Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Why I Need to Love Your Book

I pass on a lot of books that I liked but didn't love. And as I near the end of the process in getting yet another book into the marketplace, I am reminded yet again why I must love an author's work before taking it on.

Each book is a product line in and of itself. To sell it, the publisher and the author must make sure it is the very best book it can be. The writing must be tight. Grammar errors, spelling errors, typographical errors, consistency errors - among others - must be non-existent; or at least as minimal as we can humanly make it. All of this takes time and money.

An author does not get paid for writing the book, unless their platform is so large or they are so proven in the marketplace that they receive an advance. Even then, I'd venture to say that less than 1% of authors receive an advance that truly pays for their time in writing and editing their work. They must do it because they are in love with the story, the characters, or the process of writing.

All of that changes on the publishing side.

Once we decide we want a manuscript, we must prepare a presentation for every department that will be involved in producing and marketing it. Every person in that chain must "buy into" it: the editor, the text production staff (for determining the layout, the fonts, the size, the internal packaging), the cover design staff (art work, layout, colors, and branding) and the marketing staff, who is involved before the book enters the market in determining the target market/ audience and how best to reach them; through the launch and initial entry into the marketplace, as well as positioning when the book becomes backlisted. The accounting staff and managerial staff must make certain the money is spent wisely and staff and resources are utilized wisely.

If everyone is in agreement (and one department can shelve an entire project) then we begin with contract negotiations. Once the contract is signed, the project is scheduled and the people are scheduled. None of these people work for free. They require salaries, overhead, and benefits. They need tools to do their job - hardware, software, access to art work... Then there are contractors we utilize, particularly with virtual book tours... There are printing costs, hidden costs the author may not consider like the procurement of an ISBN, proof copies, mock layouts, etc. There are meetings that occur at least weekly during the entire project, not to mention the phone calls, emails and other correspondence taking place.

The author sees very little of this.

A traditional publisher like Drake Valley Press is taking a gamble. The gamble is that this particular work will generate the sales required to reimburse the publisher for all of those up-front costs, plus make a profit - because the publisher, like any commercial business, can not be in business simply to pay costs and nothing more.

At the end of the day, twelve months after the book's initial entry into the market, we must be able to look at that book - that specific product and cost center - and know we made the right decision.

So when an author is querying publishers, it helps for them to understand what they are really asking of us: to commit people, money, time and resources to their work.

That's why I must love your book.

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