Blogger: Mary Keeley
I would prefer to plan my work and work my plan with few surprises that upset the proverbial applecart. It almost never happens that way, though. I’m a list maker and love to cross off items as I complete the task. Plan and then take action. I’ll skip the waiting, thank you. The overuse of clichés was intentional. Last week a client gave me some good news, not realizing it also creates a predicament that will require more thoughtful planning before taking action.
During the past year this client has been rewriting a manuscript as a Christian living book at a publisher’s request. It is now ready to submit. A different publisher requested a proposal for another of the client’s books at a writer’s conference two weeks ago. The thing is, both books are now in the same genre on the same unique topic.
These kinds of situations require planning a strategy because many publishers require a non-compete clause in their contracts. Agents often can negotiate the wording of the clause to limit the non-compete to a specific genre or demographic, allowing the author to write another book on the same topic in a different genre or to a different demographic.
But that won’t work in this instance because the genre and demographic are now the same for both books. See the dilemma? The client and I need to plan our strategy by answering questions as we weigh factors such as:
- Potential reader attraction. Assuming both books are well written, reader friendly for this genre, and full of fresh information, does one of them have that little extra something that captures attention more than the other?
- Marketing and distribution strength. In this particular situation weighing this factor appears to have a quick answer because one of the publishers in question is larger and has broader distribution. But we have to look further and weigh the potential of this publisher taking the next step and making an offer against the potential of the smaller publisher doing so.
- Editorial support offered by each publisher. Working with publishers on a daily basis on all sorts of projects, agents get to know editors’ strengths and what they expect from the author. I also know my client’s strengths. This factor alone wil not determine the approach we decide to take, but it should be considered.
- Potential for a long-term publishing relationship that wil be most advantageous to my client’s career. Questions to ask: Is one of the publishers more successful at marketing and selling books in this genre? If so, it’s likely that publisher will focus more of its marketing budget there, which in turn could bolster sales of my client’s book and increase the chances of getting a second contract–perhaps the other Christian living book.
- Intangibles. Does one of the publishers in question seem to be a more compatible fit for my client? Publishing houses have their own unique culture. As professionals in this business, the author and the publisher’s team assigned to work on the book are expected to work together cooperatively. But being human in this fallen world, occasionally this becomes a challenge, ad when that happens, the book’s quality can be negatively affected.
Notice I used the word potential frequently. This is an imperfect science. But agents work hard to stay current with reader trends and what publishers are doing in order to give our clients educated advice. None of the above factors taken separately should determine the best approach. It’s more like a pro’s and con’s list with some factors coming to the forefront over others.
When I guide my client through these questions and we plan our strategy together, we’ll be unified on the best course of action in choosing the publisher to submit to first. Then we wait to see what happens. Did I say this is an imperfect science? It’s because no one in this crazy, exciting, meaningful industry is omniscient.
Did you identify any factor that is especially important to you as you read the list? Did you become aware of insights an agent can provide you that you hadn’t thought about before?
Planning your work and working your plan isn’t always simple in this industry. Click to Tweet.
Talking through questions together helps an agent and client plan the best course of action. Click to Tweet.
Choosing the best course of action for a client is an imperfect science. An agent can help by asking the right questions. Click to Tweet.