FAQs For Authors
Questions About General Issues:
- I have been trying to order my book in hardcover from Amazon.com, but they informed me that, "Unfortunately the merchandise listed below remains out of stock". I assume that this implies that the book is selling well.
- As a "copyright holder", may I ask you if there is a Publisher-Google agreement regarding the display on Google books. What is the Publisher's position on the issue?
- When will the soft cover be available? Why is the book's release date at Amazon and Borders — June 30, 2006? B&N lists it as 1905 !
- "We have unquestionable documentation of commercial sales of the book prior to its release, but have never received any information from you regarding such sales."
- The other day I checked a bookstore in my town and I did not see my title. Neither did the sales people know anything about my book.
- I reread the FAQS and I understand now that online selling is where it's at. It is a shame because the local B&N was willing to carry our book but couldn't access it. They said they couldn't deal with you directly and I don't know why.
- Layout and design
- What is the return policy?
- What about Amazon.com or B&N.com?
- Worldcat.com lists 450 copies of my ebook in libraries around the world.
- How many free copies can you send me?
- Can you clarify the copyright issue for me? What does it cover?
- Do I have to do something in order to protect my rights as an author?
- Could you give me a rough estimate of the retail price you envision for my book?
- There are a few illustrations that I would like to have in the book. Can you use them?
- Will I have some input into the design of the book's cover? While I am not a graphic designer, I have an idea of some basic elements that I would like to see on the cover, and that I would like to convey to your design team.
- Would it be possible for you to give me more free copies of the book? Apart from personal reasons, I would also like to actively promote my book and for that I will need more copies. If you could send me at least 50 copies, that would be ideal.
- Could you give me a rough indication of your approach to marketing and promoting the book? If possible, I would like to be involved in the process.
- How can we make sure that the book will be recognized as a major contribution in the subject area that I am writing about? I am convinced that my approach is competitive with the most successful titles in its field and should appeal to the same audience.
- Is it possible to receive an advance on the royalties for the book? Since my book will appear some 6 - 10 months from now, it will be a long time before the actual royalty payments begin; an advance would be very helpful.
Q: I have been trying to order my book in hardcover from Amazon.com, but they informed me that, "Unfortunately the merchandise listed below remains out of stock". I assume that this implies that the book is selling well.
A: Honestly, there is no answer to your question. Amazon.com, like B&N, stocks copies of books based on their selling model. If they don't have it in stock – well, they don't have it in stock. Maybe they sold out and maybe they never ordered any for their warehouse.
We do not own, control or manage their business and we cannot be held accountable for what they decide to carry, or sell, or what to post or not to post on their sites.
Q: As a "copyright holder", may I ask you if there is a Publisher-Google agreement regarding the display on Google books. What is the Publisher's position on the issue?
A: Let me say first that, as we explain in our FAQs for Authors, anyone who puts a few words on a piece of paper is a "copyright holder". Now what does that mean ?
In the new era of online stores, Google (and Amazon, etc.) Search Inside offer the same access to browse a book inside as a traditional bookstore allows. If your concern is about issues of copyright no infringement, there is no threat here. The potential buyer has the ability to check the book he is buying, whether he picks it up from the shelf or browses it online.
As far as Google's role as distributor of a Publisher's books, that is entirely analogous to a Publisher's relations with bookstores or wholesalers and that is the Publisher's responsibility. It doesn't affect you directly.
On the other hand, Search Inside is the most sophisticated and promising marketing tool in recent memory. Furthermore, unlike browsing through a book at the bookstore, you may be glad to know that the number of pages available for browsing is limited to 20 percent.
Q: When will the soft cover be available? Why is the book's release date at Amazon and Borders — June 30, 2006? B&N lists it as 1905 !
A: We feed data - and corrections - to Amazon and B&N.com on a regular basis; sometimes they respond quickly and accurately. Sometimes they don't.
Beyond that, errors are inevitable throughout the industry as third parties process the data differently. It is like playing "telephone", you know the game children play.
