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  • How to put together & publish a coffee table type book...
    by MartinEx at 12:37 on 03 March 2013
    Normally, I'm a fiction sort of chap and I have some idea of the publishing process in that area.

    However, I have an idea for a non-fiction, hardback coffee table style publication. Thinking of the quality of some of the A4 + size Taschen art publications (although not an art book) - more a celebrity driven themed photo book (being vague deliberately).

    I imagine it retailing at about £20 + and will require a certain amount of research and contact with celebrities/personalities some from politics, some from sport some from television and so on - some probably very keen to be included others I would like, may be less keen - not sure about that.

    How does one go about this? Do you pitch the idea to a publisher first - and how much detail would I need?

    Would they fund any work via an advance if they liked the idea?

    How quickly to they prefer to work? For instance, 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.

    Can I make any money out of this (subject to it working of course - is there any sort of data on royalties etc)

    And tips or advice wold be appreciated.
  • Re: How to put together & publish a coffee table type book...
    by EmmaD at 13:59 on 03 March 2013
    Do you pitch the idea to a publisher first - and how much detail would I need?


    Not my area of expertise - there's at least one WWer who knows a whole lot more about this than I do, but because I'm busy procrastinating...

    A fairly usual non-fiction pitch would, I think, include

    - a lot of detail about the market it's aimed at (which has implications, of course, for the style it's written in),
    - competing titles and why yours is better and more interesting so it'll sell to all the same people and a raft of new ones,
    - a detailed breakdown of how the book is structured, including chapters, lengths of chapters, how many and what kind of illustrations, because that has a huge impact on the cost -
    - and some sample chapters to prove that you can write, and write in the right way for this book and this market.

    You would hope to be commissioned on the basis of this to produce the whole book. You would be offered a deal including an advance, one chunk to be paid up front to fund the costs of getting picture rights and so on, which in the case of slebs could be expensive because that's how they make their living. If you're looking to the publisher to pick up the tab for those then it needs to be very, very clear in the contract. There would be further instalments of the advance when you delivered the MS and when it was published.

    Off the top of my head, one thing I do know is that any book which is expensive to produce (which means anything using colour and/or high-quality illustrations/photographs etc) is extremely difficult to sell if it doesn't have scope for co-production - i.e. selling foreign and translation rights. - because all the pictures and design can be handled together. And the problem with celebrities is that it's a pretty small handful who have any visibility abroad. So your pitch would need to be extrememly clear about just how wizzy and saleable this idea is.

    On when it would be published, lead-times for highly illustrated stuff tend to be very long (they're all printed in China). Christmast 2014 at the earliest, I'd have thought. Although of course they can get it together fast if it's time-sensitive and the potential market makes it worth the extra costs and pain of working fast.

    One option might be to look at existing series, if it's that kind of book, and pitch your idea in a shape that fits it. The drawback of that, of course, is that if you really have identified a nice hole in the list that could be filled, there's nothing to stop them taking the idea and commissioning one of their regular authors... And that would probably be a fee-based rather than royalties-based deal. If in doubt, get hold of the Society of Authors' leaflets about this kind of thing.

    You could get hold of The WAAYB Guide to Getting Published, [full disclosure - I'm quoted in it] which includes the various kinds of non-fiction you might be proposing, and stuff about how to pitch it. I'm sure other books are available, although DO be careful you don't find you're being fed stuff for the US because the trade does work differently.

    *looks nervously over shoulder as more knowledgeable WWers stroll by*

    Emma
  • Re: How to put together & publish a coffee table type book...
    by MPayne at 15:02 on 03 March 2013
    Hi Martin,

    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


    Youíve 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 youíll 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. Theyíll 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 Binghamís The Writerís & Artistís Yearbook Guide to Getting Published. I havenít 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 publisherís 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 donít 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 Ė all this will need to be negotiated between yourself/your agent and the publisher. If you donít have an agent and youíre not familiar with publishing agreements, the SoA run a clause by clause vetting service for members. You can join as an associate member once youíve been offered a publishing deal
    http://www.societyofauthors.org/eligibility-criteria
    Their website is also a great resource.

    Hope this helps, good luck
  • Re: How to put together & publish a coffee table type book...
    by MartinEx at 18:44 on 03 March 2013
    Thank you Emma. Thank you Michelle.

    I really appreciate both of you taking so much time and trouble to assist me.

    [quote]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. Theyíll 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.[quote]

    Michelle, this is brilliant - exactly the kind of insight I needed. I hope I'm not deluding myself (I probably am!) but breaking the process down like this actually makes it seem more achievable. Next year is a much more likely completion timescale and certainly, the photo rights issue is one I need to look inot much more deeply.

    The celebrity element is relatively limited in terms of actual specific image usage which, I hope, will be good news in terms of costs involved but that's something I need to give a lot more thought to.

    Also, I hadn't considered payment in terms of a fee rather than a royalty.

    Thank you for the links and pointers on where to look further - great!

    <Added>

    My attempt to quote Michelle didn't work - hopefully the gist is clear though - ;-)
  • Re: How to put together & publish a coffee table type book...
    by EmmaD at 23:20 on 03 March 2013
    Also, I hadn't considered payment in terms of a fee rather than a royalty.


    If you do go for a fee and don't keep the copyright, one option is to have it written into the contract that - say - you get a further fee if sales go over a certain level, or they sell rights or such.

    I know a yoga teacher who wrote a book for a series, and got what she felt was a decent fee for the work, but they had the copyright, and then sold the rights all over the world, and she never got another penny...
  • Re: How to put together & publish a coffee table type book...
    by MPayne at 09:07 on 04 March 2013

    I know a yoga teacher who wrote a book for a series, and got what she felt was a decent fee for the work, but they had the copyright, and then sold the rights all over the world, and she never got another penny...


    Yes, that's the danger of the fee-only route. Also if the book does really well and the publishers keep it in print for many years, you'll lose out in the long term. But if the book bombs you benefit.

    I don't work in contracts/rights (although I did for a while many years ago), but in general I think you're best retaining copyright and granting the publisher a specific restricted license - possible exceptions being if the book is very time or country specific (so unlikely to have reprints and foreign rights deals). But I really would recommend getting any agreement vetted - so you have clarity over what it means, even if you don't want to renegotiate any terms.