The getting-a-book-published basics, part II: the control conundrum


My last post was so excessively long that I wore myself out, apparently: I barely had the energy to work my way through the couple of hundred e-mails from well-meaning readers of the Wall Street Journal, asking if (a) I’d seen this article and (b) whether those mentioned within its paragraphs were the same who kept threatening to sue my publishers (although not, perversely, yours truly) over my as-yet-to-be-released memoir, A FAMILY DARKLY: LOVE, LOSS, AND THE FINAL PASSIONS OF PHILIP K. DICK. I appreciate all of you kind souls taking the time to make sure I had (a), but since the answer to (b) is yes (and with arguments similar to those mentioned in the article), it would probably be prudent for me not to comment upon it here. Or, indeed, anywhere.

Except to say: ever get that feeling of déjà vu?

Back to the business at hand. For those of you who happened to miss yesterday’s epic post, I’m going to be devoting the next couple of weeks to explaining briefly how a manuscript moves from the writer’s fingertips to publication. There are several ways that this can happen, of course, and but for starters, let’s concentrate upon what most people mean by a book’s getting published: being brought to press and promoted by a large publisher. In the US, that publisher’s headquarters will probably be located in New York.

Everyone clear on the parameters — and that what I am about to say might not be applicable to a big publishing house in Paris, Johannesburg, or Vladivostok? Or indeed, a small, independent US publisher? Good. Let’s recap a bit from last time — and while we’re at it, let’s get conversant with some of the terms of the trade.

How a manuscript typically comes to publication at a major U.S. publishing house these days (as opposed to way back when)
As we discussed last time, fiction is typically sold as a completed manuscript; nonfiction is usually sold as a book proposal, a packet of marketing materials that includes a sample chapter and a competitive market analysis, showing how the proposed book will offer the target readership something different and better than similar books already on the market. While the proposal will also include a summary of each of the chapters in the book-to-be-written (in a section known as the annotated table of contents; for tips on how to construct this and the other constituent parts of a book proposal, please see the perversely-named HOW TO WRITE A BOOK PROPOSAL category on the archive list located at the lower right-hand side of this page), the editor will often ask the writer to add or subtract chapters or change the book’s running order.

Which underscores a point I made last time: a nonfiction book proposal is essentially a job application wherein the writer is trying to convince the publisher to pay him to write the book being proposed; a novel is a product that the author is trying to sell.

I can already feel some of your eyes glazing over from jargon fatigue, can’t I? Hang in there; I assure you that there are plot twists to come. (Not to mention a self-editing tip for those of you who long for the return of my December series of same!)

A hundred years ago, writers who wished to get their books published went about it in a fairly straightforward manner, by approaching editors at major publishing houses directly. If the editor liked the book, he would take it to what was (and still is) known as an editorial committee, a group of editors and higher-ups who collectively decided what books the house would bring out in the months and years to come. If the editorial committee decided to go ahead with the project, the publisher would typically pay the author an advance against projected royalties, edit the manuscript, and have it typeset (by hand, no less).

Today, a writer who intends to approach a large U.S. publisher generally must do so through an agent. The agent’s job is to ferret out which editors might be interested in her clients’ books and pitch to them. Unless an editor happens to be exceptionally well-established at his or her house, however, s/he is not the only one who needs to approve a book’s acquisition: typically, the book will still go before an editorial committee.

At that point, back in the day as well as now, it’s the editor’s turn to be the advocate for the book s/he wants to publish — and that’s not always an easy task, because other editors will be fighting for their pet projects at the meeting as well. Since a publishing house can only afford to bring out a very small number of books in any given marketing season, the battle for whose project will see print can become quite intense, and not only amongst the editors around the table. At a large publishing house, the marketing and legal departments might weigh in as well.

If a manuscript makes it through the hurly-burly of editorial committee debate, the editor will offer the writer a publication contract. (Actually, s/he will offer it to the writer’s agent, but it amounts to the same thing.) Contractual terms vary widely, but at base, a publishing contract will state that in return for pocketing the lion’s share of the profits, the publisher would bear all of the production and promotional costs, as well as responsibility for getting the book onto bookstore shelves.

