Because Nice Matters…

A publishing company needs to have a working calendar where we schedule due dates, press dates, release dates, etc. When I start a calendar year, I usually have a pretty good idea of which projects I’m going to be publishing during that year. I calendar their release dates according to a specific list of criteria. Due to budget restraints and other limited resources, I have to stay as close to my calendar schedule as is humanly possible.

Point One: The nature of the publishing business is that things are always getting delayed. It always takes longer to do something then you think it will. A key employee gets a two-week flu. The graphic designer goes on vacation. The printer has a brain cramp and forgets he agreed to do a project by a certain date. Shipments get held up in customs. Whatever. The bigger the publishing company, the more flexibility they have and the less likely the printer is to forget them, but still. It’s always something. We try to pad our schedule for emergencies like these but sometimes things happen outside of our control. Yelling at US doesn’t heal our employees or influence the customs master. We expect you, the author, to understand and be patient. We will be nice to you by explaining these things as soon as we know about them and we expect you to be nice back.

Point Two: When an author and I agree to a release schedule, and I tell them I need their finished manuscript by February so that we can release it at Bookseller’s in August–and they agree–then I pretty much need their manuscript when I say I do. If the author doesn’t get me their manuscript until April, then their project is now competing with another author’s project and release date.

What am I supposed to do? Tell Author B, who did get their manuscript to me on time, that their book will now miss Bookseller’s because Author A was two months late with their’s?

I understand that things happen. Authors have real lives too. If life smacks you in the face and you’re going to miss your deadline, let me know as soon as possible. Talk to me. I will be understanding. I will be nice. I might be able to swap your schedule with someone else’s and get you both out in time for Booksellers. I’ll certainly work with you as much as I reasonably can because I like your book; I want your book.

BUT I’m not going to bump someone else’s book–which I also like and want–to accommodate yours. I’m not going to work 18 hour days and rush both projects through. I’m also not paying my employees overtime to get your book done so it can be released on its original schedule. I’ve already paid them for twiddling their thumbs for two months because your book wasn’t there to work on when it was originally scheduled.

When this happens (and it does more often than not), please don’t climb up my back or yell at my employees because your book wasn’t at Booksellers as I’d originally “promised” and don’t accuse me of breaking agreements and acting without integrity when YOU were the one who dropped the ball.

I will be nice to you, but I expect you to be nice back.

ARCs and Galleys

What is an ARC?

An ARC is an advanced reading copy. They are usually printed before the regular print run is done, either using a short run printer or a POD service. They often have a plain cover with just the title and author info. They are usually perfect bound, although I have seen some with spiral bindings. ARCs are sent out to key reviewers in advance of the release date to get the marketing buzz started. They may also be sent to bigger buyers to review before they place an order. There were no ARCs for HP #7.

What is a galley?

A galley is the press proof. There are pre-press galleys which are printed after typesetting but before they go to press. Authors are usually given these as their final proof copy—last chance to make corrections (meaning small typographical changes, NOT rewrites). But the usual use of the word is for the final proof from the printer. Publishers review this to make sure the printer has all the pages in the right order and all the fonts are printing correctly, etc.

My How Time Flies

What’s the general time frame from acceptance to finished product?

Two months to two years. Depends on so many, many things. Average for me is 6-8 months.

Behind the Scenes Acceptance Process

Can you tell me what happens when you receive my manuscript? Do you have a first reader that sifts through all the manuscripts and then passes on his/her picks to you? When does a manuscript go to outside readers? Do all publishers use committees to decide the fate of a manuscript? Who has the final say? Do you follow the same procedure with all manuscripts?

I have an assistant who does a pre-read and sorts them into piles–ones I will probably want to read and ones that I will probably reject. We’ve worked together for a long time, so she’s pretty accurate at guessing what my response will be. If she really likes something, I put it at the top of the pile.

I go through the rejection pile first because those are pretty obvious and there’s no need to keep those authors waiting. I write my own rejection letters–most of them are form letters, but sometimes I offer suggestions on what to improve.

