115 Questions to Ask a Publisher

Embarking on the publishing journey can be thrilling but can also prompt a galaxy of questions. Whether you’re a first-time author or a seasoned scribe, understanding the publishing landscape is crucial.

This guide offers a comprehensive list of must-ask questions designed to clear the clouds and shine a light on what you can expect from your potential publishing partner. Dive in to equip yourself with the knowledge that will turn the page to your next big chapter!

Publishing Process Details

  1. How do you select which manuscripts to publish?
  2. What does your typical publishing timeline look like from acceptance to print?
  3. Can you walk me through the steps of your editorial process?
  4. What level of editorial support do you provide to authors?
  5. How are book cover designs determined, and can authors provide input?
  6. Do you handle the registration for ISBN and other essential identifiers?
  7. How involved can authors be in the production process of their books?
  8. Are there specific genres or types of work your company specializes in?
  9. Do you offer any assistance with illustrations or graphics if needed?
  10. What is your policy on manuscript revisions during the publishing process?
  11. How is the quality of the print and digital formats ensured?
  12. Do you provide proof copies, and if so, how many?
  13. Will my work be reviewed by a professional copy editor?
  14. How does the fact-checking process work?
  15. What measures do you take to ensure the authenticity of the work?
  16. How do you determine print run size?
  17. Is there a possibility of publishing my work in a language other than English?
  18. How do you approach multiformat publishing (e.g., audiobooks, ebooks)?
  19. What is the author’s role in approving final layouts and typesets?
  20. Are authors included in discussions about paper quality, binding options, and other physical aspects of book production?

Financial and Contractual Aspects

  1. What is the royalty rate for authors?
  2. Are advance payments provided to authors?
  3. How are royalties calculated and distributed?
  4. Can you explain the rights I would be granting to the publisher and which I retain?
  5. Over what geographic regions and distribution channels do these rights extend?
  6. How long are the terms of your standard author contract?
  7. Are the terms of the contract negotiable?
  8. Will I receive detailed royalty statements, and how often?
  9. In case of future editions or prints, how are author earnings affected?
  10. Is there a clause covering the option for future works?
  11. Will I be liable for any expenses during the publishing process?
  12. How does the publisher handle subsidiary rights and opportunities for serialization or adaptation?
  13. What legal support does the publisher offer for copyright and intellectual property issues?
  14. Do contracts contain a clause regarding unsold copies?
  15. How does the publisher approach remaindering and overstock?
  16. Can an out-of-print clause be negotiated into the contract?
  17. What happens to the rights of my book if your publishing house is sold or goes out of business?
  18. Are there conditions where rights revert back to the author?
  19. Can you explain the book pricing process and how it affects my royalties?
  20. Do you offer performance-based bonuses for high sales?

Marketing and Promotion Strategies

  1. What kind of marketing and publicity support do you provide?
  2. How do you determine the marketing budget for each book?
  3. Can authors be involved in the marketing planning process?
  4. Do you have established relationships with media and book reviewers?
  5. What strategy do you use for social media and online presence?
  6. Are authors expected to contribute to marketing, and if so, how?
  7. How do you support book launches and author events?
  8. What resources do you provide for author branding?
  9. How are author tours or speaking engagements arranged?
  10. Does your company participate in major book fairs and conventions?
  11. What efforts are made to garner book awards and nominations?
  12. How are review copies distributed to industry professionals?
  13. Do you create press releases for new titles, and how are they disseminated?
  14. What is your approach to author interviews and media appearances?
  15. How do you leverage author platforms for promotion?
  16. What is the strategy for utilizing email marketing and newsletters?
  17. Do you provide promotional materials such as bookmarks, postcards, etc.?
  18. Are advanced reader copies (ARCs) provided to generate early buzz?
  19. How do you measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts?
  20. What ongoing promotional support can authors expect post-launch?