In return, the author will agree to provide the manuscript for by a particular date (usually quite soon for a novel — which, as you will recall, is already written before the agent takes it to the editor) or as much as a year and a half later for a book proposal. After the author delivers the completed manuscript (usually in both hard copy and as a Word document), if the editor wants changes, s/he will issue an editorial memo requesting them.

If your heart rate went up by more than a third at the very suggestion of being asked to alter your manuscript, you might want to sit down, put your feet up, and sip a soothing beverage whilst perusing the next section. (Chamomile tea might be a good choice.)

Why? Because when an author signs a book contract, she’s agreeing to more than allowing the publisher to print the book.

Control over the text itself
The author gets to decide what her own book does and doesn’t say, right? Not to mention how it’s expressed.

Actually, no, if she sells the rights to a publisher. While the author may negotiate over contested points, the editor will have final say over what will appear on the pages of the finished book. The contract will say so.

And no, in response to what you’re probably thinking: you’re almost certainly not going to be able to win an argument over whether something your editor wants changed will harm the artistic merit of the book. (Sorry about that, but it’s better that you’re aware of this fact going in.)

How do I know? Experience, mostly. After all, pretty much every first-time author faced with editorial demands has attempted to declare something along the lines of, “Hey, buddy, I’m the author of this work, and what you see on the page represents my artistic vision. Therefore, I refuse to revise in accordance with your (boneheaded) suggestion. Oh, well, that’s that.” Or at least thought it very loudly indeed.

That’s an argument that might conceivably work for a well-established, hugely marketable author, but as virtually all of those aforementioned first-time authors could tell you, no one, but no one, at a publishing house is going to find the “My art — my way!” argument particularly compelling.

Or even original.

Why? Well, remember my earlier quip about how publishing houses can only bring out a few titles in any book category per year, far, far more than their editors would like to bring to press?

Uh-huh. It’s never wise to issue a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum to people so well equipped with alternatives that they can easily afford to leave it. Especially if the issue in question is something as small as cutting your favorite paragraph.

I’m telling you all this not to depress you — although it’s not all that difficult to imagine what I just typed having that effect, admittedly — but so that you will not waste your energy and reputation on battling over every single requested change with your editor. If you bring a book to successful publication, I can virtually guarantee that you will have to compromise on something; editorial control is built into the publishing process. Learning to pick your battles, figuring out when give in gracefully and when to go to the mat, will serve both your interests and your book’s best in the long run.

May I hear an amen? No? How about a few begrudging grunts of acknowledgment? Well, suit yourself, but if you found that last argument trying, you might want to find something to bite down upon before you read on.

Why, you ask with trembling voice? Well, final say over the actual text and the ability to determine the timing of publication are not generally the only authorial rights one signs over via a publishing contract.

Other matters that aspiring writers generally assume that they will control after they sign a book contract, but usually don’t
Just a few of the tidbits that most first-time authors are stunned to learn that they cannot dictate for their own books: the typeface, the type of binding, the use of italics or special fonts, the number of illustrations, if any, when it will come out, and what the cover will look like.

Also almost always beyond a first-time author’s ability to do anything about: the book’s title (that’s generally the marketing department’s call, believe it or not) and whether there is an acknowledgments page (the reason that they have become rarer in recent years is not that authors as a group have magically become less grateful, but that, like the dedication and epigraphs — those nifty quotes from other authors that often appear in published works — they take up extra page space, and thus render publishing a book more expensive).

I feel you glowering, but don’t blame me — I’m just the messenger here. As a memoirist whose title was summarily changed by her publisher from something she expected to be changed (Is That You, Pumpkin?) to one that was bizarrely ungrammatical (A Family Darkly), believe me, my sympathies are mostly on the writers’ side here. (And no, no publishing house employee was ever able to explain to me with any degree of precision what they thought their preferred title meant. The marketing department just thought it would be a good idea for the cover to make a vague reference to A SCANNER DARKLY, because the movie would be coming out around the same time.)

