Recently I’ve placed several projects with publishers, and each of these projects had the good fortune of having multiple publishers interested in them. So my authors and I were in the position of being able to choose the best publisher among those who were interested.
Most people think these situations get resolved purely on the basis of money, i.e. whoever offers the biggest advance. However, as I discuss with each author who finds themselves in an “auction” situation, there’s more to it than money.
The real question is not, “Who’s offering the most money?” but “Who will be the best publishing partner for me?”
1. The editor.
Crucial to the author’s positive publishing experience is the editor who’s acquiring the book. It’s important to us that the editor convey sincere enthusiasm for the author and their book(s). We want an editor who has truly caught the vision for the book and hopefully for the author’s career; someone who seems to appreciate the author’s unique style and wants to work with it (as opposed to immediately offering ideas for changing it).
We try to suss all this out in conversations with the editors. Usually when there are multiple offers coming in, the agent and author have conference calls with each editor. In addition, I have the advantage of already knowing most of the editors, so I have a feel for who they are before we even begin discussions.
2. The buy-in from the publisher as a whole.
It helps when the editor conveys that not only the editorial team, but sales and marketing and everyone up to the publisher and CEO love this book and author. A strong buy-in from the beginning can make a big difference in how well a book is handled.
3. The publisher’s track record with similar books.
We look at how well other books in the same genre have been handled. Often we have our own previous experiences with that publisher so we know how marketing and sales were handled, and we know how many units sold. If I don’t have personal experience with that publisher, most likely another member of the Books & Such team does. We also look at whether any of the publisher’s previous, similar books have been bestsellers.
4. The publisher’s contract terms.
The publishing contract is a big deal and each publisher handles it differently. If we have a choice of publishers, and we know for certain that one publisher is more likely to have more favorable contract terms than another, it’s definitely going to factor in to our decision.
5. The advance and other financial terms offered.
Lest you think I’m saying the money’s irrelevant… it’s not. Often the amount of advance offered is a direct reflection of the publisher’s enthusiasm and commitment. And let’s face it, a strong financial arrangement can make a big difference in an author’s life. So we definitely consider the money!
6. The author’s opinion.
Sometimes an author has had a “dream publisher” in mind for a long time. Sometimes they just have a gut feeling or a real connection with an editor on our conference call. If this is the case, it certainly goes into the hopper as one of the things to be considered when making this decision. The publishing relationship is going to be a long one that has a major impact on the author’s life, so they definitely need to speak into the decision and share their own thoughts.
Is this different that what you expected? What would be the most important to you on this list? Have I left anything out?
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