The manuscript goes to outside readers if the in-house staff likes it enough to consider publishing it. We need to make sure it will appeal to a fairly wide spectrum of readers.

If they’re smart, publishers have some type of committee giving them input. Who is on that committee depends on the size of the company. It may be the readers or it may be a group of employees, or it may be an official committee which includes the finance and marketing departments.

Who has the final say? Depends on the company. It could be the head editor, the president, the marketing VP, or a majority vote of the committee. In my company, it’s usually a unanimous vote of the committee.

We follow the same procedure 99% of the time. Sometimes we’ll publish something that has a majority vote, but not very often.

Publishing on the Internet, Take Two

I was just thinking about authors’ websites and the practice of them posting the first chapter of their books on their sites (or not,) when I remembered the Baen free library. Sci fi publisher Jim Baen has encouraged “his” authors to let him take their out-of-print books(1) and put them up on his website in their entirety for anybody to read. You don’t have to pay anything or even sign up. The premise is that this is free advertising. You can read an author’s older works for free and decide if you like his or her style before buying something that is current. According to author Eric Flint, this actually works great. I was wondering if this would be a viable option in the LDS market.(2) Because I live far away from any LDS bookstores, I rely on the web to give me the information I need to help me choose the books I buy. Is there anything in the dreaded contracts that would prevent authors from putting an entire, out-of-print book up on their personal websites?(3) Better yet, is there anything stopping a publishing company from making their own free library?(4) Or is there anything stopping them from putting up as many as three chapters from each new book on their website, so that readers outside the range of brick and mortar stores can browse and make better-informed decisions?(5) (I just checked a random Baen book, new for April, and there were seven chapters free for perusal!)

Check it out at to see how it works. In my opinion, it really is the next best thing to being there.(6)

I’ve already discussed this before, here and here. But this practice is becoming more and more common, so I’m revisiting it. Also, there is a difference between a publisher and/or a published author (with their publisher’s permission) choosing to post excerpts of out-of-print books on the Internet, and non-published authors publishing works on the internet for critique.

1. If a book is out of print, there is nothing wrong with the publisher and/or author (with their publisher’s pemission) posting it in its entirety on the Internet. I think it’s a great idea, for the very reasons you listed. As a publisher, I’d also make it available as a POD title, if someone wanted to order it after reading it in electronic format. The only caveat is, make sure you plaster copyrights all over it. Many people assume that if it’s on the net, it’s public domain and they are free to re-publish and sell or distribute it as they wish. This is not true.

2. Of course it’s viable. And again, a great idea. However, it’s probably a low priority for many publishers because it won’t be a big money-maker and there will be some expense involved in setting it up. (Hmmm, I think I’ll bring this up at our next staff meeting.)

3. Depends on the publisher and their contract. If you’re an author with an out-of-print book, make sure you get permission from your publisher before doing this. And if they’re fine with it, make sure you put links to your in-print titles at the end of each chapter, something along the lines of “If you’re enjoying this book, check out the author’s other titles at…)

4. No. (See answer #2)

5. No. In fact, that’s a very good marketing idea. However, if the publisher has more than just a few titles in print, they’ll probably have their authors do it on their own websites, just because of the time and web space involved. Publishers should provide the files for the author to upload to their sites.

6. I agree.

Quoting Church Leaders

This does not apply to most LDS fiction writers, but non-fiction writers–HEADS UP!

The Church is tightening up their copyright permission policies. Actually, they’re not really changing their policies, rather, they’re tightening up enforcement of the policies that have been in existence for years. The number of books and other products that are using copyrighted, intellectual property without permission is off the charts. It’s been a long time coming, but I personally think it’s an appropriate step for the Church to take–even if it makes my job a little harder.

Each project requesting permission to use copyrighted materials will be evaluated on its own terms, but here are a few general tips.

