Finding A Publisher For Your Book

In January 2017, I got an email from a publisher. They asked if I wanted to write a book about digital forensics. I said no. They asked again. I said no again. They kept asking more and more nicely, and offering me more and more things in exchange. I kept saying no. I wasn’t trying to negotiate a higher price, I just really didn’t want to write a digital forensics textbook.

In the end I said yes if I could have a co-author. I found Oleg Skulkin via Twitter, and we signed contracts and started writing a book together. Eventually, Windows Forensics Cookbook was born.

Unfortunately everything didn’t go quite how I’d expected. 

My co-author was absolutely excellent. His technical knowledge far surpasses my own, and when I got ill and had to spend a load of time in hospital, he picked up the slack.

The team we worked with initially were fine too; they sent reminders before each deadline, kept us updated on whom we’d hired as technical editors etc., and generally made sure things ran as smoothly as they could.

But then the proofreading stage happened, and OH MY FUCKING GOD.

I should preface this by telling you all that I’m a proofreader, in case you didn’t already know that. I’ve been writing, proofreading, translating and editing texts for almost twenty years. My grasp of the English language is therefore pretty freaking good. My co-author’s first language isn’t English, so he asked me to help him out on the grammar and style side of things, which I happily did. (As is so often the case, his English was fine and completely comprehensible.)

Unfortunately I’d made the assumption that the proofreader my publisher hired would be, y’know, a professional. At the very least, someone who had a strong understanding of UK English grammar and style, since that was the language in which we were writing.

But no. Ohhhh no.

The publisher sent me the final copy of the book with a 48-hour turnaround. I was in hospital for 32 of those 48 hours, and the remaining 16 were largely spent asleep, but in between I did what I could to proofread the utter shitshow they’d sent. I also tweeted it with an increasingly obvious level of frustration.

As an example, this is a complaint we received from a reader shortly after publication:

…to which I replied:

Now, I am not trying to be an arse about people’s level of English grammar. The purpose of language is communication, and while as a grammarian I will notice if a greengrocer has used an errant apostrophe on their sign about “lettuce’s” [sic], I won’t walk around with a piece of chalk correcting them.

I also have a huge amount of respect for people who do *anything* in their second language. (Technically English isn’t my first language, but I’ve lived in the UK all my life and I’ve been speaking it for long enough that it counts as one of my first languages.)

Anyway, this post is turning into a rant about linguistics and grammar pedantry, which was not my intention. It’s meant to be a post about finding the right publisher for my next book (and hopefully, by extension, helping you to find the right publisher for your book too).

Suffice it to say, I was unhappy with my previous publisher. I didn’t want to publish my next book with them, because they put in errors THAT WEREN’T THERE IN THE TEXT WE ORIGINALLY SUBMITTED

…and breathe.

I’d signed a contract which said I had to give them the option of publishing my next two books in the same subject area, which I was a bit afraid of doing since I never want to work with them again if I can help it, but it being a legal requirement, I sent them the synopsis of my next book, First Steps In Digital Forensics. 

In a stroke of pure luck, they didn’t want it because it’s not a step-by-step “How to forensically analyse Machine X” book. So instead I started shopping around. Here’s how I went about it.

1. Find The Publishers In Your Field

Whatever kind of book you’re writing, you’ll probably find that there’s a publisher who specialises in your area. Take a look at the books in your field, and make a note of the publishers of those books.

I did this a couple of ways: I looked through my shelf of digital forensics books, and I also searched for ‘digital forensics’ on Amazon. Amazon brought back these results. My bookshelf brought back pretty much the same ones:

  • Packt (my previous publishers with the awful proofreader)
  • Routledge
  • Elseveier

2. Look At Some Others Too

Don’t email publishers who don’t work in your field at all. There’s no point: if they don’t ever publish your kind of book, they won’t be interested. But you might be able to find a publisher who works on books in your subject area, but who doesn’t specialise solely in that field.

In my case, I looked around several digital forensics specific publishers, and then I also looked at people who publish academic texts, since my book is aimed at students.

I’m a member of a Facebook group for women in academia. I mainly use this to give me tips for my other job, as a researcher in psychology of religion, but I posted there asking if people would recommend their academic publishers. One suggestion came out on top.

I checked out the publisher’s website, alongside several others, and they seemed like the most sensible. Their submission process was reasonable – some others seemed to want to know everything about me, from womb to present – and their editorial guidelines made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Proper deadlines! Real proofreaders!

Having solicited feedback on the Facebook group, I found that everyone who’d published with them seemed to be very happy with the experience, so I decided to submit a proposal.

I have no idea yet whether they’ll say yes, but they sound like a good option so I’m hoping they do.

3. Follow The Instructions

This may sound obvious, but: follow the instructions on your chosen publisher’s site. Even if you think they’re a bit excessive, or you’re not sure why they want quite so much information about your internet presence. Just give them what you ask for, and hopefully they’ll agree to publish your book.

Reading back over this post, I guess there’s a fourth tip I’d give you, too:

4. Don’t Just Go With The First Offer You Get

I had a bad feeling about the publisher for my first book, but they were very persuasive and I quite liked the idea of publishing something. When I received the final copy, though, I sort of wished I hadn’t written it. And while both I and my co-author put a great deal of effort into creating a book that will hopefully be helpful, I hesitate to recommend it to people because of all the errors the publisher’s proofreader put in it.

You don’t want to end up bringing out a book you’re ashamed of, so make sure you go with a publisher you can trust. Ask around: talk to people who’ve published with them before you sign anything. Read a couple of books they’ve published previously. Go through your contract and make sure it’s fair.

You owe it to yourself to publish a book that makes you proud.

Are you a person who’s writing (or wants to write) a book? What questions would you like answered? Let me know and I’ll try to help in future posts. Or contact me directly if you’d rather have a more private discussion.

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