Authors and Editors Working With and Their Expectations From Professional Publishers

Author:Robert McKay
Date:November 06, 2019

Upon writing Practicalities of Securing a Law Book Publishing Agreement, I pondered on an aspect of that actual or potential experience which was addressed therein in only four bullet points, namely the issue of what is expected from publishers. It is the publisher, for the most part, which sets the rules of the game and drives the contractual conditions and process. As this is often a corporate entity negotiating with an individual, who is normally not represented by a publishing agent or a media lawyer, the parties are rarely equal, in terms of power and resources. There is nothing particularly startling, malicious or wrong with this, but it is wise for the author/editor (in effect, a supplier) to manage their own expectations.

The points previously made addressed the issues of early, pre-contact research, targeting, preparation, advice-taking and negotiation, the aim of which, in part, is to understand the mindset of the publisher and thereby smooth the path to a successful outcome. There are, however, several other factors which help to underpin good relationships and avoid disappointing surprises.

The need to conduct substantial research before contacting any publisher or even responding to enquiries from prospective publishers in search of an author or editor is critical. The reasons are as obvious as and similar to those applicable in any potential business relationship. However the benefits of prior research are greater still, when, as is the case, the legal and professional publishing industry is going through substantial transformation and, for example, an entity which might have considered itself to be a law publisher, ceases to do so and is no longer best structured to that end. This might be the case with the largest of the international professional information houses, with perhaps Wolters Kluwer being most vocal in its statement thereof. The indicators of their future directions, away from law publishing, are usually quite obvious. For example, Bloomberg BNA’s decision to change its brand name to Bloomberg Industry Group, might lead a prospective author or editor to speculate that dropping the BNA reference and not including words such as “law”, “legal”, “professional” and suchlike, signal a shift towards Bloomberg’s more generic business and financial data services being on offer. Taking a view on such indicators might prevent time-wasting, for almost certainly, such a shift, reflecting the fact that the market is shrinking, might mean that they will no longer offer an appropriate home for the special characteristics of the publishing relationship. One encounters prospective authors who invest substantial long-term effort and emotion in wanting to be published by a particularly favoured publisher, ignoring the reality that the latter has moved on. This can lead, almost inevitably, to...

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