My point is, while landing a publication contract for a first book is certainly a coup, you’ll have a much, much happier life as a professional writer if you don’t expect it all to be one big literary luncheon where the glitterati congratulate you warmly on the beauty of your prose and the insight of your book’s worldview. It’s going to be hard work — for a crash course in just how hard many first-time authors find it, please see the GETTING GOOD AT INCORPORATING FEEDBACK category on the list at right — and if you’re going to be successful at it, you’re going to need to come to terms with what you can and cannot control.

Speaking of which…

The hows and whens of book publishing
Another matter that the publication contract will specify is the format in which the publisher will release the book. Translation: it won’t be up to you whether your book will be released in hardcover or not. That may not distress you now, but it may well come the release date: historically, the author’s percentage of the cover price (a.k.a. the royalty) has been higher for a hardcover book than for a paperback.

One reason for that: hardcover books were considered more serious, literarily speaking, than a volume a reader could fold and stuff into a back pocket. In fact, until fairly recently, newspapers and magazines habitually reviewed only hardcovers for most novel categories, since that was the standard for high-quality fiction releases.

In the last 15-20 years, however, fiction (and quite a bit of nonfiction, too) has been released in trade paper, those high-quality softcovers that so conveniently may be rolled and stuffed into a purse or backpack, so the earlier review restriction has softened. That’s definitely good news for first-time novelists, as well as those of us who like to lug around several different books when we travel. Typically, the author’s royalty on a trade paper release is lower than for a hardback, but higher than for paper.

Everyone with me so far, or are you mentally calculating how much you will end up making per hour for writing your novel. Don’t even go there; that way lies madness.

Once an editor has acquired a manuscript, it is assigned a place in the publisher’s print queue. In other words, the publisher will tell the author when the book will actually be printed. Since much must happen between the time the editor receives a finished manuscript and when it goes to press, the contracted date by which the author must provide the book is generally months prior to the print date.

This, too, often comes as a surprise to a first-time author. If you wish to see your books published, though, you will have to come to terms with the fact that an author’s life is a hurry up/wait/hurry up/wait existence.

Its main manifestation: how long it takes for a major publisher to bring out a book. Although they sometimes will do a rush job to meet the demands of a current fad, the typical minimum time between an author’s signing a book contract and the volume’s appearance in bookstores is at least a year.

And that’s for fiction — which, as you will no doubt recall, is already written before the publisher has any contact with the book at all. For nonfiction, the time lapse is often substantially longer, in order to permit the author to write the book in question.

The moral: although one does indeed see books on current news stories hitting the shelves within a matter of weeks (the OJ Simpson trial, anyone?), that is most emphatically not the norm. A savvy writer takes this into account when constructing a narrative, avoiding references that might seem absolutely up-to-the-minute when he first types them, but will be as stale as last year’s fashions a year or two hence, when the book is finally available for readers to buy.

The publishing world’s term for a book that contains references likely to spoil over time is easily dated. Unless you are trying to tie your characters to a very specific time and place (as most contemporary fiction doesn’t), excising such references prior to submission usually increases its marketability.

A market-savvy self-editing tip for novelists and memoir-writers: go through your manuscript, highlighting any cultural reference that might not make sense to a reader five years hence. When in doubt, whip out your highlighting pen. Mention of a character on a TV show? Mark it. Complaint about a politician currently in office? Mark it? Any reference at all to Paris Hilton? Perez Hilton?

You get the idea. This is not a moral judgment you’re making, but a calculation about pop culture longevity.

While you’re reading, take the time to note what the reference is and the manuscript page on which it appears. After you finish, go back and read through the list: would your target reader have recognized each of these five years ago? If you’re writing for adults, would a reader in high school now know what you’re talking about? Are you really willing to bank on whether Arby’s latest moniker for a sandwich is here to stay — or that your target reader will even know about it?

