Sunday, 30 June 2013

The book proposal and contract

I wanted to prepare a book proposal to take to my meetings at the trade show but had no idea where to start.  I presumed they would want a brief synopsis of the book, some information about me and about the intended audience of the book as well as details of the USPs.  I looked on a few publisher's websites to read what they said about submitting proposals and I found Harriman House had a detailed proposal form available to download.

Most publishers have details on their websites of how to submit a book to them and what information they require from you, and some have proposal forms to complete too. 

The form from the Harriman House site is quite detailed but I picked out parts of it to use as a basis for my initial proposal.  I ended up creating a 3 page document with the following information:

*About the author - A paragraph about my background, what relevant experience I have and why I am the right person to write the book.

*The book - I took most a page for this.  A couple of paragraphs summary about the book followed by a bullet point breakdown of the key things I wanted to highlight about the book.

*The book plan - On the second page I told them roughly how long it would be and gave a chapter breakdown with a couple lines about each chapter.

*Extras - I plan to build a site to support the book so I gave details of this too.

They then gave feedback on the concept of the book and broke the chapters down futher and between us we drafted a more detailed proposal.   The next stage was for that proposal to be pitched at the next editors meeting which they hold every month to consider all new proposals.

This process from meeting at the trade show to the editor's meeting took around 6 weeks.  For someone as impatient as me it felt like forever but in reality I guess it's not that long.  The show was towards the end of February and by the start of April I had an offer.

© Obak | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

The contract

This is the stage at which we started discussing contract terms.  The advance, the royalties, the copyright, olbigations of both parties etc.  As you may be aware most publishers offer an advance on royalties - an upfront payment which is then deducted from the royalties you earn from the sale of the book.   This is normally split into smaller payments, on signature of the contract, when you give them the finished book and when the book is published.

Royalties wise I have no idea what the standard is given as this is something people rarely discuss, the different offers I had ranged from 6% to 12%.  As well as looking at the royalties rate you need to consider things like how many copies they are expecting to print/sell, what their distribution is like (ie. will it be widely and easily available) and do they often sell at a large discount (as that will affect how much you get per book).  It doesn't always follow that the highest royalty rate will earn you the most money. 12% of 500 sales at £12 for example (£720 in royalties) would be a lot less than 8% of 3,000 sales at £12 (£2880 in royalties).  So make sure you do the maths before accepting any offers.

Some authors have agents who go over the contract for them and negotiate the terms, in exchange for a percentage.  Others are members of the Society of Authors where you can get legal advice and get someone to go over the contract in exchange for an annual fee.  I have to admit I didn't want to part with any money for either of those options.  Luckily I have a law degree and a friend in the craft publishing industry so I went over the contract myself and asked my friend for advice.  There were are few points I went back to Search Press for clarification or changes on but within a few days we had a contract ready. 

The Search Press Offices
The contract came to me to sign and then went back to them to counter sign and we each keep a copy.  Then we scheduled in a planning meeting.  I have now been allocated an editor, Ed, up to this point I'd been dealing with the commissioning editor Roz. He will now be with me right through to the end of the process.  The planning meeting was at their offices in Kent and was a chance to meet my editor, and plan the book out page by page so we both know what I will be writing.

Then onto the exciting bit... the writing!  Up until now I've been trying to not write too much and just stick to research and notes.  I don't want to spend days writing something only to find it won't be in the book, so it was best to wait until after the planning meeting.  As I mentioned in an earlier post I wrote 20,000 words over Christmas which may have been a waste of time so I now know not the do that again.  It's funny because in fiction you normally write the book first them submit it to publishers so I thought it would be similar for this book, but at least I know for next time.

In the next post I'll let you know how the planning meeting went.


Claire Cooper said...

It sounds exciting if a little daunting. I don't think I could ever write a book, mainly because i dislike writing, I'm a much more visual person, and as such I really admire those who can put words together well. I hope your writing goes smoothly.

Sewing Directory said...

It is a lot of work Claire, but I love writing so I just can't wait to get onto that bit. I never realised how much planning and work went into it before I could get to that point I have to admit.

Behind Margery's Daw! said...

Good luck with the writing. I'd like to think I could write a book, but I probably think I have no idea what is involved. Mine would be 'chick lit' though. Keep us posted x

Karin Hellaby said...

Have you considered self publishing?

Sewing Directory said...

I did consider self publishing Karin but decided that that would take up even more time than writing for publisher and I just don't have the time free to do it all myself. To edit and format the book, sort out distribution etc.

I see you've managed to self publish loads of books. Great job! It's still something I might look at again in the future when I have a little more time.

SK Jennifer said...
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