From proposal to print

So, you have approached a publisher and your proposal has been accepted. What next? In this guide Georgina Collins provides information on the academic publication process for early career researchers who have a book contract.SONY DSC

Agreeing on a contract

Once a book proposal has been approved, a publisher will make an offer, and this is the point at which various terms are agreed. These include:

  • Delivery date. It is more important to complete on time than to complete quickly, so consider your work schedule, talk to more experienced authors, and find out whether there are any conferences or anniversaries that could coincide with publication.
  • Maximum number of words (sometimes minimum too).
  • Maximum number of illustrations, figures and tables (and whether they are included in the word count).
  • A title – this can usually be changed up until you send in the completed manuscript, but the sooner this is confirmed the better.

Royalties will also be outlined in your contract. These are usually fairly meagre for a book based on a PhD; you shouldn’t expect to get rich off academic book-writing! Most royalties offered are on an escalating scale dependent on the number of copies sold.

Once you are in agreement with all the terms, a contract will be issued. In small companies, contracts are usually turned around very quickly, but in a larger company paperwork will have to be prepared and then sent to the contracts department, so be patient!

Preparing the manuscript

Adhere to agreed word limits and numbers of illustrations, and prepare the manuscript in the house style in terms of spelling, grammar, referencing. The manuscript will usually need to be double-spaced and unformatted to allow the copyeditor to mark up errors and instructions for the typesetter.

Consider how the illustrations should be delivered, how the book is structured, and any end matter (material outside the main body of the document such as notes and references) and front matter/prelims (title page and contents). Find out if the manuscript should be delivered electronically or in hard copy. You are also likely to receive a number of forms to complete such as author publicity documents, which should be returned with the final manuscript.

Always keep the delivery date in mind and inform the editor as soon as possible if you will need an extension.

Dealing with copyright issues

If you are including any material in copyright to a third party which doesn’t come under “fair dealing”, it is your responsibility to get copyright permission from the previous publisher (for both print and electronic rights). Make sure you follow their legal requirements for acknowledgement, and pay any fees associated with the permission.

Clearing permissions are typically the responsibility of the author, and this can take a long time. A publisher usually won’t pass the book to production unless all the permissions are cleared, so start doing this as early as you can. Most publishers will send out a guide for authors, and you will also be able to discuss these issues with the commissioning editor.

The production process

When the manuscript arrives in-house, it will be checked to ensure it contains all the required information. Many publishers will then send the manuscript out for a “clearance read,” usually done by the original reviewer. If there are any final suggestions for improvement, you will get a couple of weeks to do these.

Then, either in-house desk editors or outsourced production suppliers will oversee the production process and arrange the copyediting, typesetting, proofreading and printing/binding. Once the manuscript has been copy-edited, you will be sent a list of queries. You may also be asked to check the edited typescript before typesetting starts.

Indexing and printing

After the typesetting, you will be sent a copy of the proofs for approval and you will then need to prepare the index, although the publisher may give you the option to pay them to prepare it for you. No changes should be made at this stage unless there are glaring typographical errors.

The book will then be printed and bound, and you will be sent advance copies. The period from sending in your manuscript to receiving finished copies will vary from publisher to publisher.

During the production period

Whilst your book is in production, other activities are taking place. The cover design will be developed (this will be sent to you for approval). The publisher will consider endorsements, pricing and the size of the final print run. With regards to sales and marketing, the publisher will put together information sheets about your book which are circulated to sales teams, overseas partners, bibliographic agencies, wholesalers, and distributors.

Sales and marketing

Once the book is published, marketing generally involves inclusion in the publisher’s catalogue, direct mailings and sending review copies to relevant journals and events. Publishers will also run displays at relevant conferences, and initiate internet-based campaigns via websites or mailing lists. It is then hoped that journal reviews will also promote the publication, however these can take a while to come in.

Let the publisher know about any promotional ideas you may have. You can have a big effect on sales and it is important to be an active author.

Print-runs and e-books

Many academic books are published in hardback only, but some presses assess books for paperback potential 12-18 months after hardback publication. This decision is usually affected by a range of factors, including sales, review coverage, whether it may be used for courses, and new sales possibilities for the paperback edition. If a couple of print-runs have sold out, some publishing houses transfer their new books to “on demand,” preventing them from ever being out of print.

Provided there are no problems with e-rights, an e-book may be made available and sold either through 3rd party e-book vendors or the publisher’s own e-book platform.
This article is based on a paper given by Felicity Plester, Senior Commissioning Editor (Culture and Media/Literature) at Palgrave MacMillan Publishers. Listen to her paper in full here. (podcast of event: Publishing Your Thesis in the Humanities and Social Sciences)

Click here for information on academic publishing from Palgrave Macmillan

Image: Edinburgh City of Print, Wikicommons

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