Proposal to Publication – Part 1 of 5
This week I’m going to take you on a journey through the publishing process “From Proposal to Publication.” I’ll give brief explanations of what’s happening at the publishing house during each of the stages, and what’s expected of the author. Please note this a generic overview… the process can vary substantially from house to house. Feel free to send questions.
Today we’ll start at the beginning:
The Proposal Stage
4 Either you or your agent submits your proposal to an editor at a publishing house.
4 It goes into the editor’s stack. At some point (could be the same week or it could be six months down the road) the editor takes a first glance. Is there a spark of interest?
4 If so, they’ll give it a careful read, and they may discuss it with another editor or two.
4 If it doesn’t capture the editor’s interest, a pass letter will be forthcoming. But if the response is positive, your proposal will go to the entire editorial team.
4 At the editorial meeting, all the editors will discuss it. Every aspect will be looked at: idea, execution, author’s platform.
4 Three possibilities can come from the editorial meeting:
2) Go back to the author for suggested revisions
4 If the proposal is accepted, it then goes to the Pub Committee. This is a team of executives usually consisting of the publisher, editorial director, marketing director, sales director, sometimes even the CFO. The question is no longer “Is this a good book?” but “Can we sell this?” Other questions being considered include: Will the author’s platform help sell this book? Does it fit with our vision as a company? Does it fit with our publishing plan? Does it overlap too heavily with anything else we’ve already contracted?
4 It’s really exciting if your project gets to Pub Committee, but this is where most projects get rejected. The main point of this meeting is to come up with every possible objection to publishing the book. This is where the author platform will be scrutinized with a magnifying glass. The market will be analyzed and the competition assessed. The numbers will be crunched via a P&L (or pro forma) in which every last little detail of publishing this book is projected: the expected first-year sales, the production costs, royalty rates, discount rates, etc. This is a meeting in which you, the author, are no longer a person but a product to sell, pure and simple.
4 The result is either a YES or a NO. A NO means you’ll get a pass letter. A YES means a contract offer will be forthcoming, and you’ll be celebrating!
4 Not to be a spoil-sport, but you should be ready for anything here. You may get an offer, but it could be a lot lower than you expected. There could be other surprising things about the offer, such as a publication date that’s two years out. You’ll need to talk with your agent about it and make sure he or she tries to get you a fair deal.
4 This process from submission to Pub Committee can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months or even a year.
Next up: The Contract Phase