  • Fair use laws apply when quoting commercially published materials (ex: book written by a General Authority). Each publisher will have their own interpretation of fair use, so contact them for permission.
  • You must have permission to quote living General Authorities. This includes articles in the Ensign and Conference talks, as well as quotes from their published books. As Church leaders are often traveling, it may take as long as two months for a response.
  • Deceased General Authorities and other Church leaders may be quoted according to existing copyright laws. (You probably need permission for anything published after 1923.)
  • Guidelines for quoting Church Handbooks are generally included in the handbook itself.
  • Art, music, and other works have specific guidelines and need permission to be used.
  • Scriptures may be used without permission, with the exception of the headings, footnotes, Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary, which are copyrighted.
  • Generally, the Church does not give permission for compilations and quote books to use the words of General Authorities and other Church leaders, although the individual may be willing to do so.
  • Permission must be given in writing. You may submit your requests or ask questions via email at cor-intellectualproperty[at]ldschurch[dot]org. (Sorry, I can’t get the link to work.) Give specifics about your project.
  • As might be imagined, the Church’s permissions department has been swamped with requests, so it may take some time for a response. Some items will get a quick response in a matter of days, but longer projects (like books) may take up to two months to receive a response.

It is your responsibility as the author of the book to get written permission for quotes BEFORE you submit your manuscript to a publisher. If you’re having trouble getting those permissions, your publisher may be willing to help you, but be prepared to rewrite if the answer is no.

No More Submissions

I know it’s advisable to look for the publishers instructions on how they would prefer you to follow up on a submitted manuscript. However, the publisher that currently has mine is no longer taking submissions, and has taken all that sort of info off their website. What’s the best way to follow up if you’re not sure what they would rather have you do? Thanks.

I think I know who you mean because I regularly visit the websites of all the LDS publishers and I noticed that happening very recently on one site. I haven’t heard any industry gossip so understand that what I’m about to say may be way off base.

If they’ve suddenly stopped taking submissions, they’re most likely in trouble or are going through some restructuring and need some breathing space.

Do you have an e-mail address for the submissions editor? If so, that’s the easiest and (in my opinion) least intrusive way to contact them. Send a short polite e-mail asking the status of your submission. You can mention the change in their website and express curiosity if you want, or not. Give them a couple of days to respond because if they are struggling, they may be understaffed.

You can also send a letter asking the same thing. If you write, give them two weeks to respond.

Or you could call. This is the last option I’d advise because if they’re way past the time when they should have responded, it probably means they’re swamped in the day-to-day business of staying alive.

In any case, if you e-mail, snail mail or call and you don’t get a response within 30 days, you can probably safely assume that your manuscript has been rejected.

I’m sorry I can’t be more definitive on this. As I said, this is my best guess on what is happening, but I could be completely wrong.

High Risk Manuscripts

Hi LDS Publisher,

How much impact does a first-time author’s sales from their first novel have on your decision to accept another manuscript from them? If a book sells only about 600 copies in the first year, would you be hesitant to accept their next manuscript, if that manuscript was good?


Unless I am personally committed to your cause or career, or I’m trying to impress you for some reason, sales of a previous book has a HUGE impact in whether I accept your next manuscript, because in that scenario I will have lost a ton of money.

Exceptions to this would be:

  • I made some type of marketing mistake and it’s my fault they didn’t sell (highly unlikely, and I’d never admit to it publicly, but it could be possible).
  • Your next manuscript was much better or would appeal to a different market.
  • You were published by another publisher and I thought perhaps I could do a better job at promotion and marketing than they did.
  • I can lock in 1,000 pre-sales before I go to press (and you would need to be the one creating the buzz for those pre-sales, because I will be thinking it won’t happen).
  • You’re willing to share the expense of publishing–but I would only consider this option if the manuscript was significantly better.

What Floats My Boat

What types of projects do you get the most excited to produce and

When I am reading through a manuscript and I laugh out loud (because I’m supposed to, not because it’s awful), I know I have a winner.

When I realize I’ve just read several pages and forgot to edit, I know I have a winner.

Other than that, this is a tough question to answer because I can get excited over any genre, fiction as well as non-fiction, that is really well written.

