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Book Deals: What Authors Don’t Ask Their Publishers

49 Writers - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 5:00am

I’ve been at this publishing game for a while now—twenty years, seventeen books, six different publishers. From a writer’s perspective, it’s a complicated business. You may think your contract spells out everything related to your book deal, when in fact many details that can make or break your publishing experience won’t be covered in your contract at all.
That means you need to ask questions—lots of them, through your agent, if you have one, or directly if you don’t. Among the most crucial:
As an author, do you have to pay for anything?With the advent of digital publishing and print-on-demand (POD) technologies, publishers are springing up everywhere. They may vet submissions, but if they charge authors any fees at all, they are “author services” publishers who have little more clout in the marketplace than you would have on your own if you self-published. Weigh all factors carefully, especially your budget, before signing on with an author services publisher. Don’t overestimate sales—competition in the book market is fierce.
What will the cover price be? If your book is overpriced for the competition, it won’t sell as it should. A publisher can’t nail down an exact price until the details of the book are firm, but you should at least be able to agree on a range.
What services (editorial, design, publicity) are outsourced vs. provided in-house? There’s nothing inherently wrong with outsourcing, but you’re more likely to get an inferior editor, proofreader, designer, or indexer if the work is outsourced.
What’s the anticipated market for this book—and how does the publisher intend to reach it? You may assume your book will be sold in bookstores and purchased by libraries when in fact the publisher has no means of procuring shelf space or library sales. “Available” in bookstores only means that it will be in a digital catalog from which bookstores may or may not choose to order it.
Will the book be printed and warehoused, or will it be printed as copies are ordered, using print-on-demand (POD) technology?If a book is published using print-on-demand (POD) technology, Barnes and Noble won’t order for store pick-up—the title has to be shipped directly to the consumer. On the other hand, a POD book can be printed and delivered in minutes at Powell’s and other bookseller who’ve invested in the proper equipment.
What sort of marketing budget can I expect?As with the cover price, these details won’t be firmed up until the book goes into production, and they’ll shift as the market responds favorably (additional marketing money will appear in the budget) or with less enthusiasm (marketing will slow or cease). But based on your advance, the publisher has a rough idea of how much will be allocated to marketing—in general, the more that’s invested up front (your advance), the more the publisher is likely to invest in making sure it succeeds.
What types of contacts will the publicist/marketing specialist have? Publishing is a relationship business, and if your prospective publisher doesn’t employ a publicist with a broad reach, your book may be all but invisible in the marketplace. Believe it or not, I’ve run into marketing personnel who admitted to having no relationships with bookstore owners in a major market.
Who will distribute the book? How many sales reps?Publishers who aren’t signed on with major distributors will have a hard time getting your book into bookstores. Even if there is a distributor, you need to know how many sales reps will be out there promoting your book to retailers in the markets where it’s most likely to sell.
In what formats will the book be available—and when?Your contract will cover all rights—print, digital, audio, foreign—as well as rights to formats that have yet to be invented. But that doesn’t mean the publisher is going to make use of those rights. Ask about their plans for digital, audio, and foreign. If they’re sketchy, you might want to keep those rights for yourself, provided you know what to do with them.
For which awards will the book be submitted?The publisher will hedge on this question, deferring the answer to post-publication, when it’s clear how the book is being received. Nonetheless, you should have some assurance that award submissions will happen.
How financially stable is the company? Authors who published with the now-defunct Alaska Northwest Publishing know the importance of assessing a publisher’s financial stability before signing on.
How long is the book likely to stay in print with active distribution? Larger publishers will say this depends on how the book sells. Smaller presses keep their backlist in print for a long time, and they’ll often continue to distribute actively, which means you get more royalties—and more readers—over the long haul.
Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored seventeen books. Among the most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds; and the “deeply researched and richly imagined” biography  Wealth Woman. After thirty-six years in Alaska, she now lives and writes on the north coast of Oregon, between Astoria and Seaside.

Categories: Arts & Culture

The Art Center Feasibility Study

Juneau Arts and Humanities Council - Wed, 07/13/2016 - 1:30pm
The Art Center (previously referred to at the Willoughby Arts Complex) is moving forward. The project is based on a Feasibility Study produced by The McDowell Group in November 2015. Read: ExecutiveSummary WAC Financial Feasibility Part II 11_24_15
Categories: Arts & Culture

“Weavers Across the Waters” Chilkat/Ravenstail Robe Update

Clarissa Rizal: Alaska Native Artist Blog - Wed, 07/13/2016 - 10:38am

As of June 9th, 2016, these are the very first 5×5 contributions from the following weavers:  Stephany Anderson, Kay Parker, Willy White, Alfreda Lang, Sandy Gagnon, and Dolly Garza

Being the creator (or “mastermind as my Mother would have put it) of this community-based project, would I had known that when I have receive each of these priceless 5×5 woven Chilkat and Ravenstail weavings, I would feel such honor and a privilege to hold each one in the palm of my hands!?  Would I have known that I would feel such pure and raw power in each simple image!?  And would I have known that I would feel such intense protectiveness as I hand-carried these in my carry-on luggage; like worse than when I am transporting a robe that I have designed and made!?!? — In the purity of this power, I feel immense grace and lovingness; I feel such excitement and peace; I feel strength and healing; I feel the connectedness of all beings through the anticipation of connecting all of these weavers’ weavings together.  This is already a powerful robe.  My goodness, we share in the excitement and most likely all of what I feel too in the completion of this robe!