We do prod them constantly and as much as we can. But we are not responsible for any third party error.
Should you have any questions about the Amazon.com, or B&N.com listing, etc., we advise you to first contact them directly.
Q: "We have unquestionable documentation of commercial sales of the book prior to its release, but have never received any information from you regarding such sales."
Unfortunately, it has become a fashion that unapproved proofs are made available through various online channels (including Amazon.com). Such unfortunate practices are well-documented by various players in the industry:
a. Publishers Weekly
Oct. 10, 2004,
b. Para Publishing
, Foreword Magazine, etc.).
It is a plague of the industry against which we, the publishers, do not have any recourse. Pre-publication review copies are illicitly recycled through various online outlets and we cannot stop them. By contrast, for legitimate sales to take place, we need to receive firm orders and have them processed through our distributors. That is a long process; sometimes it takes a few months.
An odd effect of the new technologies in book production is that, while in some ways we are all helped by not having to wait up to two years to get a book from manuscript to printed page (as used to be the case), on the other hand there is a loss of some control over what happens and there is no longer a fixed point in time when the book is “out.” All too often, a few copies get out without authorization. At the same time, on-line retailers like Amazon or B&N require a few months advance posting of data, then are slow to implement updates/changes to that data.
Q: The other day I checked a bookstore in my town and I did not see my title. Neither did the sales people know anything about my book.
A: In today's environment, books like yours are best served by online promotion through B&N.com and Amazon.com. Since the emergence of online bookselling, B&N's flagship stores in Manhattan, as well as everywhere, carry only one or two racks (out of two entire floors) of quality nonfiction books. Bookstores mainly stock items that are, or are likely to become, "bestsellers." The stores make their own decisions on what to stock, based on their own profit motives - that is, their experience as to what type of books sell best in their area. With their limited shelf space, they have to make their own selection out of the 400,000 titles published every year.
Bookstores these days, for the most part, sell presidential memoirs and romance and a lot of trash. Ninety percent of B&N sales come from just about 15 titles each year -- giving a new definition to the so-called "bestseller". Of course, most (if not all) individual stores are happy to place a special order, or to plan an event for an author. Have your bookstore give us a call!
Still, we would rather strongly encourage you to point any interested buyer to place orders through one of the online stores rather than trying the local bookstore. Whereas bookstores only stock books for a few months, your book is meant to have a long "shelf life" and will always be available. Yours is also a very niche type of book, and special-interest audiences know that they are most likely to find such things online. -- Bookstores are not where the educated reader buys his reading material.
As the saying goes these days: bookstores are the worst places to buy a book - Only about 35 percent of the books in the US are sold through a bookstore. We know, the bookstores have their policies and we have ours. We don’t always see eye to eye.
Q: I reread the FAQS and I understand now that online selling is where it's at. It is a shame because the local B&N was willing to carry our book but couldn't access it. They said they couldn't deal with you directly and I don't know why.
It is absolutely not true that B&N cannot deal directly with us. We ship to hundreds of stores all the time (including many dozens of B&N stores). We are well acquainted with the B&N buyers here at the B&N headquarters in NYC, and they advise us that our model is the best for a mid-sized publisher. Stores want a 50 percent discount and full returns, and when they can't get such terms, they hide behind lame excuses. Their model can only work for books that sell in the tens of thousands. We pay manufacturing costs, advertising costs, shipping costs, royalties, and we also need to pay our bills: we can’t possibly do that from what the stores want to leave us.
Worse still, the wholesalers and the middlemen also expect to pocket 30% of the list price for their archaic distribution systems. We think they are obsolete. We think the publishing industry does not need middlemen driving up the cost of books. – Theirs is a sure prescription for putting many publishers out of business. And people like you would, in the end, have no viable channels to publish at all.
Your book is available to ALL bookstores through many channels but not at a 50 percent discount and full returns.
You might be aware that the recent deal by Google and the American Association of Publishers may spell the end of the “brick and mortar” bookstores all together. – As publishers we are both saddened and vindicated.
