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View Full Version : Is this too easy or am I just paranoid?



Bluestone
07-01-2008, 04:23 AM
I sought out a publisher for my How To that seemed to be publishing most of the titles I could find in my field that were a.) important - i.e. big names or b.) relevant, and Googled them. There were no submission guidelines on their website, so I called to politely ask for them. I ended up speaking to the editor, who was extremely nice and said they weren't really accepting anything right now, but what did I have in mind? I told him and he said, "that's something we've been missing," (which I knew because I couldn't find anything on this either) and "I'd be interested in seeing writing samples and a proposal." Gulp. I had nothing. Yeah, sure, a full fiction MS, but nothing on this How To yet. I explained that I was early in my search phase and had really just called to get submission guidelines, although I'd be delighted to put something together, which he thought was fine.

I frantically Googled again and found Table of Contents info, checked inside Amazon books for their Table of Contents ideas (Amazon is great for that), wrote a query, Intro, bio and Chapter One and, along with my newly minted Table of Contents, submitted it all via email. The editor told me he wouldn't be able to get to it until end of June, because of prior commitments. Then today he emailed me (totally unprompted) to say it would be a couple more weeks, because he needed to wrap up some projects and wanted to take the appropriate time to "vet" my proposal. I emailed back saying I'd finished chapters two and three (it's been 8 weeks since first submission) and rearranged the Table of Contents and would he like to see them, or wait until he has a chance to review previous material? He said, sure, send them along.

I know I should tell you the name of the publisher, and perhaps this omission takes it out of Backgrounds and Bewares, but I'm afraid that if this editor were to see his publisher's name together with my AW name pop up on a Google search it would be quite obvious who was making this enquiry, and I don't want to sound ungrateful to him, or even more paranoid and naive than I already do.

My questions? Are editors of publishing houses normally so accessible? Do they personally respond to phone calls so easily and in such a cavalier fashion? Do they email without prodding? Am I looking a gift horse in the mouth? What is he looking for in these first few pages? What does this normally pay??? And anything else that you think I could use or need to know!

JeanneTGC
07-01-2008, 04:37 AM
Well, without giving us the name, is this a publisher you've heard of? That others not in the industry have heard of? Can editors be that accessible? Sure, they're people, some will always be more accessible than others.

For sure you should do a search within the B&BC forum for the name of the publisher. If they come up as a known scammer, that's your answer. If they don't, or come up as legit, great.

If this is not a big name publisher, you should probably also research the company. Like everything else these days, pretty easily done on the internet.

Good luck -- hoping it's a great, legit publisher and you're book's on its way to the shelves!

Bluestone
07-01-2008, 04:50 AM
Thanks, Jeanne. Yes, a legitimate publisher, which is why I called directly and skipped the agent step. They publish very mainstream, very well known books (in this field) by well known industry professionals and others who write lightheartedly about the subject. I've researched and they don't have anything negative. There's just so little on their own website, other than tons of books for sale.

Since it's not, e.g. Simon and Schuster, I'm not sure how this all works (although you did answer part of that) and what - if it's a small publisher, or a typical non-fiction house - they pay or print or...whatever.

Sorry this is so vague. If it can't be answered further by anybody, I understand.

Mumut
07-01-2008, 05:10 AM
Well done, Chips. Sounds like you're on to someting worthwhile because you knew their books from the start and you knew yours is a 'must have' for them. I think editors would recognise something they want and would act accordingly. Best of luck!

JulieB
07-01-2008, 06:03 AM
Wow, I hope it works out for you. Fingers crossed!

IceCreamEmpress
07-01-2008, 06:23 AM
This isn't an unusual way to sell a non-fiction book (especially a how-to book) to a specialized publisher. It sounds like everything is going just fine. No worries.

Christine N.
07-01-2008, 06:28 AM
I will echo Ice Cream (mmmm. ice cream....) That non-fic is a completely different animal from fiction, and books are often bought on proposal and sample chapters.

Go you!

JeanneTGC
07-01-2008, 06:30 AM
Thanks, Jeanne. Yes, a legitimate publisher, which is why I called directly and skipped the agent step. They publish very mainstream, very well known books (in this field) by well known industry professionals and others who write lightheartedly about the subject. I've researched and they don't have anything negative. There's just so little on their own website, other than tons of books for sale.

Since it's not, e.g. Simon and Schuster, I'm not sure how this all works (although you did answer part of that) and what - if it's a small publisher, or a typical non-fiction house - they pay or print or...whatever.

Sorry this is so vague. If it can't be answered further by anybody, I understand.
One thing you may also want to do. Research some agents who handle non-fiction. When the publisher makes an offer, you should wait to accept it -- it's not unusual for anyone to say "Oh, that sounds wonderful but I'd like a few days to think about it." Then you call your short list of agents and you tell them about the offer and see if they want to represent you.

Why? Because an agent is likely far more knowledgable than you about what you do or don't want to say yes to in a contract. Sure, you'll have done the "hard work" for them, but if you've done your research and are contacting good agents in this area, then they'll earn their commission by protecting your interests.