If you aren’t sure about the long-term cultural resonance of, say, the McRib, walk into your local community library, find the person reading the 19th-century novel (if you can’t find one in the stacks, try behind the check-out desk), and offer to buy that kind soul a nice cup of coffee if s/he will be nice enough to take a gander at your list. If the lady with her nose in a minor Charlotte Brontë novel doesn’t recognize a cultural reference, chances are that it’s not as pervasive a phenomenon as you may have thought.

After you have figured out which references need to be changed or omitted, go back and examine the ones you decided could stay. Is that reference actually necessary to the paragraph in which it appears? Is there another way that you could make the same point without, for instance, using a brand name?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
As I was walking you through that last exercise, I spotted some raised hands out there. “Um, Anne?” the folks attached to those hands inquire timidly. “I don’t mean to seem shallow about my writing, but I notice that you haven’t said much about how and when an author actually gets paid for her work. Since I will have invested years of unpaid effort in writing a novel or perhaps months in constructing a marketable book proposal, is it unreasonable for me to wonder when I might start to see some sort of a tangible return on that investment?”

Of course it isn’t shallow. Let’s take a closer look at how and when a writer might conceivably start cashing in for those manuscripts and/or book proposals she’s written on spec.

How authors get paid for their books
As I mentioned in passing above, an author who publishes through a large publisher is paid a pre-agreed proportion of the book’s sale price, known as a royalty. An advance against royalties (known colloquially just as an advance) is an up-front payment of a proportion of what the publisher expects the author’s percentage of the jacket price for the initial print run (i.e., the total number of books in the first edition).

Generally speaking, the more spectacularly the publisher expects the book to sell, the larger the advance. That’s a calculation based upon a lot of factors: how much it will cost to print the book (anything over 500 pages requires more expensive binding, for instance, and color photos are expensive to reproduce), how large the already-existing market is for similar books, how difficult the marketing department thinks it will be to reach those readers, whether Barnes and Noble is having a bad year, and so forth.

It is, in fact, a guesstimate — and as such, tends to be low, especially for first-time authors.

Why not aim high, let the author quit her day job, and hope for the best? Because the advance is by definition an estimate of a number that no human being could predict with absolute accuracy, if the publisher’s estimate was too high, and thus the advance too large for the royalties to exceed, the author is seldom expected to pay back the advance if the book doesn’t sell well. However, once the book is released, the author does not receive further royalty payments until after her agreed-upon share of the books sold exceeds the amount of the advance.

Since approximately 2/3rds of you just gasped audibly, let me repeat that last bit: the advance is not in addition to royalties, but a prepaid portion of them. An advance is not a signing bonus, as most people think, but a down payment toward what a publisher believes it will eventually owe the author.

While your jaw is already dropped, let me hasten to add that royalties over and above the advance amount are usually not paid on an as-the-books-sell basis, which could entail the publisher’s cutting a check every other day, but at regularly-scheduled intervals. Once every three or six months is fairly standard.

The moral: read your publication contract carefully. If you don’t understand what it says, ask your agent to explain it to you; it’s her job.

Those hands just shot up again, didn’t they? “I’m glad you brought that up, Anne. You’ve made it clear why I would need an agent to help me though this process, which sounds like a drawn-out and somewhat unpredictable one. So how do I go about finding the paragon who will protect me and my work?”

I’m glad you asked, hand-raisers — but I’m afraid agent-seeking is a topic for another day.

Before I signed off, allow me to add: don’t feel bad if you were previously unaware of how writers get paid; half the published authors I know were completely in the dark about that last point until their first books had been out for five months or so. It’s not something that we talk about much in the writing community, perversely. And that’s a shame, because In the current market, when advances for new are often reflective of the gloomiest projections, while those for bestselling authors keep rising, I suspect that a significant percentage of the authors who sign their first publication contracts in the months to come are going to be mystified at being offered an honorarium when they expected enough dosh, if not to allow them to retire to write full-time, at least to permit cut back their hours.

