Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Can I demand accessibility?

Equal accessibility is important to me, so I would want my book available in large print, braille, and/or audio-book formats, so it would be accessible to people w/ poor or no vision or w/ other conditions that would limit their ability to read a standard-printed book .

I know these formats can be expensive, and certainly many books are unavailable any of these ways. My question is, considering that this would be my first published book, and that I therefore have no clout at all, can I actually make this demand? Or would the publisher simply skip me for someone whose first book would be much cheaper to publish?

Should I mention I'd be willing to compromise elsewhere as needed, such as a smaller advance or giving up other rights, to make this happen?

And at what point in the query process do I tell my would-be agent how important this is to me?

The author is the seller of rights, and the publishers who acquire audio/large print rights etc. are the buyers. You can't actually force someone to buy something, (Oh how I wish you could!) even if you reduce the price to zero (your reference to smaller advance/other rights.)

Audio is the most likely subsidiary right to be licensed. Often the print publisher will acquire audio rights as part of their initial deal. If they do not, your agent can pitch them to an audio publisher. Whether an audio publisher is interested is entirely up to them. Even if it's hugely important to the author.

Large print rights are much more difficult to license. Large print publishers usually seek titles that are best sellers, and from established brand name authors. Large print rights are also often acquired by the publisher making the initial print deal. Of all the books I've sold, fewer than 10% have been licensed to large print publishers either thorough the initial print publisher or in a direct deal.

As for Braille, those rights are also addressed in the print contract. Most often they are made available at no charge to publishers who want them. It's a pretty standard clause.

That said, I've never seen a Braille book. But then again, maybe I'm just not looking in the right place.

I commend your enthusiasm for making your book available to people with reading challenges. It contrasts quite favorably to the fellow who was peeved that Braille rights were being given away. ("I wrote it why shouldn't I get paid" was his position. He did not sign the contract and I was happy to sever my relationship with him--for that and MANY other reasons)

But, as with many parts of the publishing process, whether your book will be available in these formats is almost entirely out of your control. You can certainly mention it to your agent but under ZERO circumstances will you make this a deal breaker.

And I should remind you that many people use electronic books, which can alter the font size, in lieu of buying or borrowing (from the library) large print books.  Most publishers will produce an ebook simultaneously with print, so your desire to be accessible can be met that way.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

And to think that I am so old, the only publishing format available when I started involved a chisel and stone tablets.
Best seller at the time, 2 pages and ten bullet points. It a great read actually, passes the test of time. Problem for me though, like the names of the Seven Dwarfs, I always forget a few.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

We have a friend with severe visual impairment, and being able to load nearly everything on a Kindle or smartphone has been very, very good for them.

I've wondered sometimes about Large Print rights. Since I work in a library, and since I now do the book ordering at my library, I'm slightly more familiar with large print books than I otherwise would be. Some of them come out with a different cover from their regular print counterparts. Some are released on the same date (like the most recent Evanovich, DANGEROUS GAMES I think it's called) and not later. Individually, they are shockingly expensive, both hardcover and paperback. Some don't seem very much larger font than otherwise noted, and others it is VERY apparent.

AJ Blythe said...

Awesome question, OP, because I had no idea about the contract rights for some of these. How totally fabulous that optioning Braille for free is a standard clause.

As an aside, our new $5 note has tactile markings for vision impaired and so will the other denominations as they roll them out. You don't realise how difficult life must be for the vision impaired until something like that is announced (they have always been different sized notes for that reason, but braille markings must make it so much easier).

JR, sounds like you dodged a bullet with that client.

2Ns, dare I ask which ones you forget? *grin*

Colin Smith said...

I also commend your enthusiasm for not neglecting the vision impaired, Opie. As I read your question(s), I wondered how much e-publishing has impacted these alternative publishing markets (large print, audio, braille). Of them, the only one I haven't seen covered by e-books yet is braille (I can just imagine a tablet-sized device with pins that automatically pop up in the correct positions when a page loads--have they done that yet?) I believe the Kindle has built-in text-to-speech, so if you don't mind being read to by a digital voice, you don't have to buy audio books. And, as Janet pointed out, with most digital readers, you can adjust the font size to suit your comfort.