In fiction, I want something that tells a good story. I like something that touches me deeply, that speaks to common issues and core fears that most of us deal with. I like things with a positive ending–notice, I did not say happy. The book can end on a tough note, but there needs to be the promise that all will be well eventually.

In non-fiction, it has to be supportive of gospel principles and teachings. It needs to make me see something old in a new light or help me to understand something new. It needs to be a topic that a significant number of people would be interested in reading (like LDS history, marriage & family, etc.), or that a small group really, really needs or wants (like addictions, abuse, etc.).

And it always helps if the author is really pleasant and easy to work with.

Ripples in the Market

Have you seen any ripples in the market since Deseret Book took over Seagull, or are things still pretty much the same so far?

Things are pretty much the same from my side of things.

Ordering: Still getting orders from Deseret Book at the same level as always (maybe a bit more). Still getting orders from Seagull same as always.

New Books: If I can get my books into Deseret Book stores and on their website, they sell pretty well. If I can’t, then 90% of the LDS readership doesn’t know my book exists. Getting my books into Seagull only helps the UT and surrounding market.

As for authors, I have one friend who was just rejected by Covenant, but I don’t think it was because of the change in ownership. (Nor the quality of her writing.)

What about all of you? Have you noticed any changes?

Royalties Paid on Cover vs Wholesale

I have a question regarding royalties. My publisher pays by value sales. Are there some publishers that pay a percentage of the cover price or do most of them sell according to value sales?

Value sales refers to the publisher’s receipts, or the price at which they sell the book. It will be somewhere between 40 and 80% of the retail price. In this industry, the average discount is 40%.

Cover price refers to the suggested retail price printed on the cover of the book.

Some publishers pay based on cover price, others on wholesale. Some will pay cover on some books, but wholesale on others. Sometimes this is negotiable, sometimes not. Royalty percentages based on cover price are usually lower than percentages based on value/wholesale price.

Selling vs Retaining Rights

Can I ask another question about contracts? Why do publishers want all the rights to my book, worldwide and in every possible format, even when they say they probably won’t use them? For example, my publisher wanted the audio rights even though they said they probably will never put my book on CD. What if I really want it on CD? Do I have any say in this?

One reason publishers ask for rights they probably won’t use is for quality control–to prevent you from selling those rights or exploiting them yourself in a way that would be detrimental to the sale of your printed book.

Since you mentioned audio rights, I’ll use them as an example. Some publishers automatically create an audio version of books they expect will sell reasonably well. Other publishers wait to see how the book is selling before they commit to an audio version. If sales don’t reach a certain level within a certain amount of time, no audio book. But they don’t want you to go out and create your own audio book because if you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t do a professional quality job then that will act as a detriment to the sales of the printed book.

In addition to quality control, publishers want to control the public’s access to your book in a way that will boost sales, rather than replace them. They want to make back their investment and make money for you. Having your book out there as an uncontrolled e-book or in rampant serialization is not in your best interest.

Bottom line, unless you’re really familiar with the industry and a whiz at contract negotiation, you’re not going to be able to sell these other rights yourself anyway. So in most cases, it’s in your best interest to go ahead and give these rights to your publisher–who may be able to sell them for you. Most contracts have a clause addressing this, splitting the revenue from the sell of rights 50/50, after expenses.

Now, it’s a little different on the national market when you have an agent to represent you. In that case, the agent negotiates for you and separates the various rights, selling them to different entities.

It’s a Small World

One of the comments on my post suggesting you seek legal advice on publishing contracts lamented the lack of experienced attorneys in Utah. That may be the case, but we live in a world connected via the Internet and your options are not limited to the state where you reside.

I did a quick Google on “publishing contract attorneys” and found a long list of sites to peruse, including this site. I’m not promoting or endorsing the site or the firm, but if you’ll note, the site was listed in Writer’s Digest as a good resource for authors. They have a long list of legal articles that contain some good information. Again, I’m not endorsing this, nor giving it a blanket stamp of approval, but from a brief skim of a few of the articles, it seems to be legit and on target.