A: We all should agree that an author's responsibility is to produce a good manuscript. On matters of book design, production, printing, etc. we are best qualified and we expect the author to leave these matters to us.
Q: What is the return policy?
A: Bookstores and wholesalers allow themselves the right to return any unsold book for up to a year.
Q: What about Amazon.com or B&N.com?
A: All our books are carried by both of the major online stores and anyone can order through Amazon.com and B&N.com; the results there are the real test, producing measurable results (sales ranking). For more on this topic, see the the discussion posted under Promoting Your Book on our website.We feed data to Amazon on a regular basis. As you can see, most of our books are listed with full information; but sometimes the online retailers don't do their job on time, or accurately. Every once in a while, we have to prod them; but we cannot do that on a day-by-day or title-by-title basis (especially when the title is not time sensitive). Should you have any questions about the Amazon.com, or B&N.com listing, we advise you to first contact them directly.
Q: Worldcat.com lists 450 copies of my ebook in libraries around the world.
We certainly salute everyone's efforts to understand the intricacies of the distribution of ebooks, but all of this is a lot more complicated than one may think.
Most of our ebooks are sold through netLibrary (a subsidiary of OCLC). For one, ebooks are sold for the most part to consortia of university libraries: i.e. one copy may be sold to a 50-library consortium. Each one lists the book as available, but it is not an actual purchase by each library.
This practice gives a lot a people a lot of headaches. Besides, netLibrary changes its model every few months as they are trying indeed to get each consortium to buy more than one copy.
On a positive note, if your book is listed on WorldCat then it is available to the public through all the major libraries in the world. Unfortunately, sales revenues are not comensurate, because these libraries do not buy as individual institutions but as a consortium.
The ebook market is still suffering its growing pains. So far it only looks good on paper :)
Q: How many free copies can you send me?
A: We support an author's promotional efforts. Of course, we need to do it according to what we consider to be cost effective; that means striking the right balance between distributing free copies to every individual request versus sending "review" copies that create sales. You, the author, can be far more liberal in your choices, but you have to take that responsibility upon yourself. Every author that we know orders additional copies from us, beyond the free courtesy copies, to have at hand for their own promotion, in many and personal ways. Some order a dozen, some order a few hundred. You have to consider what is in your best interests.
Depending on what kind of quantities you have in mind, we will grant you a discount that covers our own costs and that provides an incentive for everyone to be responsible in how he dispenses free copies. You, the author, are most familiar with each request and you can make the best judgment as to what impact a free copy will have. Sorry to say, but we also have evidence that there is a whole cadre of people out there who pose as reviewers so they can collect free copies, which they resell for their own profit, at a reduced price that steals sales from the legitimate parties. And then, . . . everybody is happy to get a free copy, anyway.
Q: Can you clarify the copyright issue for me? What does it cover?
We invite you to take a look at one of the most widely used guides for writers (not publishers!), The Writer's Market (We still use the 2000 edition). When it comes to the copyright chapter, it says: "Some people are under the mistaken impression that copyright is something they have to send away for, and that their writing is not properly protected until they have 'received' their copyright from the government. The fact is, you don't have to register your work with the Copyright Office in order for your work to be copyrighted: any piece of writing is copyrighted the moment it is put to paper. Registration of your work does, however, offer some additional protection (specifically, the possibility of recovering punitive damages in an infringement suit) as well as legal proof of the date of copyright." The guide recommends: "Philosophically speaking, rights will be best served by being left in the hands of the person or organization most capable of - and interested in - exploiting them profitably. Sometimes that will be the author and her agent, and most often that will be the publisher."
Once a book is published, however, the author is recognized in all possible ways and by all means. In every catalog where the book is listed; at the Library of Congress, where book is registered; at R.R. Bowker for the Books-in-Print directory, on the cover of the book, etc. and in all publicity for the book, the name of the author is clearly and unambiguously stated, as the author.