Don’t panic; conditions change. One thing you may rely upon to remain the same, however: the writer who is in it for the love of literature probably going to be happier enduring the ups and downs of getting published than the one who walks into it with dollar signs in his eyes. Good writing is a gift to humanity, after all, every bit as much as it is a commodity for its author to sell.

Keep up the good work!

8 Replies to “The getting-a-book-published basics, part II: the control conundrum”

  1. After the advance has been earned out (if one is so lucky), how common is it to have part of the additional royalties held back as a reserve against returns?

    Also, is this a good time to ask what size a “typical” initial print run is?

    1. Both good questions, Doug. The royalty specifics vary by contract, of course, but holding royalties against returns does happen, especially with multiple print runs. It’s not unheard-of, for instance, for a publisher to ask an author to forego a scheduled royalty pay-out until after a second or third printing has been out for a few months, if they’re not confident about how it’s going to sell.

      I’m not comfortable giving an estimate of what percentage of books are placed in this position, however, since the industry has been changing so radically over the last couple of years.

      The size of an average initial print run varies by book category — and by how established the author is. 10,000 used to be fairly standard, but now, 8,000 or 5,000 books is a pretty good initial print run for first fiction; for literary fiction, it might be as low as 2,000 and still be considered respectable. Heaven only knows how e-books are going to affect those numbers within even the next year.

      Sorry for being rather vague, but this is a difficult time to glean information like this.

  2. I was perfectly content not to receive an advance from my small-but-rapidly-growing publisher, because I never imagined getting published in ther first place (I used to not be able to spell awe-thur; now I are one–well, almost), and it certainly saves my having to keep up the query salvos merely to be rejected 19 out of 20 times, but when I found out that I’m neither on this year’s nor next year’s schedule for release, and that the editor who loved my novel will not be able to work with me, and that another editor will have to be located, I was very disappointed. I have no idea about protocol here when it comes to emailing my publisher (no agent) to find out what’s going on. Should I just lay low and speak when spoken to? I don’t want to be a pest, but I really feel as if I’m in the dark here. The only thing I’ve heard is that the dimensions of my book place it into the trade paperback category. Perhaps I should be grateful that I know even that much.

  3. It’s not unheard-of for an author not to receive an advance, Horton, but it is unusual. Handing over an advance is typically in both parties’ interest: an advance is both the publisher’s guarantee that the author won’t continue to market his book to other publishers and the author’s security that they will indeed make keeping off the market worth his while by publishing it in a timely manner.

    It sounds as though your contract may be on the vague side. I would advise going over the contract with a fine-toothed comb, or perhaps even hiring an attorney well-versed in publishing contracts to give it a once-over, to check for any other unusual provisions. And yes, you should definitely be asking some questions about anything you do not understand.

    The first question that springs to mind here: since you’ve committed not to show your book to other publishers based (I presume) upon your small publisher’s promise to publish it, how long do they have to bring out the book before the rights revert to you? In other words, what happens to the book if they don’t (or can’t, for economic reasons), publish the book in 2012, as currently planned?

    That being said, the mere fact of a long lead time isn’t usually cause for concern. In fact, it would be quite unusual for any book to be released within the same year a publisher acquired it — I’ll be writing about that later in this series, actually, so you might want to wait a week or two before sitting down with your contract. I may well cover some of your questions about how the publishing process works. It’s no substitute for knowing your contract backward and forward, of course, but it may help you gain a better sense of what your publisher may simply expect you to know.

    Skipping an additional year, however, should have come with some explanation of how they decide what goes into the print queue when. Most publishing contracts are pretty explicit about the publication window, as well as the date by which the author must deliver the manuscript. If you are unsure about either of these things, you should contact the acquiring editor and ask.

    I understand your disappointment about this editor’s not staying with the project all the way through, but some publishing houses routinely assign acquiring editors to solicit books and copyeditors to work with authors between acquisition and publication. Besides, no publisher could absolutely guarantee that any editor would still be with the company two years hence. The publishing world is exfoliating staff at too high a rate these days.

