The publishing process that we’ve been describing may seem mechanical. As you move through the publishing process, it’s important not to overlook an often-undervalued part of the process: the people or personnel of the publishing company.
Since the corporate imprint and the need to be profitable dominate most publishing companies, the unique nature of most publishing company personnel often gets overlooked.
So as you navigate the publishing waters, keep in mind that:
1. Industry personnel tend to be highly dedicated individuals who love the written word and literature. Few work for publishing houses just for the money. Those who are entranced by publishing’s glamour or cachet generally don’t last long, but those who love language and books often do. Somehow, some way, they find ways to remain.
Dealing with kindred spirits who are committed to quality books and writing is a bonanza for writers because it can improve their work and enhance the entire publishing experience as well as their lives. Few experiences are as satisfying as working with people who share your vision and values! It’s exhilarating.
2. Since publishing company employees are not highly paid, many leave.
The editor who championed your book and fought for it in the editorial board may move on to another publisher or end up selling kitchen fixtures. Suddenly, you may feel alone, abandoned, and discouraged. Hang in there because chances are that a good or even better replacement will emerge.
When these situations occur, the value of a good agent takes on heightened importance. Your agent can intercede with the publisher on your behalf to get you a top replacement. Your agent can also serve as your advisor and confidant and provide much of the support that your editor lent.
1. Become a proposal-writing authority. Consider your proposal the business plan for your book. You wouldn’t open a business without a plan. The same goes for a book.
2. Begin! Write a page or two a day. No excuses. If you can’t make time to write at least a page or so a day, what makes you think you will be able to write a book?
3. Be critical. Avoid falling blindly in love with your own ideas. Run them by people you trust. Don’t go too far on your book without talking to people in the know.
4. In writing your proposal, think like your readers. Is your book interesting? A great read? Life changing? Think like an editor. Is your book clear and written well? Who will buy it? When you review what you write, ask lots of questions.
5. Check out examples of proposals. Is your proposal convincing? Is it your best shot? Does it include third-party endorsements? What can you add to it to make it a heavyweight proposal? Lightweights don’t sell.
Check whether agents or publishers accept unsolicited submissions.
Address your initial submissions to specific individuals, not generally, or they may not be delivered. Most agents and editors want the first contact from writers to be by query letters, and most of them now welcome e-mail inquiries.
Individual editors initially process proposals. If they feel a proposal has promise, they take it to committees where it will be examined in great detail.
Editors, their assistants, sales and marketing people, and the top brass generally review proposals. At most houses, the final acquisition decision is made by the editor in chief, the Chief Operating Officer, or an executive committee, and it is invariably financially based.