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OK, this one’s a quickie: If you are trying to publish a book, check out O’Reilly Media’s So You Want to Write a Book? O’Reilly publishes all kinds of tech-oriented books, and this is their guide for authors who are submitting manuscripts to them for publication. Although aimed at O’Reilly’s authors, the information here applies pretty well to the process at most publishers (except O’Reilly is a lot more honest than many others, as illustrated by the very fact that they’ve made available this incredibly open guide to their publication process, where other publishers might prefer you underinformed).

So You Want to Write a Book? explains how to write a proposal, walks point-by-point through their contract and explains what you should be looking out for, and then explains what to expect from your editor and the design and marketing staff responsible for making your book sell. Having been through the book publication process blind, I can say first-hand I wish I’d found this resource before I ever sat down to write my proposal! I would have been a lot better prepared for the year-long wait, interrupted by urgent demands (we need these copyedits reviewed and returned to us asap! we need the proofs reviewed in two week! we need an index!) that seemed to always come when I was least prepared to deal with them.

O’Reilly Media is known for being one of the “good guys”, so the website has an unintended side effect: it lets you know what an honest contract looks like. Most authors have no idea how to read their publishing contract, and while an agent, if you have one, should give you an idea of what you’re looking at, it pays to have a little knowledge of your own. And if you don’t have an agent (I didn’t — academic books are rarely published though an agent), knowing how to read a publishing contract is essential.

If you’re pitching a book, make sure you spend some time looking through So You Want to Write a Book?

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