Q: Do I have to do something in order to protect my rights as an author?
A: In other words, when it comes to intellectual property, the author's absolute rights are enshrined in the work even if no copyright is claimed in any formal way. Under U.S. publishing law, an author's work, by definition, is not a work for hire; the author is not an employee of the publisher. What is specified in the copyright is the fact that an author's work is protected and negotiated by the publisher in the author's name.
Q: Could you give me a rough estimate of the retail price you envision for my book?
A: We cannot decide on a retail price at this time. Most of our titles range from $19 to $30. In general, the more "popular" the book is, and the more it is targeted to the casual reader, the lower the price. Academic books with a highly specific audience are priced higher. We decide the suggested retail price when we are closer to the finished product.
Q: There are a few illustrations that I would like to have in the book. Can you use them?
A: Yes, illustrations (black and white) are fine; .jpeg files with a resolution of 300 dpi are best.
Q: Will I have some input into the design of the book's cover? While I am not a graphic designer, I have an idea of some basic elements that I would like to see on the cover, and that I would like to convey to your design team.
A: We have found that many times an author's input in the cover design process can be helpful, so -- yes, we are open to an author's suggestions. Of course, we have our own benchmarks for quality and general professionalism.
Q: Would it be possible for you to give me more free copies of the book? Apart from personal reasons, I would also like to actively promote my book and for that I will need more copies. If you could send me at least 50 copies, that would be ideal.
A: We can provide an author with any reasonable number of books for promotional efforts -- we only need to know, in advance, where and how the author plan to promote the book. Terms to be decided, depending the quantities you have in mind.
Q: Could you give me a rough indication of your approach to marketing and promoting the book? If possible, I would like to be involved in the process.
We advertise our forthcoming books in several publications. The flagship of the industry is Publishers Weekly, where all major publishers are present on a bi-annual basis, according to the calendar of the major book-buyers. In addition, we are engaged with all major pre-pub reviewers, such as Library Journal, Choice, Kirkus, Booklist, etc., and we often manage to secure favorable reviews. We also welcome any input or contribution from the author at any time.
The author and the publisher team up to publish and then promote the book. No major organization in the book publishing industry (such as wholesalers, retail stores, review magazines, etc., etc.) deals directly with millions of authors or would-be authors. That's why publishing houses represent the authors; that being said, the publisher and the author together are responsible for promoting the book and without the author’s full cooperation we cannot make the book a success.
Q: How can we make sure that the book will be recognized as a major contribution in the subject area that I am writing about? I am convinced that my approach is competitive with the most successful titles in its field and should appeal to the same audience.
A: Unfortunately, no amount of paid promotion can replace the attention given to the book by the mainstream media. Whether a book takes a contrarian view of the mainstream wisdom or not, a book becomes popular only when the mainstream media hails it as a significant work. In the absence of such free publicity, the book will not be recognized as a major work. Some works get the attention of their contemporaries immediately, while some develop such attention over time. Such developments are as predictable as the stock market. We do what is needed to start the process; ideally, there is a ripple effect. And, yes, the author also needs to get the word out.
Q: Is it possible to receive an advance on the royalties for the book? Since my book will appear some 6 - 10 months from now, it will be a long time before the actual royalty payments begin; an advance would be very helpful.
When we schedule books, we have to allow a full six months for pre-publication publicity. Titles have to be entered in the Books-in-Print cataloging system, presentations are made to the buyers for major bookstore chains (such as B&N), reviews are requested -- far in advance -- at various publications, and ads to announce forthcoming titles are published months before the publishing date.
With the exception of the highly advertised best-sellers, the book industry runs on very thin margins. Nine out of ten books just do not catch on with the public.
We, as publishers, incur the upfront costs of crafting (most often) a raw manuscript into a polished literary work, incur printing costs (about 30 percent of the retail price), distribution costs (another 30 percent up to 50 percent), advertising and publicizing costs, etc., with no guarantee of success; the writer also invests time and talent, up front, with a long wait for any possible reward.