    If your publisher does not typically bifurcate the editing chores, however, It is a trifle unusual for the acquiring editor to be taken off the case quite so quickly — didn’t you just sign with these people within the last couple of months? You should both check your contract and have a conversation with someone at the publishing house (again, the outgoing editor seems like the logical choice) to double-check that you’re not going to be charged an editing fee.

    The reason that this point is imperative to clear up as soon as possible: a traditional publisher does not ask the author to put up any money in order to move the publication process along. I’m assuming that this indie publisher is on the up-and-up — am I remembering correctly that you’ve already run this publisher’s name past the Mr. Big Agent you mentioned last month? — but your publishing contract should not have left you in doubt about any of this.

    If this info is in your contract, but you find you’re having trouble understanding it, even after you talk with the editor, you might want to consider taking Mr. Big Agent up on his offer to help. But if there isn’t a written contract, or if “another editor will have to be located” turns out to mean a referral to a for-pay editing service, or paying for in-house editing, you should quadruple-check that this is not a subsidy publisher. If it turns out to be, you should ask for a COMPLETE list of fees up front, as well as a full explanation of precisely how the publisher intends to promote your book. (Not all subsidy publishers handle publicity, for instance, or even placing volumes in bookstores.)

    I’m also a bit concerned at your use of the term trade paperback; a reputable publisher is highly unlikely to have used this composite term. Trade paper is the term for a high-quality softcover; paperback is the term for the smaller, lower-quality softcover. Make sure you know which is being contemplated for your book. Again, this info should be in your publication contract.

    Whatever you do, don’t do nothing. Given how many issues seem to be only vaguely delineated in your contract (you do have a written contract, yes?), it could be a serious, serious mistake to sit silent, waiting for spontaneous explanations to emerge. Chances are good that they will not, if the publication contract is as nebulous as this question makes it sound. Or if — and I’m hoping that this is not the case — the publisher got you to agree to terms without giving them to you in writing.

    No writer should be bound to contractual obligations he does not understand clearly, so don’t worry about being a pest by asking follow-up questions. Worry about getting taken, because there are bait-and-switch publishing firms out there, ones that lead an aspiring writer to believe that they are traditional publishers, but turn out to expect the writer to chip in all or part of the publication costs. I sincerely hope that you’re dealing with a reputable publisher, but if not, the sooner you find out, the better for you.

    Nor should you worry insulting a perfectly respectable traditional publisher by this type of clarifying question. Any professional writer would want to know the answers to these questions; indeed, it would be hard for even a very experienced author to know how to proceed with these questions hanging in the air. If the publisher is on the up-and-up (you did check them out with Preditors and Editors before you signed the contract, right?), it’s very much in both of your interests that you know the precise terms of your contract. You can’t possibly deliver what you don’t know you are supposed to deliver, after all.

    So don’t keep quiet; ask. Now, before you get so used to being left in the dark that it starts to seem normal.

    Good luck in clarifying your book’s situation, and do keep me posted. I’m going to be worrying about you and your book until you sound the all-clear.

    1. Wow. Sorry about my own vagueness, Anne. And thanks for such a detailed response. Let me address some of your concerns–I don’t think it’s as bad as my newbie-style anxiety made it sound.

      First, this company was formed by a retired schoolteacher and is more or less a family business. They may have bitten off more than they can chew (their business increased something like 50% this past year), but I believe they are trying to get a handle on their work load. Most of their books appear to be children’s books.

      The editor who read my book is the owner’s son. Although he was the one making the recommendation to acquire my book, he is working on his PhD and won’t have time to do the book–although I was told he really wanted to do it.

      The contract is not really all that vague. I had a family member who used to be an attorney and who tried a stint at being a literary agent 20 year ago take a look at it, and we both sort of thought that even though it was a take-it-or-leave-it offer and it gave most of the advantages to the publisher, it was still OK. They are local, and that makes things a little easier, I think.

