Questions for a publishing pro?

It’s a lazy Sunday evening and I’ve got time to kill while I procrastinating writing (like you never do that), so I am up for answering any questions you might have about writing, publishing, craft, or anything related.

Why you should trust what I say: I’ve worked in various positions in the publishing industry for the past 12+ years, from editorial to agenting to bookselling to writing and more. I have several published nonfiction titles, but I’m here on Wattpad refining a novel I’ve been working on for way too many years and just need to get finished already.

So . . . any questions?

Hey !

I’m about to sign a contract with a traditionnal publishing house in the next few days and I wanted to know what should I pay attention to in the contract, what to be aware ? Do you have some tips ?

Thank you ! :smiley:

Hey there, what would you say are the most effective story descriptions that get publishers and readers interested?

What do you do when an author refuses to make changes to a story that you’ve suggested?

What are the restrictions for traditional publishing (ie. cover design)?

I’m not a publishing pro… but there is the contract that is here to force the author to make the changes… and if he doesn’t do it, the contract can be over I think

Oh wow, that is a biiiig topic. I can point out a few areas to look for, but if you’re not going to go with an agent I would seriously recommend having a publishing attorney review the contract before you sign. It might cost you a couple hundred dollars, but the time and money and anguish it could save you is worth ten times that, I promise.

Note: I’m a fan of agents and work with one for my nonfiction books (and plan to with my fiction as well), so if you’re able to find a reputable agent to negotiate for you, it’s a good idea. Some people would rather avoid agents, though, so in that case I’d recommend a publishing attorney. But make sure it’s someone with experience in publishing, because contracts are very specialized with language that a lot of general attorneys won’t have a clue about.

Also, the Author’s Guild has some contract review services for members that are worth looking into if you don’t want to go either of those routes.

One thing to remember: You can negotiate with the publisher, even if you don’t have an agent or attorney. This is your career, so don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.

Some of the big things that writers don’t know to look out for:

Net vs Gross
Be wary of contracts that state that you’ll only get royalties once the publisher has recovered their costs. They can throw anything in there that they want, including marketing and a bunch of other things that shouldn’t come from your royalties. It’s best to get gross royalties rather than net, but a lot of smaller publishers only work on net. Just know that you might get paid a lot less if royalties are calculated as net rather than gross.

Right of first refusal aka option clause
Publishers want the right to have an exclusive look at your next work. That’s well and good, but you want to limit this as much as possible. If you can get them to do it for the next book in the series, or at least the next book in that genre or with those characters, it’s best. I’ve seen contracts that can tie up an author’s career for 21 years (not kidding), so be careful about this one.

Competing works
Some publishers want to limit what else you can publish that might be similar to the current book so as not to compete for sales. If they refuse to take out a clause like that, limit it to something very specific: picture books about dentists rather than just picture books, for instance.

There are so many things to watch out for that I’ll once again recommend having an attorney or someone at the Author’s Guild or similar take a look at it first, but here are a few helpful articles about other things to watch for.

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Actually, I am a French writer and agent are… pretty uncommon and unpopular in the French literature/publishing world ! Actually, I didn’t even know about it before I got here, on the forums.

And since it is a small publishing house, I don’t think it worth spending 100$ on it… I don’t know how much money I’ll do with it, but I don’t think about getting rich with it Hahah !

I have a friend who is a lawyer so she will help me to check into this at least.

Thank you for those informations, it will be very helpful ! :smiley: :heart:

The biggest thing that writers forget to include in their pitch (aka story description) in the query letter is the stakes. By that I mean, tell us why we should care about your characters and their story, and what will happen if they do or don’t accomplish their goal in the story. That might mean, what will happen if they don’t find that special crystal? Will the world end? Will they lose the love of their life and live in misery forever?

Don’t spend too much time detailing the plot. Instead, focus on teasing the agent/editor enough to get them to want to read more. I’d recommend reading the back or flap copy of books that you really like to see how they do it. It’s essentially the same thing. You want to give a taste of what the story will be and get us to care without telling everything that will happen in the story.


Those are really good points, thanks for sharing :relaxed:

The job of an editor (or critique partner, etc) is to point out places in a manuscript that aren’t working. I try not to make requests for specific changes and instead try to show a writer what isn’t working and why so they can find a solution to the problem.

Not everything I suggest will make a book better anyway, and in some cases, things I’ve suggested was the opposite of what the story needed. (Not often, but it happens.)

It’s not an editor’s job to make a writer change a book to suit what they want. Some editors might think that way, but the best editors are generally the ones who guide a writer to improving the story, not dictating how it should be. The writer knows the story better than anyone else, and they will usually have the best instincts in how to fix a problem area.

So unless it’s something that will absolutely kill the story unless it’s changed, I leave it up to the author’s discretion. In the end, it’s their name on the book, and so it should be their decision on how to best write it.


Ah, well I’m an expert in the American publishing industry and am not as well versed in foreign markets. Especially since laws are different in various countries, so something that might apply here won’t necessarily work in France. I’d say the things to watch out for is anything limiting what you’ll be able to publish in the future, especially if it’s something that will require you to work with that publisher. Basically, you don’t want something in the contract to stop you from publishing elsewhere.

Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful!


Wow. That’s pretty specific. In a case like that, I’d say you’d have to weigh whether it’s worth publishing with them. It’s painful to walk away from a deal, but it’s worth considering how something like that might affect your career and not just a single book.

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Oh, I don’t live in France. I live in Québec, Canada and I am going to get published with a traditionnal house established in Québec (but in the future, I might also get published in France).

And yes, thank you very much ! I’ll pay attention to all the exclusivity-related things that might appear in that contract.

It was still helpfull :wink:

What ? I just tried to answer to MistickMage :sweat_smile:

You’ll have to be a little more specific. I’m guessing you’re wondering about how traditional publishers will often control the cover design and title of a book without the author’s approval. That happens a lot, and most of the time agents will try to include language in the contract that the writer will get approval (not usually) or at least consultation on the title or cover. It can suck sometimes. One of my books, the cover was completely misleading from the contents (my writing is very snarky, and the cover made it seem really straight-forward, so a lot of readers were unhappy). It happens, unfortunately.

BUT, in most cases publishers have more experience in crafting covers and titles, etc., that sell in the marketplace. They’re not always right, but they have a higher success rate than most authors. Writers are often better with words than visual design, so it helps to trust people who have experience in those areas.

But yes, it is a bit of a crap shoot when it comes to getting the perfect cover. If you’re worried about not having control of the cover or title at all, traditional publishing might not be the best route for you. I know writers who are much happier when they get to control all of that themselves, and they tend to be a lot happier with self-publishing. So it depends on what you want in the end: creative control or the possibility of greater visibility and greater sales.

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Oh, whoops. I’m still learning this new commenting system. I was on Wattpad several years ago, and they changed the whole thing while I was gone.

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No problem x)

In that case, Canadian publishing law is very similar to U.S., from what I understand, so those articles might still be helpful. I suspect the Author’s Guild will have resources for Canadian writers as well. But as an fyi, there are a number of Canadian literary agents. Not a ton, but I believe most of them work with both English- and French-language publishers, if that helps.

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Well… French is concentrated in the Québec area mostly and I never heard of literary agents… and I met a lot of writers (I study in literature) and none of them never mention a literary agent Hahah ! So yeah, I think it is pretty uncommon for the French language ! And I do feel like I can do things by myself.

I’ll get a look to those articles !