Behind the Scenes
at a Pub Committee Meeting
Let’s pretend this is a small-ish imprint where everyone gets along and respects each other. In other words, it’s a bit of a fantasy but you know, we like to pretend here on my blog. This is vastly simplified – it’s just supposed to give you the flavor. And we’re only going to see about ten minutes of this meeting (which usually lasts a couple of hours.)
A boardroom with chairs and a fancy table made of Peruvian Mahogany that was purchased with proceeds from the imprint’s first bestseller. On the back wall, a matching bookshelf filled with all the imprint’s bestsellers since then.
Everyone brought their own coffee because no two people agree on which is “the good stuff.” Assistants have provided bottled water – the environmentally irresponsible kind – and cookies.
We sneak into the session just as the team is finishing up discussing a project presented by Editor One.
Sales Director: I just don’t see how we can sell enough to make that P&L work. Ten, twelve thousand, maybe. But nowhere near thirty. His previous sales are just too low to warrant a bigger number. Last two books sold ten thousand each. Hey, can you pass me a cookie?
Editor One: It’s one of the best manuscripts we’ve seen this year. It could be a breakout novel.
Publisher: I’ll agree he can write, but the numbers just don’t add up. Could we get it with a much smaller advance?
Editor One: Maybe…
Finance Director: The numbers don’t make sense even with a smaller advance.
Marketing Director: I don’t think that would change my vote. I just don’t know how to position it. I agree the writing is excellent, but there’s no compelling hook. “A motley group of expatriates goes to Pamplona for the running of the bulls.” Who wants to read a novel about bullfighting?
Sales Director: My vote’s a definite no on the book but a definite yes on this cookie.
Publisher: Well, then let’s not waste any more time on it. This one’s a pass. Next?
[Editorial Director offers consoling look to Editor One, who grabs four cookies and leaves the room. Editor Two appears and takes Editor One’s seat.]
Editorial Director: Editor Two is here to present A Bite of Justice, a young adult novel by New Author. We think this could be huge.
Marketing Director: Ah, I loved this one.
Publisher: I didn’t get it.
Marketing Director: What’s to get? It’s To Kill a Mockingbird, but with vampires.
Publisher: You mean it’s True Blood, the novel.
Marketing Director: You don’t watch HBO, do you.
Publisher: No, stab in the dark. Okay, my question is, can we still sell vampire books?
Sales Director: We can today, but I don’t know how long the vampire window is going to stay open.
Publisher: I thought it was already closing.
Marketing Director: Maybe for other vampire books. But there will always be a market for vampire books that don’t suck. Or that do. However you define a good vampire book. This one’s really good. And different enough to stand out.
Publisher: [To Editor Two] So tell us what’s so special about this.
[Editor Two spends two minutes going over the uniqueness of this book, sales figures for recent similar books, the author’s savvy social networking and huge Twitter following, and the potential for building this author into a major brand for the imprint.]
Sales Director: How soon could we get it into the lineup?
Editor Two: Manuscript’s complete and in great shape. New Author seems easy to work with.
Editorial Director: I think we can slip it into fall 2011 – there’s a bit of a hole there.
Publisher: I’m already talking to Big Name Author about that slot. Spring ’12, maybe.
Finance Director: [Studying P&L statements.] That’s a lot of money for an unproven novelist.
Editorial Director: The second P&L scenario is a bargain for a three-book deal.
Marketing Director: Can she deliver the other books?
Editor Two: The outline of the second one was in your packet. I think it could be better than the first.
Marketing Director: [Shuffles through papers.] Sorry – missed that. Mad Men was on last night.
Sales Director: Ah, Joan.
Marketing Director: It’s all about Peggy for me. We could use a few more Peggys around here.
Sales Director: And a Joan. The sales department needs a Joan.
Marketing Director: Take it up with HR.
Editorial Director: Well? Do we make an offer on A Bite of Justice?
Finance Director: Cut that advance by ten grand. Then yes.
Marketing Director: I vote yes. It’s clever and smart, but accessible.
Sales Director: My new secretary Joan and I vote yes.
[Editor Two avoids smiling, takes a sip of coffee and burns her lips but doesn’t let on.]
Editorial Director: I think we may be wasting our time if we offer any lower than this. We might even need to go higher.
Publisher: It’s not my kind of book. But if you can sell 25,000 in the first six months, I can live with the second P&L scenario at the advance listed here.
Sales: We can sell that many if you can release it no later than spring 2012.
Editorial Director: We can.
Marketing: Can she deliver book two in time for fall 2012?
Editorial Director: Absolutely. [Sends a look to Editor Two who is visibly cringing.]
Publisher: Okay then. New Author, this is your lucky day. Editor Two, P&L number two is approved with that advance and not a penny more. You think we’ll have competition on this?
Editor Two: Most likely. It was shopped wide.
Publisher: Talk to me before you up the offer. [Signs the P&L and passes it around the room so marketing, sales & finance can sign off.] Okay, what’s next?
Editorial Director: Bathroom Break.
Sales Director: [Shuffles through papers.] I didn’t get that one.
And so it goes…
Q4U: So what’s the takeaway here? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent