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Arlington Creative Non-Fiction Writers Message Board Arlington Non-Fiction Writers Discussion Forum › Question/Answer Session with Fledgling Press

Question/Answer Session with Fledgling Press

user 4685999
Portland, OR
Post #: 3
Question/Answer Session with Fledgling Press

1. What are the top five mistakes made by first-time authors in their non-fiction book proposals?

Clare: Any book proposal should be well thought out and well written and submitted with a concise synopsis and three chapters.

Any submission should be fully proofed and edited to the best of the author's ability; if grammar, spelling and punctuation are not a strong point then find someone to do it for you.

No publisher will read a sloppy, poorly presented manuscript.

Personally I do not like submissions where an author tells me a particular market will be desperate for their work, and projected sales are a no-no too - the book industry is notoriously fickle, and difficult to predict.

Zander: Tricky, as we don't get many non-fiction proposals. My favourite five off-putting things are:

  • Badly proof-read proposals
  • So mistypes
  • Misspellings
  • Weird punctuation
  • Lack of clarity

Anne Marie: My answers too reflect the fact that I mostly read fiction proposals. I agree with Clare on the overselling pitch, but most problems will be within the manuscript itself. Some of my "favourites" are:

  • When the plot in the sample chapters bears no resemblance to what is described in the synopsis.
  • Lack of clarity or coherence within the manuscript (structure, plot, character development etc.). In a non-fiction manuscript this would apply to the argumentation.
  • No coherent style of punctuation or what Zander describes as "weird" punctuation.
  • Badly formatted manuscripts.

2. If a book's cover price is $14.95 (or equivalent), what percentage of a 1,000 in print does the writer earn?

Clare: Very little. We offer a small advance and royalties of between 8 and 10% (usually 10). Royalties are based on retail price less commission to booksellers (can be up to 60%) less postage and packaging less advance paid.

Zander: It will vary enormously, but it will be based on royalties on sales, rather than number printed. Usually an author will get an offer of advance royalties, and then be credited with something like 10% of net sales, offset against this, where net means after the costs of bookseller's discount (25% to 60%), post and packing. It sounds stingy, but the publisher usually gets less, and booksellers are shutting down all over the world.

3. What does the future of print books look like in the age of online, Kindle, and other electronic media? Will print books continue to be profitable, in your professional opinion?

Clare: I think there is a market for both electronic and printed books. The market position is pretty difficult to predict at the moment but don't believe all the eBook stats you read. EBooks are subject to VAT and there is no agreed pricing strategy. Large publishers and Amazon want eBooks and printed books to be priced similarly - I don't agree. We feel eBooks should be priced lower than a print version of a book as there are less costs involved BUT there are still costs to the publisher for formatting and converting a manuscript to eBook formats.

Zander: Yes. Most kindle users that I know also buy real books, and will go on doing so. It won't be easy, as there are 100,000 to 200,000 new books published annually in the UK, including self-published books, but in my opinion, good quality books will always be wanted.

Anne Marie: I too believe in the future of the printed book. People who like books (and there are quite a few of those) will very often appreciate the material quality of a well-produced book. And even an avid e-book reader will still buy printed books - that's been my experience.

4. When offering an author a contract, does the publisher expect them to try to negotiate the terms, or is the initial offer often the best the publisher can manage?

Clare: Usually we don't expect much negotiation to take place. we believe our terms are very fair and would not move much. Rights are about the only clause where we would negotiate.

Zander: Both. I think publishers vary in how rigid they are, but if you want to vary some term, so that your book's rights in Iceland or Taiwan are not included e.g., I think most publishers would listen.

5. For the first time author, is going through a literary agent really more advantageous?

Clare: As Zander says in his reply, finding an agent is about as difficult as finding a publisher - if you can do it then you're very fortunate.

Most publishers are not willing to take a risk on first time authors, especially in this economic climate, and I do personally know authors (new) who have had a manuscript accepted by an agent then handed back after 9 months. That of course is then 9 months lost.

Zander: Yes but. Literary agents, if good, know which publishers would take which kind of books, so save you tons of time and money on pushing your proposal out. The "but" is that most good literary agents are very choosy, and are probably as hard to win over as publishers. An intelligent reading of one of the big handbooks of publishers will probably work just as well.

Anne Marie: I agree with the answers above. Literary agents are often not very approachable, and their advice (at conferences, book fairs etc) seems designed to discourage new authors. If you approach publishers directly, the publishers' handbooks/style guides must be adhered to! As you've no doubt picked up on, publishers do not like manuscripts and proposals that are not reader-friendly.
user 5656339
Arlington, VA
Post #: 6
This is great, Taylor! So informative and well-presented. Thank you!!
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