Monday, June 13, 2011

A Legal Historian's First Book, Part IV: The Book Contract

One would think that a law professor would be in a better position than most to negotiate a book contract. Not so in my case. Again I turned to wiser and more experienced colleagues for advice. Among their tips: Make sure the press is obliged to release a paperback edition within a reasonable time-frame (this was before the explosion of E-books). If possible, they counseled, exercise some control over the timing of outside reviews, so that the feedback you receive will be most helpful--both for purposes of your manuscript being accepted for publication, and for the opportunity to implement constructive suggestions for improvement/revision.  And many people advised that authors are not usually bound to the submission/delivery date in the contract.

Much later, as I faced the prospect of cutting 40,000 words from my "final manuscript," I wished I had paid more attention to the contractual word limit, which (unlike the delivery date) was enforced. On the other hand, the cutting process undoubtedly made the book more readable and less expensive.

What do you wish you had known when you were negotiating your first book contract? How, in your experience, has the publishing landscape changed in recent years?

There is a lot of published and unpublished advice out there about the ins and outs of publishing. Readers of this blog have recommended William Germano's Getting It Published, which is excerpted here. For earlier posts in this series, see Part I: "Revising" the Dissertation, Part II: Archival Research, and Part III: The Book Proposal.

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