good will and don’t let them drag on too long
Once the contract is signed, you’re legally obligated to produce the book or return the advance if you can’t
If the publisher breaks contract, you get to keep the advance.
The publisher is leasing the rights to your book for a set period of time. You the author automatically own copyright unless the project is a work-for-hire.

Working with your editor
Nonfiction writers can expect major input from the publisher regarding the content of the book. Fiction writers may be asked to make a round of minor revisions during the production phase.
When asked to review galleys etc., try to turn them around in 1-2 weeks
Be pleasant even during disagreements—your editor is your best ally
Most publishers will show you a copy of your book cover upon request, but don’t expect to have any input on it

Expect to make some publicity appearances such as local bookstore signing events. You can be proactive in generating your own publicity but be sure to let your publisher know what you’re doing before you do it
The first month a book is released is its prime time. Try to cram your schedule full of signings and interviews.
If your publisher schedules an event, they pay. If you schedule it, you can be reimbursed if it’s in your contract. Keep receipts of travel expenses.

Getting paid
Royalty checks are issued twice a year at set dates in your contract. Normally you’ll receive a statement followed by a check 1 to 3 months later.
Books returned to the publisher will be deducted from sales. A few publishers will withhold a portion of royalties to cover expected returns.
Unless you’re incorporated, your income from your publisher will be 1099, including royalties, travel expenses, and any free copies of the book you receive. Keep receipts for your reimbursed expenses so you don’t have to pay taxes on any money reimbursed to you by your publisher. Certain office equipment may also be deductible.

The long term
If your book does well, your publisher will usually want you to write another one like it.
You’re not obligated to stay with a publisher unless your contract includes first right of refusal on your next book.
Build a working relationship with your publisher, particularly your editor.

Copyright 2001-2009 by Boreal Press. All rights reserved. No material on this site may be copied or published electronically or in print
without written permission of Boreal Press Inc.

Services Available for Small Publishers

* Acquisitions and Feasibility Assessment
* Author-Publisher Liaison
* Editing
* Book Design and Production
* Printer Liaison
* Marketing and Promotion Services
* Distribution

Handouts from UPPAA Workshops, April 21, 2001

* Working with a Book Wholesaler
* Working with a Publisher

Copyright 2003-2009 by Boreal Press. All rights reserved. No material on this site may be copied or published electronically or in print
without written permission of Boreal Press Inc.

Paddling in the Everglades

by Jay Hanks

Michigan residents do not get the opportunity to paddle in Florida very often for obvious reasons. However, the winter months bring out cabin fever in all of us, and even though I do winter paddling in Michigan, it just isn’t the same. Fortunately, winter is the optimum paddling season in the Everglades and so I finally set aside the time and planned a trip from Everglades City to Flamingo in the 10,000 Islands National Park.

It takes about a week to paddle across the lower tip of Florida through the Wilderness Waterway inside the Park. All sorts of challenges confronted us that required advance preparation. Florida is no place to just “wing it” when it comes to a canoe or kayak trip. First, there is no fresh water available during the entire trip so you have to pack in all of your water requirements for a minimum of seven days. Water is a condition that I have never had to think twice about in the past other than maybe making sure I carry iodine tablets or a water filter. Now I had to lug in all I would need, but you can’t practice overkill here because water gets heavy fast and who wants to carry all of that extra weight?

The next issue that is different from north woods paddling is navigation. The Everglades are essentially a marine environment with no natural dry land. Occasional hummocks or man-made “chickees” to put your tent on are all there is. The rest is thousands and thousands of mangroves, which appear as islands but certainly are not. The maps en route are actually vegetation maps, not topographical features. Everything is at the horizon and one mangrove looks just like another. Fortunately, the Park Service has numbered posts most of the way to keep you on the right track but we still got turned around a few times.

The other navigational issue was the tides. When was the last time you went down a river that reversed its direction twice a day? Or the water disappeared entirely? In the Everglades, we had to carry tide charts to gauge the time that the tide would ebb and flow so that we could travel on our route without wasting energy working against the current.

The rest of backcountry living was pretty much the same as a north woods trip regarding tents, sleeping bags, food and gear. It was a little odd walking around in shorts and a t-shirt in January, and putting sunscreen on to keep from getting too sunburned, but we got used to it very quickly. Bugs are fairly mild this time of the year as this is the dry season for Florida, but there are always a few around.

We had an alligator hanging around our camp one night that someone must have fed in the past because he looked hungry. All of us slept a little lighter than usual that night since essentially nothing would have stopped him from crawling out of the water and having a little paddler snack. However, “Wally Gator” minded his manners and shed a tear when we left in the morning without giving him anything to eat. The rest of the day we saw a lot more alligators enjoying the Florida sun just like us.

