By Jack Butler, Contracts Manager, Endeavour Press
What’s the process involved in signing a new author to a publishing house? How does a publisher decide which books it wants to publish?
These are questions that you won’t always find the answers to during an entry level role/internship at a publishing house. But they’re absolutely essential to your learning about the publishing industry and the processes involved.
A contract may not be the first step in a book’s journey from submission to publication, but it is certainly the bedrock upon which the whole project is based. Contracts Managers negotiate on behalf of their publishers with the author or their representative to try and establish an agreement that works for both parties. There’s a variety of ways that this can be done, and each contractual agreement will be unique. An author or his/her agent might request a special provision for a minimum sales target, a specific term limit for the time period that the license covers, or the types of editions that the contract covers (from paperback and hardback editions to large print, ebooks to audiobooks). The process of ironing these details out can take weeks or even months, as each party goes back and forth trying to reach an equitable agreement.
As the Contracts Manager for Endeavour Press, an ebook publisher of both backlist and frontlist titles, I handle a large number of contracts every week. It’s my job to make sure that every contract is made to fit each author’s needs. This can be quite a difficult job, juggling dozens of contract discussions at a time – but it’s important that each agreement is reached fairly and with as much expediency as possible. Sometimes easier said than done!
Though Endeavour Press publishes a large number of books every month, we are just as selective as any publishing house. Other publishers will also take time to vet a submission or research an author’s backlist to discern whether a publishing arrangement will benefit all parties involved, and whether readers will want to buy those books. While discussing the terms of a contract, a publisher will typically meet with the author or the agent of the relevant books, not just to discuss the books themselves but also to go over marketing strategies, publicity, artwork, publication schedule (including a schedule for future editions), and a host of other minutia that can sometimes be forgotten about. A publisher may offer an advance for certain titles, a sum that is paid in advance against future royalties, negotiate a flat fee or discuss a raised royalty rate without additional payments. While it is the publisher who puts most of their time, effort and resources into publication, it’s just as important that the author be fully rewarded for the work they’ve done.
Once the terms of a contract are agreed between all parties, a book’s life truly begins. It may have already have taken months to reach this point, but some books may still not see publication for months or even years. Every part of a book’s journey, however, springs forward from those few pages of legal documents.
As well as managing contracts for Endeavour Press, Jack runs their Sci-Fi and Fantasy imprint, Venture Press.