      The publisher leads the writer’s group I joined, and she actively encourages us to check out Preditors & Editors and avoid anyone who asks for money for reading or publishing. I really do sense that she is an honest businessperson.

      They have until six months prior to the scheduled release date on the contract to get the ball rolling, or the rights revert to me. I think I’d better hold off on saying any more about the contract here, as the contract states that company business is not to be revealed.

      Now, the contract itself did not explicitly state the format for the book, but “trade paperback” was one of the possible forms listed. There were a few typos that I caught, so perhaps that was just a slip-up. I would never have known if you hadn’t told me. The dimensions were stated in the company publication schedule, however, and not in the contract.

      This publisher just hired a publicist, so that looks promising. Although there is no advance, there are no expenses for the author, either. But–and I understand this is the new trend–I only get one free copy of the book.

      The publisher was also recommended to me by one of their contracted authors who has been working with them for some time, so that was good.

      Sorry if I raised too many red flags. My excitement about actually getting a contract can swing the other way at times when I realize I have to keep making my living with and Oracle for several more years.

      But hey–I learned a new word here, one with the earliest recorded use in 1615, i.e., “bifurcate.” So, I’m gonna make like a banana and bifurcate.

      1. Okay, good — I’m glad to hear that you checked them out thoroughly. Some of the red flags may simply be reflective of the publisher’s being new; I noticed that the phrase trade paperback is actually on its website, for instance. I have to say, the website does not inspire great confidence, but again, that may be mostly the result of inexperience in how publishers generally present themselves. (Of what conceivable interest is it where their authors live, for instance?)

        Giving the author only one book is not precisely a trend — many publishers have reduced the number of copies they front authors, but as few as one is quite unusual. Ten is the lowest I’ve ever heard before. It isn’t really in the publisher’s interest to skimp on the advance copies, unless the house expects the author to pay for copies to hand out to reviewers, for instance. Most publicity departments expect authors to use those copies to promote the book; it’s not as though a professional writers’ copies ended up primarily with his friends and relatives. A common misconception.

        And while I am relieved that you checked them out, it’s still worrisome that you don’t know the answers to the questions you raised. With such a small author list and short publication history, it’s entirely possible that they’re not very experienced in what might happen if a relationship with a writer goes awry, but that does not mean that it’s legitimate to leave you guessing. (What happens to your rights if the publisher goes under, for instance?)

        So I would still strongly urge you to contact the publisher and ask questions about anything that puzzles you. These are things that you need to know. But I will sleep better tonight.

        One quick request before I sign off: when you post questions, will you please post them either on the most recent post or on a post that speaks directly to the issue at hand? You tend to comment on the same post over and over again, depriving readers who read the blog on a daily basis of the benefit of our discussions — and since the questions do not always relate to the topic of the post to which they are attached (although they did in this most recent set), it’s extremely unlikely that anyone searching the archives for these issues will find our exchanges in the comments. (The comments are not searchable.)

        I’m happy to answer your questions, of course, but you ask enough of them that I do have to ask you to modify how you post them. It’s a far, far more efficient use of my time if more than one reader who might be curious about an issue can find what I’ve said on the subject, naturally, especially for questions like this that I’ve invested substantial time addressing. Thanks for your consideration!

  4. Sorry. My questions did arise out of the section I was reading, but I will definitely hold off for awhile to give others a chance, and I’ll keep your instructions in mind when next I post.

    My book won’t be out for a long time, but when it arrives I’ll make sure you get a copy–if you would like one.

    1. Yeah, I know — I actually should have said something about it way back when, shouldn’t I? But please don’t hold off on the questions; I want others to see them (and the replies) because you ask such good ones. Which I suppose I could have expressed a bit more gracefully.

      And yes, I’d love to see your book when it comes out! But you should be lining up other writers to buy your book — which I shall be more than happy to do, if you’ll let all of us here at Author! Author! know when it comes out.

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