I had a small four-foot long shark swim right up to my canoe when we traveled along the Gulf of Mexico for a short time. I tell you, I was on the wrong end of the food chain because he certainly was NOT afraid of me. I whacked him with my canoe paddle but he only swam over to another canoe to check it out. I made sure my fingers were a little higher up on the paddle shaft the rest of the day.

The dolphins swimming around the canoes and kayaks were the neatest things, and we saw them many times. They are strong, fast swimmers and very curious about us. They are like miniature submarines coming up out of nowhere and then back down again. We almost always saw them in pairs or threes, which shows that they are very sociable animals.

I would certainly do the Everglades again someday, and the routes are endlessly varied. However, it is not for the beginner as there is absolutely no one checking up on you. Considering the proximity to urban areas such as Miami it is astonishing to realize just how alone we were out there. Many people go around the Everglades their entire lives without ever venturing into its mysterious interior. If you are up to the trip you should go, as the entire region of Southwest Florida is an endangered natural area that could easily disappear in our lifetimes.

Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Everglades City to Lopez River, 9 miles

Day 2: Lopez River to Darwin’s Place, 13 miles

Day 3: Darwin’s Place to Willy Willy, 18 miles

Day 4: Willy Willy to Broad River, 9 miles

Day 5: Broad River to Graveyard Creek, 11 miles

Day 6: Graveyard Creek to Joe River Chickee, 9 miles

Day 7: Joe River to Flamingo, 18 miles

Total: 90 miles in 7 days

Learn how to make a kayak cart.

Copyright 2004-2009 by Jay Hanks. All rights reserved. No material on this site may be copied or published electronically or in print without written permission of the author.

Cookbooks for People with Office Jobs

There are lots of pretty cookbooks on the market–great pictures, luscious recipes, the best ingredients, look nice on your plate. Trouble is, they’re complicated, take forever to make, dirty up a ton of dishes, and don’t keep well overnight. Some of them also have a ton of fat in them, even if the cover of the cookbook says “low-fat.”

I’ve searched high and low for cookbooks that will make it easy for me to eat good food, not gain weight, and not spend half my life in the kitchen. When I’m home on weeknights, I want to relax, not cook and clean up–but I refuse to eat crap from a box, jar, or frozen micromeal tray. The next morning when I’m packing my lunch for work, I want to reach into the fridge, grab a couple of portion controlled baggies, and throw them in my lunch cooler bag. And if the leftovers from last night are still good the next evening so I don’t have to cook, that’s an added bonus.

In a cookbook, I want color photos of each dishes, because my culinary imagination on weeknights is thoroughly lame. I want the book available in hardcover so it will stand up in my cookbook holder without snapping shut. I want dishes with no more than five ingredients to shop for and prepare, and I don’t want to clean up much more than one pot, a cutting board, and my knife set after preparation. I want recipes made with healthy ingredients and high in Omega-3s.

Here are some of my favorite cookbooks that meet my high standards for weeknight and brown bag lunch food.

Eating for Life
by Bill Phillips
Hardcover: 404 pages
High Point Media (2003)
ISBN 0972018417
If you’ve seen Bill Phillips’ Body for Lifeseries, you know he’s on to something, but I didn’t expect his cookbook to be this good. Celebrity or diet cookbooks are usually throwaway books that the publishing industry foists on the author to make even more money. Phillips actually kitchen tested each recipe, and he won’t stand for unhealthy food, nor will he tolerate stuff that’s good for you but tastes bad. The main meals are all built around a portion of protein (usually lean meat) and a side vegetable. He then jazzes them up with seasonings and fresh herbs. Everything is fresh, simple, and takes intelligent shortcuts. One thing I love about this cookbook is the small photo collage of the ingredients at the bottom. If the recipe calls for chicken, bok choy, and salad dressing, then you don’t have to read the text to know what to put on your shopping list–you can just look at the picture.

Cooking Light 5 Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook
by Cooking Light Magazine
Hardcover: 240 pages
Oxmoor House (1999)
ISBN 0848718526
Cooking Light magazine has been getting things right for a long time now, and any of their cookbooks are worth buying. This one caught and held my interest because it’s less elaborate than their normal recipe scheme and is aimed at the busy cook who still wants fresh ingredients and low fat food. This isn’t a diet cookbook, so you’ll find that the recipes are somewhat richer than the Phillips book, but you’ll stay healthy with this one–you just won’t lose any weight.

Quick Simple Food
by Susie Quick
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Clarkson Potter (2003)
ISBN 0609610716
I love this hard-to-find cookbook by the former food editor of Real Simple magazine. The recipes are basic, elegant, and work equally well for an after-work supper or a Sunday brunch with friends. She knows how to take shortcuts without sacrificing quality, and the recipes are low-fat but don’t taste like it. Dieters can use this one without fear of breaking their vows to slim down, and most of the recipes keep well overnight in the fridge for brown bagging the next day.

Try the Healthy Urban Kitchen cookbook too.