I also found this site. I entered “publishing contracts” and selected Utah and came up with a list of 42 attorneys/firms; 26 sublisted under Entertainment Law, and 28 under Intellectual Property. If I personally felt I needed legal help, I would start by calling each of these firms and asking if they have someone experienced in publishing contracts. Ask how many they’ve negotiated, how many they’ve broken, and for a list of happy clients that you can call to talk to. All it costs is your time.

Then I went to Publishers Marketplace and did a search for contract attorneys. This produced a list of attorneys who say they specialize in publishing contracts. While they may not be familiar with Utah law, they will understand publishing contracts in general. You could fax them your contract and they can advise you on potential problems. They may also be able to work as counsel in an advisory relationship to a Utah attorney.

I found all this–and much more–in a quick 15 minute perusal of the Internet.

Note: I have a concern that all this talk about contracts and suing is going to have authors rushing to review their contracts and looking for problems, causing fear and anxiety without cause. Let me say that in my experience, most LDS authors are pleased with their publishers and even if they wish they earned higher royalties (who doesn’t?) they are satisfied with their contracts. Most authors that I know who have had concerns have been able to re-negotiate with their publishers or have been released from their contracts.

If You’re Unhappy…

Geez, I go away for the weekend and you all go crazy on me! I love it. And I thought I’d hit a hot button when I got 6 comments on a post. But we’ve set an all-time record here. And my hit stats are through the roof. Thank you.

A lot of the comments were tangential to my post, and that is just fine. But they did bring up a good question:

What do you do if you’re really unhappy with your publisher but you’re locked into a contract?

I wish the LDS publishing industry was big enough to support agents. An agent’s job is to negotiate with the publisher in YOUR behalf. They are the Doberman whose job it is to protect YOU. Good agents “get” the legal talk found in contracts and can predict how that language will effect you, given various scenarios. They also work with attorneys who specialize in publishing contracts. A competent agent won’t let you sign something that is patently unfair or detrimental to your long-term career.

But we don’t have agents because the industry is too small and so authors are left to fend for themselves. Many LDS authors think that since they’re dealing with LDS publishers they will automatically be treated fairly and honorably, as our religious tenets demand. Many times (I would hope, most times) they are. Sometimes they are not. To be safe, smart authors will have an attorney who is familiar with the publishing industry review their contract before they sign them.

If it’s too late for that and you’re really unhappy with your publisher and your current contract, the first thing you do is try to re-negotiate your contract in a professional manner. Most publishers are reasonable people. If you’ve sold well for them, they’re more likely to work with you to come to some mutually acceptable agreement.

If they’re resistant to your attempts, perhaps you can find another author within the same company who has successfully negotiated their contract and have him/her mentor you. Or find another author who has successfully broken or nullified their contract with your publisher, and discover how they did it.

If you’ve really exhausted all your options for peaceful negotiation, and you’re sure you’re being reasonable* and the publisher is a tyrant and just won’t budge, contact an attorney. Many in the LDS culture are hesitant to sue but if that’s your only recourse then seriously consider it–especially if you’ve been a productive, well-received author and this contract is effectively ending your career. Find a good attorney who specializes in contract law and who has some experience in the publishing industry.

Since ROFR was specifically mentioned, let me say that most ROFR clauses, like most non-compete clauses in the rest of the business world, are unenforceable. Legal ROFR clauses must be reasonably limited by time and/or number of books and/or genre. If yours is not, seek legal help. You may be able to force them to delete the ROFR or the judge may nullify the entire contract. If you know other authors who have that same clause in their contract and are equally upset over it, you might have grounds for a class action suit.

However, a word of caution. If you are not the reasonable one, even if you succeed in breaking your contract with your publisher, other publishers might be leery about signing you. You might want to speak with a couple of other publishers to see if: a) their contract is different; b) they are outraged at the terms of your contract or at least think you have a legitimate complaint; and c) they’d be willing to take you on when you get out of your current contract.

