For you, the aspiring writer, or me, the one who wants to continue to be published (please), it is very helpful (though uncomfortable) to know how the decision is made.
- Which of our titles is it similar to?
- But is it also sufficiently different?
- Is this the sort of book we know how to sell?
- Is there a suitable time-slot available for publication? Publishers have schedules and must not over-stretch themselves. Their schedule could be full for the next 18 months, and they are unlikely to want to commit further ahead than that. They also need to choose a month for publication and that month must not be too full, or have competing titles, or have bad astrological portents. (I jest. Slightly.)
- How expensive will this be to produce? Does it need illustrations? Will it be hardback, or paperback only? How long will it be and therefore how many pages? This, and such factors as thickness of paper, will affect other costs such as warehousing and delivery.
- What sort of marketing spend will be necessary?
- What sort of author advance will be necessary?
- How soon are we likely to to recoup our costs? For this, an estimate of sales figures will be discussed.
- What other books demand our resources, bearing in mind that no revenue will be generated till after publication, which may be well over a year away?
- Do we know how to get this book to its market?
- What is the history of books like this?
- What is the competition for this book?
5. Are we likely to be able to sell foreign rights, if the author grants us those rights? (The advance and value of the acquisition will partly depend on which rights the publisher is allowed to control.) What about other rights, such as serialisation?
6. What about the author - how helpful and proactive will and can she be in promoting the book? This is where your online activity and "platform" come in handy. But if you are an aspiring novelist, don't fret excessively if you haven't done much about this yet, as the publisher really only needs to see your willingness and potential to engage in all the right promotional activities. For a non-fiction writer, your platform is essential as it will hugely affect how easily your book can sell.
Phew! What tough and nasty questions these are! Our gorgeous, passionate book gets picked over by the pointy-lapelled number-crunchers and ends up as a mass of figures and predictions. But we are best knowing this now, because if we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the people who make the decisions about our book, we are most likely to produce a book which will make them say YES.
How well-written your book is is for the editor to see - it's what will make her fall in love with it and allow her to make a judgement about its reception by readers. It's what will allow her to fight for it at the acquisitions meeting and beyond. But it's what the book sounds like when described pithily that is what will get it past the meeting. And that's why my previous post about hooks and pitches is so important.
There was also a previous post which explains hooks and pitches - please read it if you're at all unclear.
And talking about hooks and pitches, remember, you can pitch your story to your fellow blog-readers, if you wish. The details of how to do this were at the end of the more recent post on pitches. A great way to perfect it before you submit it to agents or publishers. Courage, mes braves!