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Writing and editing books

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An endless supply of writers?

At the writing level, it must be distinguished between the essays of creative works on one hand, and works ordered by publishers on the other hand. The essays address technical and scientific fields or current events. The one and the other can be subject of order by the publisher for competent specialists or recognized writers, or contract with a person with exclusive access or having the results of his research. For spontaneously proposed works to publishers, which are essentially works of imagination, a situation of oversupply dominates. Thus, large Anglophone publishing houses receive from 10,000 to 15,000 manuscripts a year, and, in France, Gallimard received 5,834 treatys in 1998. It must be remembered that the scientific and academic publications are rarely the result of publishers orders.

The magnitude of the authors seeking publication gives the publisher the role of selection in a virtually inexhaustible supply.

Publishing contracts

In general, the publishing contract stipulates a percentage of the sales amount due to the author (often 10%) and a share of the net profits, usually 58% for the author and 42% for editor, although there are a diversity of contracts. Furthermore, in most cases, the contracts provide for an advance, sometimes substantial, on the expected revenue from the sale of the book in preparation. However, it is not the same for the scientific and technical publications: some of them are doing well under the repayment of a percentage of the amount of sales, sometimes only beyond a certain threshold (eg after the first 500 copies), but most do not pay the author rights (especially for scientific, monographs, proceedings of scientific conferences …).

However, this solution does not exhaust the contractual problems between authors and publishers. While the latter have an interest in maximizing value from the sold copies (for which they receive a share), the author has an interest in maximizing the dissemination of his works, which guarantees related revenues and better prospects for its future publications, but also, in the case of researchers, provide career progression and their national and international position in their field of study.

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