As of today, July 13, 2016, we have 23 total contributions received from (top to bottom, L to R): Della Cheney, Margaret Woods, Douglas Gray, Lily Hope, Nila Rinehart, Kay Parker, Stephanie Andersen, William White, Karen Taug, Courtney Jensen, Alfreda Lang, Chloe French, Dolly Garza, Georgia Bennett, Rainy Kasko, John Beard, Michelle Gray, Marilee Peterson, Annie Ross, Sandy Gagnon, Pearl Innes, Veronica Ryan and Crystal Nelson

The past couple of nights since my return to Tulsa, which is where I will be working day and night on putting this robe together for the next month, I put a cloth cover over all the little weavings who lay side by side with one another, like the way we cover our weavings for the night.  Already these little ones have become dear.  —-  Thank you to all our present-day weavers who have contributed their talent through a piece of their spirit to become unified as one in this special, ceremonial robe.  We look forward to receiving the other 31 pieces due by the extended deadline of July 19th!

Remember to mail your contribution insured to me at:  Clarissa Rizal, 40 East Cameron Street #207, Tulsa, OK   74103

For more information on the mission and purpose of this robe, please visit the initial “invitational” blog post by clicking this link:  

Categories: Arts & Culture

11 Juneau Reps attend Arts Integration Conference in D.C.

Juneau Arts and Humanities Council - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 1:35pm
A team of Juneau educators traveled to Washington, D.C. at the end of June for a three-day conference on Arts Integration sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  The team included four principals, an art specialist, and … Continue reading →
Categories: Arts & Culture

Two Poets Talking

What Turtle Blood Tastes Like - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 10:10am

One of my favorite poets, David Budbill has been dealing with rapidly declining health lately and while the conversations I’ve had with him over the years have been marked by a striking optimism, the challenges of being a writer who is losing the physical ability to write are becoming too much for even the most optimistic and zen of mountain recluse poets.   Here’s a recent conversation between Budbill and longtime friend, David French.  HIt the link for the full conversation,

David French’s questions and comments are in italics. Unless otherwise indicated, all the poems are David Budbill’s.

But let’s talk about what’s happening in your life right now.

The major thing that I’m dealing with is my Parkinson’s disease, my rare form of Parkinson’s disease. It has incapacitated me and made me incapable of all the things I used to love to do: I would cut wood and garden and mow, and I can’t do any of those anymore. So I’ve had to revise my life completely. So far I haven’t revised my life; I’ve just cancelled it, dropped out.

Now that’s not entirely true, because before I dropped out, I was able to finish a novel and a short story and a collection of poems, and they’re all coming out in the next year. So I did that before I cancelled my life.

The last time I was here, you said all this happened a year ago, when you moved to Montpelier.


Up until then, you’d still been working on your novel and your stories and your poem.

I suppose, yeah.

There recently was a song cycle of your poems at the Elley-Long Music Center. One song was about doing things for the last time. It was beautiful, but with an ache to it. You must have done a lot of that leaving Wolcott, walking around, looking around, knowing that was the last time you’d cut this wood or stack it or put it in the stove.

It was. Yeah, it was heartbreaking, because that was my identity, and now it’s no longer that. Which is no doubt one of the reasons I’m in limbo now.

So you’re not writing now.

No, I’m not.

You’re not making music.


Another theme that keeps coming up in your poetry, sometimes in very funny ways, is the lament over not having been a major voice in the poetry world. You wrote about the life of “genteel poverty and meditation” you lead:

…which gives me lots of time

to gnash my teeth and worry over

how I want to be known and read

by everyone and have admirers

everywhere and lots of money!

Is that something you would still write a poem about at this point, or is that an old theme that isn’t something you think about anymore?

I certainly think about it.

You still do?


You would like to be higher on whatever the poetry best-seller list is?


And have more money from it, recognition.

Yeah. Of course, who wouldn’t?

You’ve written:

When I came to Judevine Mountain

I thought

all my troubles would cease,

but I brought… my ambition –

so now, still,

all I know is grief.

Well, that’s true. I have this thing about ambition. I can’t live with it, and I can’t live without it.


Filed under: Poetry
Categories: Arts & Culture


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