Learn how to negotiate a book publishing contract

This is my first blog entry, so welcome to my blog and all that. Beyond that, I’ve been way overthinking what I want to say in “my first blog entry.”

Meanwhile, I have an announcement that is of importance to serious book authors, especially in the Ann Arbor and Greater Southeast Michigan community, so let me debut there.

On Friday May 15, I will be speaking at the Ann Arbor Writers Conference on the topic of “Issues of Intellectual Property.” The title doesn’t really capture the subject matter.

Here’s the blurb from the conference Web site: “You’re looking at a real live book contract from a real live book publisher. You have no idea what it all means— except that it was written by the publisher’s lawyers for the sole benefit and protection of the publisher. In this session, you will learn about the major clauses in a typical book contract and how to negotiate a better contract.”

What I’ll do during that hour is explain a typical book publishing contract and give tips on how to negotiate with your publisher. I’ll go over the main clauses, tell you what they mean, what you can ask for, what responses you can expect from the publisher, and how to counter them.

If you are sending out query letters and manuscripts to publishers or, even better, if you already are looking at a publishing contract, do not miss this workshop. You’ll learn way more than you ever knew there was to know and there will be lots of time for QA both during and after the session.

Time: 8:45-9:45 a.m., so if you have a day job you can attend and still make it to work with only a little comp time required.
Location: Palmer Commons at 100 Washtenaw Ave. in Ann Arbor
Room: Forum Hall

The event is part of the Ann Arbor Book Festival, which culminates the next day, Saturday May 16, with the sixth annual Ann Arbor Book Fair. The book fair will be held inside the Michigan League on the University of Michigan campus. I’ll be there also, at booth #30, selling books through my own Azenphony Press, and promoting my editing service and my next book, about the underground press from the Vietnam Era, so I’ll be available to answer questions about contracts as an expansion of my talk.

You can get directions to Palmer Commons and the Michigan League, as well as answers to all your questions about the Ann Arbor Book Festival, at their Web site. Or just Google “Ann Arbor Book Festival.”

To learn more about the 2009 Ann Arbor Book Festival and to see me interviewed, tune in to Access Ann Arbor on Ann Arbor’s Community Television Network Channel 17 at the following times:

Monday 4/27              2:30 p.m.
Friday 5/1                   11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Monday 5/4                4:30 p.m.
Thursday 5/7             3:00 p.m.
Saturday 5/9              9:30 a.m.
Monday 5/11             6:00 p.m.
Wednesday 5/13      3:30 p.m.
Thursday 5/14          7:00 p.m.

4 Responses

  1. congrats on your first entry ken. i hope to see many interesting more!

  2. Hey Ken,

    I didn’t know you’d done walk-in sales of your books to libraries. Color me impressed. Have you done the same thing to bookstores?

    My experience is that store owners are generally irritated by entreaties from local creators to stock their self-published novels and hand-made fridge magnets. If you’ve had success, I’d love to hear how you do it. How do you psych yourself up, knowing you’ll probably be rudely dismissed? How do you optimize the conversation for success? How do you represent yourself? How do you close the sale? Succeed or fail, do you do any follow-up?


    • I’ve done walk-in to both libraries and bookstores but there are differences. Libraries actually purchase books and at full price. Bookstores take books only on consignment and at steep discount. So while sales at libraries are final, getting your books into bookstores is easy but getting them out takes a lot of work on your part and produces discounted profits or else returns, often with the books in damaged condition so you can’t sell them elsewhere.

      On the bright side, though, having your book at a local bookstore is good publicity for you, and bookstores often provide a venue for authors to do readings, signings, and other types of events. Any event is an opportunity for you to get the local media to do a story on you.

      Words matter, and so do connotations. “Self-published” is only a little better sounding than “vanity” but “independent publishing” has a proud tradition in this country. With new technology, it is becoming the method of choice for more and more writers. But there is no reason to say, “I published my book.” Instead say, “The book was published by ….”

      I’ve been dismissed but never rudely. At libraries, I’ve failed to make the sale more often because they were beyond their budget or because the person I needed to talk to wasn’t in–and I’ve often made the sale coming in a second time when the right person was there. At bookstores I’m almost always able to leave books on consignment–usually the choice to not do so is my choice alone. I’ve done lots of events at bookstores.

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