Another key contract provision deals with editorial and production arrangements. This section refers to the requirement that you will review any gallery proofs within the time limit specified (generally 5 to 10 days after you receive them), and if you make any changes other than printer’s errors or in some agreements more changes than 10%, you will be billed against your royalties or any payment due on publication.
This clause may also require you to provide an index if the publisher feels one is necessary and to provide it yourself or to let the publisher do this at its expense and charge that against the author’s royalties or payments due on publication.
Also, this section gives the publisher the sole and exclusive right to decide on all aspects of the production and publishing process, including the choice of paper, jacket, cover design, and whether any advertising will be in the book. It further permits the publisher to send out complimentary copies to the recipients of its choice – generally members of the press, and permits the publisher to set the retail price in hardcover, paperback, and any other editions.
Generally, you can’t make changes in the proofing schedule, unless you have a good reason for not being able to meet the planned schedule (such as being out of the country during this time). Also, you normally can’t alter the agreement about making only a limited number of changes or you get charged for them, since presumably, you should make any changes in the copy as you go along, usually after you get input from the developmental or copy editor working with you on creating the final manuscript.
However, you might be able to change the requirements for an index or paying the bill for it, which typically costs about $450-500 for an index. One way is change this is to request that there be no index if the publisher initially wants one, and some publishers will agree, although others will indicate that indexes are always included in this line of books, and you have to accept this, though you can negotiate who pays for this.
In some cases, the publisher will agree to pick up the cost; in other cases, the publisher may agree to charge the index costs against future royalties, rather than charging the unpaid balance against your advance. Another way to cut down the price is to do the index yourself according to the publisher’s guidelines, figuring on about 3-5 hours to do this. Or you might reduce the cost by selecting the words for the index and letting the indexer determine the page numbers, using the software that indexers generally use to create the index. If you do this, figure it will take you about 1-2 hours to go through the manuscript for words, and the cost of the index will be about $150.
As for production arrangements, generally you need to let the publisher make the final decisions. It is rare for authors to have final design or cover approval, which is like allowing a director to have final cut approval. So normally, you can’t change this clause, although publishers will normally run a suggested title or cover by you for your input. This review by you doesn’t have to be included in the contract, although you might ask if the contract can include a statement that the editor or publisher will consult with the author on the title and cover design, while the final decision will be up to the publisher.
Likewise, it’s normally up to the publisher to set the price, based on the cost of the book, taking into consideration the number of pages, size of the book, initial print run, and the like. Publishers usually have the right to set the design and pricing for the electronic edition, too.
In the event you don’t meet the publisher’s production schedule or provide an acceptable manuscript, this contingency is covered in the “Delivery of Manuscript” provisions, which deals how you have to repay the publisher any advance. Of course, if there is no advance, there is nothing to repay, so if you find the demands of the publisher onerous, this could be a good reason to seek another publisher. If so, don’t provide the first publisher with an acceptable manuscript; then you can walk away from what you now consider a bad deal.
If a publisher is unable to publish your book within the time agreed upon or decides not to publish for any reason, other than some failing by you, as described in the delivery section, you get the rights back and get to keep any advance, though if you subsequently sell the book to another publisher, you may be obligated to return it. However, if there are changes in the manuscript and it is published by another publisher some months or a year or two later or even under another title, this can be hard to police.
If a publisher has paid you no advance, the publisher can generally later not publish with no penalty, which is why it is a good idea to get at least some advance, although some small publishers don’t pay them. Still, many do responsibly seek to publish your book, and they put the time and effort into doing so, as well as pay some editorial staff to edit it and set it up for publication. Thus, take into consideration the responsiveness of the publisher if you agree to a no advance contract.
After a few months, if they do not appear to be moving ahead in publishing your book, follow up to see what is happening, and if you are not satisfied, feel free to walk away. After all, you haven’t gotten an advance, and the publisher appears to have breached your agreement, so you can feel free to find another publisher, and if necessary, you can even change the title for an even cleaner break. In any case, it is likely that this first publisher can’t do anything to stop you from walking away from what appears to be a bad deal due to their lack of performance.
In sum, generally, you have to agree to the publisher’s editorial and production arrangements, though you might be able to get out of having an index, paying for it, or arranging for any payment to be taken out of future royalties, rather than taking them out of any payment to be made on the acceptance or publication of the final manuscript.
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