Things You‘ll Discover About Publishers (When You’ve Worked With One)

Things You‘ll Discover About Publishers (When You’ve Worked With One)

In this post, I look at things you’ll discover about publishers.

Publishers and smaller prints are a different breed: working with publishers brings surprises, especially for debut authors. If you are used to magazines or blogging, mainstream houses don’t feel quite the same.

Here are the things you’ll discover about publishers (when you’ve worked with one). 

Things You’ll Discover About Publishers

  1. Sell Books Like Commercial Pitches

Always read the latest submission guidelines, and follow them.

Publishers use this as a means to see who did (or didn’t) read their terms: like the band Van Halen who asks for a jar of M&Ms, to see who actually read the whole contract.

A publisher knows their industry, and you know your book. Meeting in the middle of this, where your book helps their industry, is what a publisher wants. 

Sell it, like a commercial product pitch: that’s what books are.

  1. There’s A Longer Lead-Time

Online journalism is fast-moving. Mainstream publishers are the opposite of this. 

If you want to work with publishers, patience is key. From submission to rejection or acceptance, can take months in publishing. You could spend a whole year on just a handful of publishers. 

There’s no ‘quick response time’, and you can’t rush anyone. However, you are allowed to ask about receipt, within reason.

  1. The Publisher’s Changes, If Accepted 

Publishers are almost notorious for requesting changes: it’s up to you in the end, but there’s a writing contract on the line. Remember that it’s their leverage against yours.

Some changes are small: ‘Hey, don’t call this character Sarah. It doesn’t sound right.’ But a publisher can also request that you remove or rewrite whole parts.

A publisher once changed the denomination of a church in a short story of mine. I was still planning to reference the original in the sequel! It was a small change, but a huge lesson.

If you’re bad at negotiating, learn now, and not five minutes before a meeting. 

  1. Writing Contracts

Successful pitches become writing contracts. 

Lesson one: don’t just sign into anything. Get professional legal help, and someone experienced who has your interests in mind. 

A contract should say what rights they’re buying, for how long, and how much you’ll get. That’s the simplified version, and there’s more to think about in the average contract. 

Some expand terms: they might want a three-book deal, and congratulations. Make sure you’re getting the benefits that you think. 

If you aren’t sure, request time and have a contract looked at. There’s never reason to sign a contract ‘right on the spot’. 

  1. Contractual Obligations

A book gets signed for and published. What’s next? 

Welcome to contractual obligations, and the things you can (or can’t) say. It’s not a given for all contracts, but can be for some. 

Publishers can include all sorts of joyful things: you have to be at the book release, you have to make so many hours of media interviews. If you don’t hold the bargain’s end, you could be liable. 

This is why contracts should be considered with care. 

  1. Forms and Paperwork 

Did I mention all the fun forms and paperwork? Oh, it’s not just your contract, there’s more.

Larger companies (publishers, too) need paperwork.

Account confirmation letters and tax compliance forms are the first things you’ll be asked for. This goes with contact details and sometimes, morbidly, your next of kin.

If you aren’t in the same country as your publisher, you guessed right, there’s more paperwork.

Expect to sign a lot of things, and request a lot of others. Get to know your banking manager, and bookmark your tax websites.

That’s exactly what you pictured writing would be one day, isn’t it? 

The Last Word 

In this post, Writers Write explored tips from the publishing industry.

By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at

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Posted on: 13th March 2023