I author, commission & edit non-fiction books - mostly art, travel & history, normally with some sort of botanical or heritage connection. Many of the books I work on have a similar feel to Taschen & Scala publications.
|celebrity driven themed photo book|
You’ve probably already thought of this, but unless you are the photographer or a suitable photographer is going to come on board as part of the project, clearing the rights for these types of photographs will cost an arm and a leg (maybe two, depending on the territories needed). If the images are being sourced you’ll need sufficient time, knowledge & connections for this. Never underestimate how long picture research & rights clearance can take!
|I imagine it retailing at about £20|
The publisher will work out the retail price and the print run based on the project's P&L (profit and loss sheet) - you will not have a say in this. The P&L will include all the costs associated with producing the book (both pre- and post-press) set against projected income.
|How does one go about this? Do you pitch the idea to a publisher first - and how much detail would I need?|
Yes, you pitch the idea to the publisher. They may well have a set form for proposals, asking you to outline your idea and also give details of the markets and territories you imagine it working it - they'll want to know you've done your groundwork on its viability, as well as it being a good idea in itself. They’ll want to see supporting sample material - a chapter or two and an outline for the rest, and samples of the illustrations - this will be the most important element if you're proposing a photography book. They need to have enough detail to convince themselves - and crucially their inhouse colleagues including sales & marketing - that this is a project worth taking on. The proposal will likely be assessed by a committee including staff from editorial & sales/marketing. They may also send your proposal to outside readers or subject-area experts for review.
I'd suggest you look at the websites of some publishers operating in a similar field - e.g. Taschen, Scala, Thames & Hudson, British Museum, V&A, Tate, & see what guidelines they offer for submissions & proposals. There is a section on assembling a proposal for a non-fiction book in Harry Bingham’s The Writer’s & Artist’s Yearbook Guide to Getting Published. I haven’t read it but I have read other sections of the book and it seems like good stuff.
If a publisher takes the book on based on a proposal & sample material, the contract will state that publication is conditional on the publisher’s acceptance of the complete manuscript. You will also need to submit by a specified date.
|Would they fund any work via an advance if they liked the idea?|
Possibly. It depends on the commercial potential. They might also ask you to seek partners or sponsors, or do so themselves. Getting this in place may be a condition of publication if the publishers really like the idea but the figures just don’t stack up.
|if I pitche it now, would they want it for Christmas this year or next year?|
It's not a Christmas book but I'm guessing lots of 'coffee table' publishers prefer the Christmas market - but I could be wrong on this.
Books for the Christmas market are generally published in October. Unless there's a particular reason to rush it through, most publishers will want at least six months in production. So it'd only get this Christmas market if you're ready to submit the finished text and images *now* and it got taken on quickly. But it's worth bearing in mind that publishers will juggle their lists to make room for golden eggs or to tie the publication to an event or anniversary that may benefit publicity and sales. By now they'll have firm plans for what's being published in the next financial year, and less firm plans for subsequent years. So, for example, my time at the moment is split between projects that we'll be publishing this year, and those that are being developed for publication up to March 2015. We publish throughout the year but there's a glut in spring and autumn.
Can I make any money out of this (subject to it working of course - is there any sort of data on royalties etc)
Royalty rates vary, but you can gain a broad idea by researching online. Royalties will be set against any advance you receive, also, possibly, with a book like this, against image clearance fees (or an agreed proportion of these). You may be offered a fee-based agreement rather than royalties – all this will need to be negotiated between yourself/your agent and the publisher. If you don’t have an agent and you’re not familiar with publishing agreements, the SoA run a clause by clause vetting service for members. You can join as an associate member once you’ve been offered a publishing deal
Their website is also a great resource.
Hope this helps, good luck