KCH
07-01-2008, 06:37 AM
Bluestone,

This scenario sounds perfectly reasonable.
But I wouldn't characterize it as "easy" like you did. This could have gone down very differently had you not been prepared and knowledgeable...and had a viable project and pitch. It was "easy" only to the extent that you lucked out in getting a chance to talk to the editor right off the bat--and even that could well have been influenced by your professional demeanor with the screener.

There's no question that luck and timing are factors. Just like the rest of us, editors and publishers have good days and bad days; days in which they're tentative or grouchy, and days where they're upbeat and decisive. You apparently hit the latter. But the key was, you were prepared enough to take that moment when it came. The editor was open and receptive, and bingo.

It's a good reminder. We never know when that window of opportunity might open for us. Would we be ready? You were. Congrats! And good luck in the next steps.

James D. Macdonald
07-01-2008, 06:55 PM
Most editors at legitimate publishers are perfectly nice people. The folks who want to turn them into monsters ... may not have your best interests at heart.

Sargentodiaz
07-01-2008, 07:33 PM
My research has shown that Non-fiction sells far more than fiction so publishers and agents want to see it - especially if it's something not currently being dealt with.
It's great that you're talking to an editor and it's time to also get an agent!!! That's who'll work out the contractual details and keep you from getting screwed. If you want, check out Query Tracker's find an agent section. It'll help a whole lot.

Bluestone
07-01-2008, 09:50 PM
Thanks to all who have posted so far. The comments have been very helpful and allayed many of my fears.

In the event that this editor gets back to me with an acceptance, what would something like this pay?
What does a reasonable advance look like?
Is there an advance in something like this or does it have to be finished first?

I know there is a great deal more in terms of royalties, rights and all that goes into a contract, but what would make sense at the outset if you heard the words, "We love your proposal, would like to offer you a contract and want to pay you..."

bonobo_jones
07-03-2008, 02:28 AM
This sounds similar to my first nonfiction book experience and I knew zip about freelance writing then (2003). Even less zip than now. I sent an email pitch to a well known publisher and got a phone call the next day from the editor. I didn't know how to put together a book proposal but figured it out petty quickly.
That book garnered no advance. I still get quarterly checks for, basically. 10% of the retail selling price. I am currently working on a deal for three books for which I'll get a set amount per book, and I will get an advance.
If the book sells nicely you'll get fat little checks every quarter. Or you will be offered a set amount for the book, and having one published under your belt is a heck of a good clip for future work. :)

Bluestone
07-03-2008, 03:43 AM
Hmm. I could use fat little checks. Lots of them.

And yes, being published would definitely be a plus. In fact I might even forego fat checks for that, as long as some money could be guaranteed eventually! But fat checks sound awfully good...

Prevostprincess
07-03-2008, 11:51 PM
I have to echo what Jeanne said, as you'll be more likely to get a fatter check with an agent (not to mention a better overall deal), than without one.

Good luck!

talkwrite
07-04-2008, 01:01 AM
I'm a series editor with a very old, and small traditional non fiction publisher. I get calls like that and I even respond like that. We give out Little fat royalties checks too. Our website has all the information a writer needs to know about submitting but questions do come up about topics. The only time I don't like phone contact from a potential author is when they don't bother to look up the submission process or genre information on the website.
As to advances that is the domain of the publisher- to keep in step with that thematic market or not. I always recommend talking to an A&E attorney about your contract. There are pro bono attorneys that work for organizations that support the arts.
Congratulations!

Laurie PK
07-04-2008, 04:42 PM
Wow - that's very exciting, to have a publisher requesting a proposal and sample chapters!

And kudos for calling him.....that's a step I haven't taken, but have heard it's a smart one. Now I see it's true! Even if a book contract doesn't come out of it, you'll still have a proposal and samples to send to other pubs.

Fingers crossed for you!

Bluestone
07-04-2008, 08:30 PM
Wow - that's very exciting, to have a publisher requesting a proposal and sample chapters!

And kudos for calling him.....that's a step I haven't taken, but have heard it's a smart one. Now I see it's true! Even if a book contract doesn't come out of it, you'll still have a proposal and samples to send to other pubs.

Fingers crossed for you!

Thank you so much for your support. Yes, it was quite a surprise to me too. And you're exactly right about what I have to take elsewhere if this doesn't work out, and I'm continuing to work on it, so I don't feel as if I'm losing any time either.

One thing I've always been very careful about is not abusing the privilege, or ignoring guidelines, which, as the editor below said himself, is annoying and probably won't get you anywhere.

Since then, I have only emailed twice in two months, when I had a specific question and, although it was killing me, did not ask if he'd read it yet. I would have emailed him if we'd gone beyond the specified time "end of June," but he got to me first to say it would take another couple of weeks.

Best of luck with your own work.


I'm a series editor with a very old, and small traditional non fiction publisher. I get calls like that and I even respond like that. The only time I don't like phone contact from a potential author is when they don't bother to look up the submission process or genre information on the website.