*You have a reasonable complaint if their ROFR commits you to more than two years and more than the next two books. You are unreasonable if you think you should get 20% royalties, or a 50 city book tour paid for by the publisher, or that they will accept your next manuscript without edits, or…

In Search of the LDS Masterpiece

In my experience, LDS publishers and critics repeatedly ask “when will a mormon author produce an LDS masterpiece” meanwhile, back at the office they’re nickel and diming those “run of the mill” mormon authors to death. Is if fair to ask when will LDS publishers begin treating LDS authors like professionals?

The flippant answer is: when LDS authors start submitting professional quality manuscripts and when LDS readers start demanding it.

As rude as that sounds, however, it is also the true answer.

There is a customer base that is demanding LDS literature. There are not enough quality LDS manuscripts being submitted to meet that demand. Publishers fill the gap with “run of the mill” books, which the customers accept. Publishers will increase the quality of their output when they have a greater selection of high quality manuscripts to choose from. No publisher ever says, “I think I’ll publish this mediocre manuscript even though I have several really high quality ones here on my desk.” They always pick the best from what they have.

It takes a lot more money and effort to take one of these “run of the mill” manuscripts and really polish it until it shines. Unfortunately, an increased investment of money and effort rarely pays off in significantly increased sales.

Let’s say that if you spend $200 for editing, you can sell 2,000 books. Or you can spend $1,000 in editing, and sell 3,000 books. The investment just doesn’t pay out. Publishers will start putting their money into editing when it becomes cost effective–for example, when that $1,000 corresponds to sales of 10,000 copies.

As long as the customers continue to buy mediocre books at acceptable levels, publishers will continue to accept mediocre manuscripts. And unfortunately, some publishers don’t care as much about quality as they should. They crank out really bad books, slap a pretty cover on it so it will sell, and they don’t care that it’s embarrassingly sub par. Other publishers think they’re putting out high quality product, and they’re really not.

On the other hand, there are some publishers who are really committed to raising the bar for LDS fiction and fortunately, the industry as a whole is moving in that direction. It’s just moving slower than some of us would like.

Notes from the Scary Publisher

Oooh, we’ve found a hot topic in yesterday’s post, haven’t we? That’s good. I like it when there is discussion. It helps us look at things from all angles. There are really two issues here–the effect posting pre-published works on the Internet has on marketing (which has its pros and cons) and the possibility of copyright infringement.

I’ll be excerpting a few of of the comments from yesterday here. You can read them in their entirety here.

If something is really, really good and a portion of it has been posted on the internet, a good publisher like yourself would be goofy not to pick it up, publish it and then ask what else they have. If Harry Potter’s first three chapters were posted on you certainly wouldn’t tel the author to find something less apealing to the reading public.

First, the marketing aspect. There is a difference between posting the first couple of chapters of a book on the Internet (smart marketing) and posting the entire book on the Internet simultaneously with the publication and release of a traditional printed book (fewer sales). If you plan to publish what you’re posting, keep this in mind.

Second, the copyright. A lot of people post their writing on blogs before they publish. They want feedback and use that to shape the final manuscript. They get minimal traffic at their blogsite, so the chances of someone stealing their stuff is reduced but not eliminated. If you’re going to post pre-published work anywhere on the Internet, be smart about it. Mark it with the correct form of a copyright on every post. Keep good records that will support you should you face the worst-case scenario. When you’re ready to start submitting, take down all but the first few chapters. After it’s published, replace those first few chapters with the newly edited and published version, and provide a link to where the book can be published.

Anyone who steals your stuff does so at the peril of their own demise.

