We all have to learn how to read a contract and what questions to ask. But we also have to learn that when it comes to committing to a publisher, we have to relinquish control on a lot of things we’d like to direct from the background. After all, a publisher is in business to make money, and they do know what is best for their authors. Once a person makes the decision to submit to a publisher, they must be ready to do one important thing most never think about. You must release control of your book to said publisher. That is probably the hardest thing you, the author, will have to accomplish as you go over the contract and read all the fine print.
It’s always good to ask questions but you should be prepared to hear what you want doesn’t jive with the publisher’s in house policy.
First, you’ll usually see that there are responsibilities laid out for both the author and the publisher. You’ll have deadlines to return important data necessary for finishing your book for publication. There will be what looks like complicated royalty payment schedules for just about every possibility that exists to find your book. Those are usually non-negotiable for the author who has yet to build a fan base, but if you’re concerned about the information go ahead and ask.
Cover art always provides a lively discussion, especially with so many cover artists advertising their abilities on the web. Most publishers have a cover artist on contract and won’t negotiate this part of the contract. That’s because there are limitations on cover art a lot of the independent artists ignore, until it’s time to upload and then they’ll work on fixing those issues. That can delay the release of your book, which is why a publisher prefers to work with their own cover artist to make sure everything is right from the beginning.
The price of your ebook is an often contested subject. Price high or low is a question argued by many people Price your book too high and the market will ignore your offering, even if it is better than XYZ major author. Price too low and your readers will wonder what’s wrong with the story. A publisher takes all this into consideration when setting the price.
Promotion becomes another sticky point for most first time authors. Don’t blithely believe that your medium or small publisher has a full staff of people whose job is to stump your book day in and day out while you collect the royalties and thoughtfully create your next masterpiece. You have to be prepared to get active on social media. Facebook, Twitter, a blog, and a website are the bare necessities. Open an account on Goodreads and explore what that site has to offer the author. Check out Manic Readers, AUTHORSdB, Reader’s Gazette, and other sites offering you the chance to set up your book there for free. Some even offer reviews.
These are just the top points people have mentioned when reviewing a contract. You might also want to know how long it will be before your book has finished editing. Don’t be surprised if the response is that no one can really tell—editing time is subjective to the editor being able to finish your book in a certain time frame and you approving those edits. Then there is proofreading and one last check prior to publication.