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Two colleagues and I would like to publish a book, and we're surveying our options for the publishing company. Throughout discussions, it became clear that all these items are important to us:

  1. Retain the copyright so we can use our work for whatever we want (for publishing new papers, create a revision of the book, share some of the material with students);
  2. We will produce a print-ready document using LaTeX, and although the resulting pdf would be ready, it would also be nice to have digital ebook versions (.mobi, .epub) so that people can also read the book in iPad and the like;
  3. We would like to have the book indexed by Scopus and similar databases so at least we get citations for the book (we're not interested in royalties. This means that the book has to be associated with a DOI;
  4. The quality of the final print should be good, so that our hard work doesn't get obfuscated by poor choice of paper quality, lack of color images, an ugly cover, etc.

We have had some interactions with major publishers, and although they can accommodate to a large extent our demands, it seems their contracts are crafted in such a way that we don't really get what we want. In addition, it's very unlikely to get some of our demands with them (for instance, color images in the printed book). I would appreciate any suggestions on selecting a publisher with those points above as paramount.

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  • I can say more about self-publishing if you consider it an option. – Buffy Mar 19 '20 at 14:30
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    I'll note that some of your needs (color, paper,...) drive up the cost of a book and possibly drive down sales as a result. Publishers understand these things, hence their reluctance. – Buffy Mar 19 '20 at 14:33
  • Check out r4ds.had.co.nz and moderndive.com both are open source stats textbooks that also sell dead tree copies through publishers as a possible example of what you could do. – Richard Erickson Mar 19 '20 at 15:08
  • @Buffy self-publishing is not an option because of the workload (as you suggested). Regarding color images, are there any publishers that allow for this? – aaragon Mar 19 '20 at 15:23
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    I think most will if you convince them of the necessity. But it increases production costs since color compatible paper is not the same and so needs to be inserted, unless the whole book is on some special paper, hugely increasing material cost. It is a pretty hard sell. Some books have a section (one "signature", say, about 16 pages) that is glossy paper suitable for high quality graphics. – Buffy Mar 19 '20 at 15:26
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One outside possibility is self publishing, though (a) it is a lot of work and (b) unless you are well connected to potential readers it will have little impact. There will be no marketing effort other than what you do, though there is little such for a lot of publishers in any case. Amazon, for example, has a subsidiary that helps with this, as do some other sellers.

Some publishers will let you keep copyright (perhaps jointly) but normally only for the superstars in the field with a long publishing history. At a minimum you would need to give them a license that satisfies them. Probably an exclusive license for some things. They want to cover their risk, as is natural if unsatisfying for authors.

But many more publishers, taking your copyrights, will give you back a license to your work that, if carefully worked out, will let you do pretty much what you want other than take it to another publisher. That may be your best bet. Think hard about what you might want to do in the future and get those things enshrined in a license.

But some of what you want is normal. New editions are actually expected for some work (textbooks especially). And cover art and such reflects on the publisher as well as the authors so may not be a big problem.

And while you say you will produce LaTex or such, you really want a copy editor to go over your book. That is one of the hardest things to arrange in self publishing. You need at least some independent readers of the book to give you feedback. Publishers normally pass this task to seasoned reviewers even before copy editors get a look.

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