Great question!

Peggy said...

Colin, I believe such a device Alfred exists--one of the members of my father's church's choir used it to read the program and the hymns so he could song along. It was large and bulky, and I didn't examine it closely, but it seemed pretty cool!

Peggy said...

(And by Alfred, my phone and I mean "already"...)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I had a loosely related question. Say, you are able to sell your audio book rights, does author have any say on who will perform the reading of the book. This makes a huge difference. Some voice artists are terrible. Some are masters. I wish to procure the services of Hank Azaria to read my entire series when the time comes. Is it possible to even request such an artist?

Also, why doesn't Jeff Somers have more of his books in audio format? I am curious.

Colin Smith said...

Peggy: I thought maybe "Alfred" was the name of the device--perhaps after its inventor. :) Cool! I'm sure they--those mysterious people who invent things--could do something smaller these days.

Colin Smith said...

Elise: So true! I wonder if Gary Corby's books are read by an Australian? Actually, for authenticity, they ought to be read by a Greek. In English, of course, but with their Greek accent. :)

Kitty said...

E.M. Goldsmith wrote: ...who will perform the reading of the book. This makes a huge difference.

You are so right. Years ago -- late 80s, early 90s -- I followed Aidan Quinn's career and collected everything I could afford. One of the things I bought was the audio version of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE because AQ was the reader. His voice has that smoldering quality perfect for James Cain's story.

Claire Bobrow said...

Isn't Alfred one of the seven dwarves?
Or perhaps a commandment: Thou shalt not Alfred.

Back on topic - great question, today, OP. My e-reader is very helpful for the font and light level functions. Colin: good point about the text-to-speech option.

Kitty said...

Colin, my daughter's in-laws are Greek, and even though their accents are thick, I can understand them. They are Yiayia and Pappoús to little Katina.

Claire Bobrow said...

I agree one thousand percent with the comments regarding audiobook performances. A bad one can destroy a great book, and a good one can make a book magical. Some of my favorite readers: Jeremy Irons, Richard Armitage, Andrew Sachs, and Juliet Stevenson.

julieweathers said...

I should be writing. Am I? No.

Yeah, It's me again, Margaret.

My son is on call and had a plant go down, so I got called in for babysitter duty at 5:40. I'm still trying to wake up.

On the plus side, Munchkin and I will be baking chocolate chip cookies today at his request.

Semi on topic. I didn't think I would use the Paperwhite my son got me for Mother's Day, but it is awesome. For one thing, there are a tremendous number of memoirs and diaries that have been archived as ebooks, which would be very hard to find in print. I did find a first edition of The Spy of the Rebellion Being a True History of the Spy System of the United States Army during the Late Rebellion by Allan Pinkerton. There's a title that just rolls off the tongue. Sometimes I just like having first editions.

I love that I can adjust the font on the Paperwhite to make it easier on my eyes. I adore that I can pack hundreds of books around with me.

I think it's commendable the OP is concerned about making their work accessible, but with audible and ereaders there are so many options these days it really is much better. I would get my mother an ereader, but...yeah. Much easier to listen to the complaints there's nothing to do.

As for the guy who wanted to get paid for the braille rights, what an arse.

Racking pain today. Should be a good day to write about something.

Craig F said...

First thing is to get published, then have my characters become a brand and have little geeks dream of moving to the planet I built.

After all of that happens, I will make a bigger push for better accessibility. By that time it will probably be moot, as technology jumps to its next level.

I have not seen much sci-fi in large print.

MA Hudson said...

It's good to be reminded of what's out of our control in a publishing contract. Title, cover art, font size....
None of that bothers me, probably because I know ahead of time (thanks to this blog).

Donnaeve said...

I'm editing this morning. Not my WIP, though don't I wish. I've yet to get to THE END. Sigh.

Therefore a standalone comment to address the following...


"You can't actually force someone buy something" ("to" missing)

"I commend your enthusiasm for making your book available to people with reading challenges." (sentence reads fine, but did you mean "for wanting to make...?")

Donnaeve said...

I guess I should feel pretty darn special that DIXIE sold in large print, given what's said here.

I also commend the OP on wanting their book in hands of those with disabilities. The e-book point was a good one to make for those with sight challenges in which that would help.

