Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Recent industry news has been filled with reports of editors and publishers changing houses or even leaving to work on their own. When an agent reads those reports, it is often with a deep groan. Another book orphaned at a publishing house.
In the last eighteen months I have had two major books orphaned. Let me tell you their stories. The first book was sold after a vigorous auction in which many houses stayed in for several rounds. The six-figure deal went to a house where the entire team were huge proponents. In fact, a good part of the team flew out to outline the extensive plans they had for this book and two more. The excitement was palpable. We were in the best possible hands. Guess what? Before the first book came out, everyone we initially worked with left. I could just imagine the project landing on the desk of an editor who scratched his head and said, “We paid that much for this? I don’t understand.”
The second situation was another one in which the book had many houses vying for it. The eventual auction winner was the perfect house for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that the publisher had a relationship with the author, believed in the book, and had been a huge supporter of the ministry behind it. Guess what? The publisher and the editor who worked on the book just moved to another house. The book just came out.
It happens. Yes, it makes us crazy, but it’s important to know what it could mean for the book and to take steps to mitigate any damage.
What does being orphaned mean for the book:
- It means the book has likely lost its biggest cheerleader, and you may have lost your advocate in house.
- It could mean that your book will not really resonate with the new editor and/or team.
- It may mean that all the previous plans for the book and for you are up in the air.
- It could mean lackluster sales, depending on where the book is in the process, if the marketing team changes, or if the new editor is the one to pitch the “inherited” book to the sales staff.
What does it mean for the author:
- It often means that you have lost your best contacts at the publishing house.
- All the work you’ve done in building relationships needs to be done anew.
- You need to work doubly hard on promotion and author-marketing for the book.
- It could put the author’s future with this publisher in jeopardy if sales are not up to projections.
What can be done to mitigate the damage:
- The author needs to learn who the new team is for the book, and if they don’t introduce themselves in the first few weeks after the announcement, the author should touch base in a non-demanding, winsome way to make the introduction. Make them love you.
- The author needs to be aware of the worst case scenario but pray for the best case. (Adoption can be just as positive an outcome for an orphaned book as it is in adoptive families.)
- Your agent needs to be in touch with your house. She will find out who will be caring for your book. She needs to enthusiastically re-sell the book to the new team. She’ll let them know how lucky they are to have you and the book.
- Your agent needs to keep careful watch over the book to make sure it is getting the attention initially promised.
- If the worst case comes true, your agent will plan on moving you to a new house when your contract is over, explaining potentially dismal numbers by the well-understood phenomenon of “orphaned book/author.”
- Good news. If the worst happens and you need to find a new house, you probably have your old champion at a new house. And he owes you
So I’ve covered the worst case scenario. An orphaned book may just as easily end up with a new, enthusiastic editor and team, but agents are wise to expect the worst and then be delighted by the best.
Your turn. You always come up with such great possibilities. What would you do if your book were orphaned? Got any creative ideas for us?
An editor career move = an orphaned book. What to do? What to do? Click to Tweet
One of the scariest things for an author is to see his book orphaned at a publisher. Click to Tweet