Small Press Question

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beacon22
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Small Press Question

Post by beacon22 » June 25th, 2011, 7:07 am

I'm navigating the world of small presses without an agent. My manuscript was pulled out of the slush pile (yay!) and I was offered a contract to publish in their 2013 catalog.

What questions should I be asking the press before signing the contract?
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Doug Pardee
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Re: Small Press Question

Post by Doug Pardee » June 25th, 2011, 10:49 am

Unless you really don't care how well you come out of this, you should get yourself a knowledgeable agent. That's one of the most important things that good agents do for you: they know all the things to be checked for, and check for them.

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cheekychook
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Re: Small Press Question

Post by cheekychook » June 25th, 2011, 12:29 pm

beacon22 wrote:I'm navigating the world of small presses without an agent. My manuscript was pulled out of the slush pile (yay!) and I was offered a contract to publish in their 2013 catalog.

What questions should I be asking the press before signing the contract?
First off, congratulations on the offer!

You have a few options.

First things first, if you're seriously considering publishing with this small press, make sure they know that you're interested. I had an offer on my novel from a small publisher and when I told them I needed time to consider my options (my manuscript was with several acquisition editors) and asked for time to speak with the other editors who'd expressed interest, the small publisher withdrew their offer. This was a blessing in the long run, as there are many reasons I wouldn't have wanted to work with that company, but consider it a word of warning---an offer can be rescinded, with no warning, so make sure you're clear that you have questions but you're taking the offer seriously. (Mind you, this is NOT standard practice, it's just an example of how unreasonable and unprofessional this particular company is---I'm mentioning it so that you know that it CAN happen.)

You can contact a few top choice agents, let them know you have an offer of publication, and ask if they'd be willing to give your manuscript a quick read. This may or may not yield a yes or an agent, and it will definitely take time---this is a slow-moving process.

You can ask the small press any questions you have. If they aren't willing to answer, they're probably not a company you want to work with.

You can look on writing sites (like absolutewrite) to see what others have said about the company. Odds are you'll also find posts about the experience of other writers who've gone the small press route.

Google. Google. Google. Do an exhaustive search for anything you can find about this publisher---you'd be surprised how many people will blog their experiences, good and bad. Google authors who they publish and see if any of them have any good or bad things to say.

If you follow any writers who have published with any small presses (follow them on twitter or on their blogs), you can try asking them---authors are usually very open to helping newbies, especially if they're going down a similar path.

Ultimately, make sure you're completely happy with the offer/terms/contract before you sign anything. Read the contract. If at all possible have a lawyer read the contract. Most companies expect you to at least attempt negotiations. I negotiated a contract on a novella recently (on my own, no lawyer) and was pleasantly surprised by the company's willingness to compromise and make changes.

Make sure to ask about:

Their rights on future books---do they want to see your future works before you submit elsewhere? If so, what are the specifics? How long are they asking to have to consider those works before making you an offer or letting it go?

What is the length of time they own the rights?

Do you retain subsidiary rights (film/tv/commercial/etc)?

Is there an advance? What percent of sales is yours?

What sort of marketing will they do for your book? Where will it be advertised? Will they send it to review sites?

As with info about the presses themselves, there are dozens of sites that answer the questions about what you should or shouldn't consider standard/acceptable in terms of a publisher. Read them. Read them thoroughly.


Best of luck to you in making this decision.
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beacon22
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Re: Small Press Question

Post by beacon22 » June 26th, 2011, 11:56 am

Cheeky...

Thanks for the information! Such a big help!

I had sent to two other small presses and both are now looking at my full as quick as possible. Should I let the press that offered know this?
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cheekychook
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Re: Small Press Question

Post by cheekychook » June 26th, 2011, 1:11 pm

beacon22 wrote:Cheeky...

Thanks for the information! Such a big help!

I had sent to two other small presses and both are now looking at my full as quick as possible. Should I let the press that offered know this?
Letting them know is the "right" thing to do, the professional thing to do, just make sure they understand that you are still seriously considering their offer, but that you need a little time to think. Ask if there is an absolute deadline by which they'd need an answer (there really shouldn't be, because let's face it, publishing moves slowly and if they want your book they should still want it in a week or two weeks or however long it takes the other publishers to get back to you). My experience of having the offer rescinded came from a company that is very new and clearly not very respectful of their writers or committed to the books they "want".

When my novella was on submission I queried some of the largest, oldest e-publishers, I received an offer, informed the others that I had an offer and asked how long it would be before I heard from them. I got answers (and offers) from the others withing 48 hours. They all understood that I had a decision to make and were all gracious about giving me time to think. This happened prior to the withdrawal experience concerning my novel, so I was already aware that the bigger, more experienced e-publishers allowed for the opportunity to think before signing with them---that made it more surprising when I had the small, newbie company offer pulled with no warning, but it also showed me how inexperienced and unprofessional that company is.

Be up front with the publisher, keep a dialogue going with them (don't let them wonder if you've forgotten about them or are ignoring them) but take the time you need to make the best decision you can about where to place your work. And trust me, if you lose the offer because you asked for time to decide, then you didn't really want to work with them.

Best of luck to you. Let us know how it all goes!
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longknife

Re: Small Press Question

Post by longknife » June 27th, 2011, 11:53 am

BEFORE YOU SIGN ANY CONTRACT - write down anything that confuses you and ASK THEM ABOUT IT!!!!!

Also, why are they telling you it won't be published until 2013? It should not take them that long to get the book to the presses.

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Re: Small Press Question

Post by KateK » July 2nd, 2011, 2:45 pm

Cheekychook's advice is great, so that's a good place to start.

As for the 2013 publishing date, that's quite reasonable--it's only 18 months away, which is a normal time between signing and publication date. I've fielded similar questions about the time from some of our authors, since we always take at least 12 months. Basically, there are quite a few steps to get a manuscript ready to be published, not the least of which is that many distributors require the book data (including final page count, which is only known once the galleys have been laid out), about 7 months in advance in order to properly promote it to the book stores. So all the editing, cover design, layout, and proofing has to be done prior to this, and the people who do these jobs have other projects to do, as well.

Hope this helps, and congrats on the offer!

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