A belated congrats to Cecilia and Michael!

Back to the WIP.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

YES to Richard Armitage and his chocolate voice. I sooo want my audio books read by him.

How about a clause offering first right of refusal to RA when it comes to selecting an audio narrator?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

If I cannot get Hank Azaria, then way YES to Richard Armitage. I love his voice.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Ohmigosh, I know something about this!

When I lived in the States, I spent a few years teaching Visually Impaired second grade. Yes, I can read Braille.

Now, in Australia, I have a friend who's totally blind and needs to source reading material in alternative formats.

In the US and AU there are organisations to support the visually impaired. These organisations are the ones that arrange for the printing of Braille books.

Braille books are literally Print On Demand. They are big and unwieldy and expensive to produce. A publisher doesn't just do a print run and hope they sell. A book must be specifically requested in Braille format from a reader and the organisation arranges for a copy to be made.

It's not common for a VI reader to buy and own their own Braille books. The ones they request tend to belong to a VI library, available to all VI readers.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Thanks Donna!

Yes to Richard Armitage! For my MC, I would love to have Kathleen Turner narrate.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

My reputable small press publisher is branching out in a big way with audio books next year.

I don't know how Random Penguins handle this, but my publisher gets a few auditions from narrators and the author gets to choose.

Another reason I want Richard Armitage to narrate my books is because the Armitage Army goes nuts for anything with him and my sales would go through the roof.

Colin Smith said...

Heidi: Sounds like an excellent opportunity for someone to devise a digital braille reader (b-reader?), so VI people can actually own their favorite books. Perhaps a device that sends a small, harmless, electric pulse at those points where there would be bumps on the page? Come on, people! If we can put people in space and blow ourselves up a million times over, we should be able to give VI people the joy of owning books!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

A J if I new which ones I forgot than I'd remember.

Christine Sarmel said...

At the library, our large print collection is mostly best sellers and things requested by long-term group loan (nursing homes.) Otherwise, as people above have mentioned, there are numerous tech apps and devices that allow pretty much any book to be accessible. We have a Braille collection, but it's rarely used and wouldn't include a debut unless it was donated.

Also, someone mentioned money. When I'm making change for patrons with a visual impairment, I ask (politely) if they'd like the bills folded, or if they want all 5's etc. This is the folding system recommended by the American Federation for the blind:

Leave $1 bills unfolded.
Fold $5 bills lengthwise.
Fold $10 bills by width.
Fold $20 bills lengthwise and then by width.

Verify as you're working to make sure you're doing what they need.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

That's great info Christine. Wow, the things one learns here at the Reef.

Theresa said...

Major kudos to OP for thinking about the accessibility issue. I always assumed this was something decided by the publisher. And it's good to hear about other options available through Kindle-like devices. Now I'm waiting for someone to create and market an Alfred--just like the one Bruce Wayne had. All our lives would be easier!

Took a day away from writing yesterday to plant summer flowers. Perfect timing, with all the rain from yesterday and now today. But back to that sample chapter.....

Kitty said...

I’m shocked, SHOCKED!, that nobody has mentioned George Clooney’s velvety voice.

BJ Muntain said...

No one makes money on Braille books. Not even the publishers. They are so expensive to make.

Another good thing about e-books is that they can be read out loud by a computer.

Not that it's a perfect replacement for Braille, but it's more available.

If Braille books could somehow be made less expensively... but it's the strong paper, the large size, the technology to put those bumps in the pages as perfectly as they need to be... So much.

Since OP is just starting out, I'm sure they can't afford to do this themselves. Although, you know, if I were rich, that would be a wonderful charitable activity - developing cheaper technology and publishing more and more books. Someone remind me of this idea, if I ever get to be rich.

BJ Muntain said...

AJ: Canada has had those bumps for some years now. It's really pretty cool. Canada also has different colours for different denominations. Which makes travel in the US a little worrisome, as all their money looks alike...

Regarding who reads the audiobooks - This just out: Carl Sagan' COSMOS is now an audiobook read by LeVar Burton, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and Seth MacFarlane. The link goes to an article about it on the Nerdist, where they also mention a previous audiobook read by Carl Sagan himself, and how important that quality was. I think LeVar Burton is a much-loved narrator.