Distribution and Sales Channels

  1. Through which distributors and retailers will my book be available?
  2. Do you have international distribution capabilities?
  3. Can you describe your digital distribution strategy for ebooks?
  4. What is your approach to selling through independent bookstores?
  5. How do you position books within major retail chains and online stores?
  6. What efforts are made to place books in libraries and educational institutions?
  7. How do you handle direct sales, if available?
  8. Does the publisher work with specialty stores or non-traditional outlets?
  9. What kind of sales reporting will I have access to?
  10. How is the decision made between hardcover, paperback, or both?
  11. Is my book going to be available for pre-order, and how do you capitalize on this period?
  12. What returns policy do you have for bookstores and other sellers?
  13. How do you manage ebook pricing and promotions?
  14. Are there plans for secondary markets and remainder sales?
  15. How do you ensure visibility in online book retailer searches?
  16. Do you participate in any subscription-based or bundled sales services?
  17. How are out-of-print decisions made, and what are the implications?
  18. How do you deal with unsold stock and remainders?
  19. How are sales tracked and reported to authors?
  20. What is your strategy for print-on-demand (POD) services, if offered?

Post-Publication Support and Rights Management

  1. What post-publication support do you offer to authors?
  2. How are book updates and errata handled after publication?
  3. What kind of follow-up marketing occurs after the initial launch?
  4. How do you assist with the life-long management of book rights?
  5. How does the publisher support continued sales of backlist titles?
  6. What kind of career development opportunities do you offer for authors?
  7. How are spin-off opportunities, such as sequels or series, managed?
  8. Are translation rights managed by the publisher, or can the author negotiate independently?
  9. Can authors expect assistance with foreign rights sales?
  10. What measures are in place to protect against piracy and copyright infringement?
  11. How do you handle requests for permissions and licensing from other parties?
  12. Does the publisher support or organize author participation in literature festivals and events?
  13. How are ancillary products, like audiobooks or merchandise, managed?
  14. How can authors access sales data and customer feedback?
  15. Is guidance available for authors adapting their work into other formats?
  16. What kind of networking opportunities do you provide within the industry?
  17. How does the publisher support authors in building a fanbase or community?
  18. If my book wins awards, how does that impact my relationship with the publisher?
  19. How do you manage digital updates to eBooks, such as enhanced editions?
  20. After publication, what opportunities are there for further promotion or book tours?

Compatibility and Vision Alignment

  1. How does your publishing vision align with the authors you seek?
  2. Do you work collaboratively with authors to shape the book’s direction?
  3. Can you provide examples of successful partnerships with authors?
  4. What is your publisher’s mission statement or core values?
  5. How do you ensure an author’s voice remains authentic in the published work?
  6. How would you describe the ideal author for your publishing house?
  7. How are disagreements between publisher and author resolved?
  8. In what ways do you get to know your authors and their aspirations?
  9. How do you handle situations where book content may be controversial?
  10. What makes your publishing house unique compared to competitors?
  11. How would you accommodate an author’s growth or changes in genre focus?
  12. How important is an author’s previous publishing history or presence in your selection process?
  13. What do you expect from me as an author beyond providing the manuscript?
  14. How do you measure the success of a publication beyond sales?
  15. How does feedback from authors influence your publishing strategies?

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a book publisher do?

Book publishers are responsible for getting books from authors to the public. They work with authors to come up with a book proposal, help edit and market the book, and then handle printing and distribution. They may also help get the book into bookstores and other retail outlets.

How do I choose the right publisher for my book?

Selecting the right publisher involves looking at their track record, the genres they specialize in, and their reputation in the industry. Research their published books and the success of their authors, and read reviews about the company to gauge whether they might be the right fit for your work.

Can self-publishing be as successful as traditional publishing?

Self-publishing can indeed be successful, and many authors have leveraged it to retain more control and higher royalty rates. However, it requires significant personal investment in editing, design, and marketing. 

The success of self-publishing often depends on the author’s ability to take on the roles typically handled by a publisher.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the publishing world can feel like deciphering an intricate puzzle. With this meticulously curated list of questions in your arsenal, you’re set to ask publishing prospects with the confidence of a bestseller.

Use these insights to uncover the publisher that appreciates your literary vision and has the expertise to amplify your words to the audience they deserve. Remember, a well-informed question is the first draft of a promising publishing partnership!

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Robby is a multimedia editor at Enlightio with a journalism and communications background. When she's not working, Robby transforms into an introverted art lover who indulges in her love for sports, learning new things, and sipping her favorite soda. She also enjoys unwinding with feel-good movies, books, and video games. She's also a proud pet parent to her beloved dog, Dustin.