The books are aimed at practising lawyers. There may be a spillover audience but these are books generally priced at around £30 to £50 or higher in some cases for an already trained and knowledgeable legal audience.
The minimum word count is 15,000 words and in general the maximum is 50,000 words. This might range from 60 pages up to 200 or more pages. As a guide, 15,000 words might take someone three hours to deliver as a lecture. It all depends upon the subject matter and the audience but in general 20,000 to 30,000 words is a fairly good place to start.
The deadline we usually set is six months although these shouldn’t generally be six month projects. In other words it is designed to give leeway for the ups and downs in life. The important point is that lawyers generally need deadlines to get things finished. Of course we’re always happy to discuss longer timetables for particular circumstances.
Get it finished
Sounds obvious but this is the difference between being published and not. Always step back and ask how you can get it finished. Keep your eye on the finish line. Alongside this our aim is to make the process as simple and easy for a busy practitioner as possible. Lawyers are often perfectionist by nature and with this in mind try and see the book as you would a usual piece of work rather than something bigger which might end up causing the writing to grind to a halt.
Write a plan immediately
Start by writing your chapter headings in a maximum of 20 minutes. This focuses the mind on what really matters and avoids spending months thinking over what might or might not be included.
Shorter chapters with clear sections
For our shorter books we don’t generally do legal indexing and therefore the chapter index takes on greater importance. Therefore, err on the side of more shorter chapters rather than less chapters of greater length. This helps with clarity and structure. The number of chapters varies from book to book but a fair starting point might be 10 to 15 chapters. Also, if it is appropriate, try and break down the chapters into clear sections and possibly also sub-sections.
The aim of most of our books is to dig down into the niches. But in doing so they should also be practical. This means showing the reader the wood from the trees and focusing on those points which are likely to arise in practice. It does not need to focus on obscure issues which are unlikely to do so. Remember if the landscape changes and we all decided on a second edition then you could address it at that point.
Where a point may need clarification, a helpful approach is to flag it and then consider explaining it from both sides. In other words, one side may argue x and the other side may argue y and it remains to be seen how the higher courts might decide this. This remains helpful whilst at the same time avoiding the need to provide definitive answers to hypothetical points.
Using copyrighted material
We provide more detailed guidance in our writing guidelines which are sent along with the contract. We are extremely cautious about copyright. We therefore seek to avoid any ambiguity and prefer not to need to reply upon the fair dealing exception if at all possible. With that in mind a good starting point is to only directly quote from Crown Copyright materials such as statutes, statutory instruments, procedure rules and judgments. If it is not Crown Copyright the first question is whether it really needs to be included in the first place. But if nevertheless it is then one approach might be to summarise whatever it is in your own words and attribute generously.
Equally, we are extremely cautious about authors mentioning their own cases in the text even if they were not identified by name or referred to just by general reference such as “the author had a case” etc. So, do not mention, refer to or comment on these unless it’s by quoting a reported judgment.
We are not at all keen on the use of diagrams. The first reason is copyright. But even if the diagram or flowchart belongs to the author our view is that everything which can be illustrated visually can equally be explained in writing. Given that the audience is other lawyers this also provides a useful discipline for the author in making their explanations as clear as possible.
Full writing guidelines
These are provided after the contract has been sent. They provide more detailed guidance on the nuts and bolts of writing the book than these simple tips. They can also be seen online here. But remember if you have any questions at any stage, you only have to ask.
The Publishing Process
The contract is done through an exchange of emails. It has just ten points and makes it explicitly clear that our focus is the book and that we don’t restrict your own use of the material save for avoiding any competing book or other similar product. So if you wanted to use extracts in articles, seminars or other marketing material you’d be absolutely free to do so. Once the contract is agreed, we register the book with ISBN and it gets a presence on our website and Amazon. Though it does not start getting sold until it is ready.
We pay 10% of our net receipts which means the cover price less any commissions and/or discounts given. So a £50 book sold through Amazon’s system which takes 40% would leave £30 and 10% of that would be £3 for that sale and multiples can be worked out from that. Our approach is that we very much want to keep our authors’ feet on the ground in terms of expectations and the books are unlikely to be either Harry Potter or the making of an author’s riches. But nevertheless a royalty payment is always welcome and we are transparent about our sales. You can always ask us how many have sold and royalty statements are sent out each April and payment follows after the author has billed us accordingly.
Editing and publishing
Once we have received the book, it is copy-edited and after that the formatting, design and technical aspects are taken care of. You can happily make changes after the copy-editing but we’d discourage it after the formatting stage unless it was absolutely necessary.
Overall, our standard timetable for delivery of a hard copy book is, all things being equal, seven weeks from delivery of the manuscript though this can be expedited where necessary. When the book is ready we will generally give five free copies if there is just one author and six to share where there are two co-authors.
We market and sell the books mostly via our websites and newsletters as well as through Amazon. They are also made available to booksellers such as Wildys who make regular orders with us. Though there is specifically no marketing obligation on an author, you can see the marketing tips and guidelines we provide to authors on completion of the book here.
What about updates?
If the book proves to be a success we’d hope to do further editions every two to three years if possible.