If you have the resources to sue them for damages. Let’s say someone stole your book and a big NYC company published it. As a small publisher, I don’t have the money to pursue this or the years it takes to resolve an issue like this. Do you? I will have to wait for them to earn their eternal reward–which does nothing for getting your book published under your name. Even if you get damages, do you think a publisher will re-publish the book under your name? Not likely. And if there’s lots of big publicity and the suit is not resolved in your favor, there will always be the question of who was telling the truth. Some publishers will shy away from publishing anything you write because of that. Perhaps I’m overly cautious and conservative, maybe I’m even a little paranoid, but my job here is to help you–which includes giving you a peek into a publisher’s thought processes and warning you about the possible negative impact of your decisions and actions.

Publishers are consumed by the bottom line of the story-telling business…

Of course we are. That is our JOB.

Publishers forget why we write…somewhere in the long grind of putting out books year after year amnesia set in. Take away all the glitter of marketing, jetison the sales department projections, toss out the promotionals, be rid of the retail shelf space battles, the access to distribution lines, and the corporate boardrooms. And what do you have left? An author writing for a reader. You middlemen publishers are scary people. You’re once removed form the real business of story-telling.

Writers write for a variety of reasons. If your goal is simply to share a good story, then by all means, post it on the Internet, tell it at parties, print copies and give them away or sell them at cost. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

If your goal is to become a traditionally published author and to earn an income from your stories, then you need someone willing to take on the “grind” and run the machinery of publishing–which (because no one has yet invented the replicator which will do away with economically based decisions) includes that cursed marketing, sales projections, promotion, distribution AND coming up with the money to do it.

I hate all that stuff too. That’s not why I became a publisher. I became a publisher because I love good stories, I love books, and I loved particular books so much that I wanted to make it my life’s work to share those books with as many people as I could. I wish I could accept every good story that comes across my desk and turn it into a book, which would magically appear in every store and people would intuitively know it was a good read and happily plunk down their hard-earned cash for it. But in the world we live in, all that other stuff is a necessary evil. It’s not that publishers are so removed from the business of story-telling, it’s that we’re very much in the business of sharing your stories in a permanent format (printed books) with as many people as possible. Since we’re not independently wealthy, that means we have to figure out how to recoup our investment and turn a profit so that we can share even more stories.

Bottom line, we live in a free market economy. Publishers offer a service to both the writer and the reading community. That service carries with it certain conditions and restrictions. If the service we offer has value for you, then seek out a publisher and adhere to their conditions, which may or may not include pulling your work off the Internet. If you feel the service we offer does not carry enough value to outweigh the cost of the conditions, then by all means, publish in your own way, according to your own criteria. No one forces you to “hire” us to produce your book. You can do all of that work yourself in whatever way seems most profitable and emotionally rewarding to you. And I honestly, genuinely wish you success in sharing your story in whatever way you desire.

Slush & Art

I love to read (as opposed to everyone else who reads your blog), and want to know what a slush pile reader is. Sounds like an interesting job.

Also, my [friend] is an artist currently illustrating for a column for the [XYZ] newspaper (just so you know someone else would call him an artist too.) and is interested in doing the art on the book covers. Are the book cover designs submitted by the author, or does the publisher supply it? Who would he contact, or how would he get involved in this branch of the business?

Slush Pile Reader — A slush pile is a stack of unsolicited manuscripts. A slush pile reader is someone who reads through those manuscripts and pulls out any that look interesting. Generally, these readers are employees or assistants. Some companies may hire out the reading. Slush readers are often paid in book copies, rather than with real money. To be considered as a reader, you need to know someone in the company who will recommend you as a judicious and discriminating reader.

Book Covers — The author gets little to no say in the book cover design. Some publishing companies (big ones) have an in-house designer, but most of them outsource that work. I have two or three artists that I work with on cover designs, but I’m always keeping my eye open for new ones. Designing book covers requires more than the ability to draw well. This is the book’s #1 marketing tool, so some knowledge of marketing and industry trends is needed. You also have to be able to create and manipulate everything in a digital format. Any experience as a graphic designer will help.

Put together a portfolio and a resume. Experience counts for a lot. If he’s never done book covers before, have him create a few as samples. Then contact the publishing company and ask how to submit your portfolio for consideration. Some companies might want to see hard copies, others will want you to e-mail it to them.