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12 Questions to Ask Your Publisher

So you’re about to or have already signed a book publishing deal. First of all, congratulations! Whether your contract is with one of the Big-5 publishers (Penguin/Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette Book Group, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan) or with a small press, here are 12 questions to ask your publisher:

12 questions to ask your publisher

3 questions to ask your publisher before you sign a contract

Here are three questions to ask your publisher before you sign your publishing contract:

1. What timeline do you estimate from signing the contract to publication?

Before you sign with a publisher, it’s wise to ask about their timeline for your book’s release. Having an idea of a release date gives you time to prepare adequately. For instance, you might have to arrange an event during a particular month or allocate time for promotional activities.

2. What rights do you get vs. what rights do I keep?

Discovering the rights your publisher intends to acquire for your book is crucial. It includes aspects like international licensing and film rights, among others. For instance, authors often relinquish their audio rights in deals with major traditional publishers. Smaller publishers typically don’t claim audio rights, allowing authors to create audiobooks if desired.

3. Who on your team should I expect to work with from the time of signing the contract to publication?

Before you sign, ensure you’ll receive adequate support throughout the publishing process. For example, ensuring you have direct access to team members, such as marketing and PR professionals, is beneficial. If you don't get access to a marketing or PR team, you may want to find outside support to help you in these areas. Your team may consist of the following individuals:

  • Acquisitions Editor: This person discovers potential books for the publishing house and refines or reframes your manuscript.

  • Editor: This individual will work closely with you to refine your manuscript, ensuring it's polished and ready to captivate readers.

  • Copy Editor: A detail-oriented expert who will ensure your manuscript is free of grammatical errors, typos, and inconsistencies.

  • Marketing Team: This team of professionals will strategize and execute plans to promote your book, reaching the right audience and generating buzz.

  • PR Team: Public relations experts will handle your media outreach, interviews, and events to maximize your book's exposure.

9 questions to ask your publisher after you sign a contract

Once you sign your contract and begin planning your book launch, ask your publisher these questions:

1. Do you have a marketing budget for my book, and if so, what is it?

Some publishers may dodge the question, but others value transparency. If your publisher tells you they have a marketing budget for your book, ask how much they’re willing to spend. Knowing this information helps you manage your expectations. For example, you might realize you must fund specific marketing strategies independently.

2. When in the timeline should I expect the book to appear on Amazon and other retailers?

Publishers don't always tell authors when to expect their book to appear in online retailers like Amazon. Often, authors wake up one day to see their book listed as a pre-order in online stores. Early discussions with your publisher can give you time to prepare a strategy to maximize pre-orders.

3. Will you be running any Amazon Ads for my book?

Knowing the publisher's Amazon Ads plan is vital. Avoid overlapping by not running your own ads on the platform if they into to run ads. Inquire about their ad types, like individual sponsored product ads or publisher-wide ads. If they don't handle your Amazon Ads, be ready to manage the Amazon Ads campaign independently.

4. Will you create Amazon A+ Content for my book?

Amazon A+ Content is a free feature you can use to make your book seem more appealing to consumers who visit your Amazon book page. Ask your publisher if they’ll create and upload Amazon A+ Content for your book. If yes, excellent! If not, ask if they can upload content you make for the page using the publisher’s portal.

5. What keywords are you using in the metadata?

By asking your publisher this question, you can ensure they’re taking advantage of the opportunity to utilize keywords in the metadata. Discovering which keywords they’re using can also give you context for phrases and/or messaging to use when promoting your book independently.

6. What retailers will carry my book?

If you’ve signed with a major publisher, anticipate online retailers and maybe some brick-and-mortar stores to carry your book. If you’re working with a smaller publisher, your book will likely be available exclusively in online stores. Regardless, asking your publisher which retailers they plan to get your book into is smart. Some common online book retailers include:

  • Amazon

  • Barnes & Noble

  • Books-A-Million

  • Walmart

  • Target

7. What other marketing initiatives does the publisher plan on providing for the book launch?

Don’t be afraid to ask your publisher about their plan for your book launch. This information allows you to consider what you can do to complement their efforts to maximize sales. Some examples of marketing initiatives your publisher might handle include sharing your book with their e-mail list, in social media posts, or using advertisements for large book conferences.

8. Is anyone on your team pitching my book to media outlets?

A marketing team might handle social media posts, optimize metadata, or include it in an advertisement. But it’s worth asking if the team has a publicist who will pitch your book or its message to media outlets. If not, consider contacting an external publicity firm specializing in book publicity that can pitch to the media on your behalf.

9. What have other successful authors you’ve published done to promote their books?

Discovering successful strategies from other authors your publisher worked with helps you explore new marketing ideas. For instance, inquire about social media influencers to follow for book launch inspiration.

Whether you’re in the midst of the writing process or have already finished your book, now is the perfect time to consider a marketing strategy. To help you get started, I’m offering a FREE download of my guide, 10 Things You Need For A Successful Book Launch. This valuable resource is packed with expert tips and strategies to empower you to craft an effective book launch and connect with a larger audience of eager readers.

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