Perhaps, when it comes to 'who narrates the book' it depends on a) the publisher, and who the publisher is able to interest in doing the book, and b) perhaps a personal interest in the part of the narrator, in that they may approach the publisher, or mention to the publisher that they are interested? Otherwise, it may simply be down to who the publisher can get to do it, who they can afford, and who they can schedule in.

Julie: Holy cow. Allan Pinkerton himself? That is So. Friggin. Cool. Now I may have to look that up online, to see if it's on Gutenberg or somewhere. It would be public domain by now, unless somehow the company still owns the rights. Is the company even still around, with same or different name? So much research to do, so little time...

Your Grace, Heidi: The Canadian National Institute for the Blind also publishes Braille books and otherwise supports the visually impaired. And, as you know, it would normally be too expensive to own one's own Braille books (though I've heard of college students sometimes owning their own copies of textbooks. Textbooks become obsolete so quickly, though.) That's also one reason why the books are so expensive - because more than one person will be reading them, it's important that the dots be punched in paper strong enough to hold them through many, many reads. Braille is the one format where reading can take a toll on the 'print' itself.

Perhaps rather than getting the publisher to publish the book in Braille, the OP could have a visually impaired person they know request it via their national organization? I don't know how many requests it takes, or how strong the need for that book needs to be in order for it to get published in Braille, but as with any libraries, people can request it, right? Which is probably why best-sellers are the most likely to be published in Braille - having worked in interlibrary loans, I know that best-sellers are the most requested books. Mostly because - I'm sure - more people have simply heard of them. Word of mouth is vitally important to book sales.

2Ns: I love you. In a purely online friendship way. Your sense of humour always makes me laugh.

BJ Muntain said...

OFF TOPIC: Allan Pinkerton's The Spy of the Rebellion is available on Project Gutenberg as a free ebook, or it can be read online.

Now, back to your original programming.

Lennon Faris said...

I love that OP asked this! What a great question. Thanks for the info, Janet.

Christine - interesting. I've never known that about the bill folding.

Claire Bobrow said...

I went away for a few hours, came back, and - voilà! - a treasure trove of information appeared in the comments. You Reefers are a fabulous bunch, you are. I learned a lot about Braille books; folding bills for the VI; the Armitage army (I think I enlisted without realizing); and George Clooney. Not too shabby.

Megan V said...

On the discussion of Braille, I recall hearing about some MIT students working on / inventing a portable Text to Braille translator. Can't remember the name offhand and can't google atm, but I think it was called something like Textile.

julieweathers said...

BJ, yes he wrote that and others. It's hard telling how many he actually wrote as he had ghost writers on some volumes.

Spy is valuable because it does tell some interesting details about the war and spying, but there's also a generous dose of pure fiction in there and therein lies the rub. Kate, his female officer, is real. John Scovill, I think the name was, is pure fiction.

Unknown said...

If you have a recent Kindle e-book reader, you have automatic text-to-speech for FREE on almost every e-book published in the past several years. It's a computer-generated voice, rather than a person reading the text, but it works brilliantly. And it's FREE as long as the publisher enabled text-to-speech on that title (almost all titles have it enabled). It even turns the pages automatically so that the text on the screen is what is being read aloud.

Even more accessibility. It's a Good Thing.

CynthiaMc said...

I love the Overdrive app - ties right in to my library. I rarely buy books these days, partly because the house is overrun with them, partly because hubby just had to retire and I'm not spending anything right now.

I made a deal with myself that I would read every book at the house and pass-along the "one-read-onlies" or "bored me to death by page 3" (most of then - I'm a picky reader) and not buy a new (to me) one until I've made it through all of those.

Overdrive Library books don't count because they're invisible (not piled in boxes on the floor or 3-deep on the shelves).

CynthiaMc said...

Man, I hate typos but not enough to retype the whole thing. Y'all are smart. You heard what I meant. Too busy watching the baby cardinals at the feeder.

smoketree said...

I'm not sure how it works in the US, but in Canada it's required that publishers provide accessible copies of their books when requested by patrons of libraries or university book stores. Generally an accessible version is just a searchable PDF of the text.