Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
What happens when multiple publishers are interested in a single manuscript? Authors and their agents are in the position of being able to choose the best publisher among those 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?”
Here are 6 factors we consider when choosing a publisher.
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’s certainly 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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Rachelle, good points. When it comes to advance, an author has to decide whether a larger advance with little opportunity to get further royalties (“bird in the hand”) is preferable to a smaller advance and the likelihood of future royalties (“two in the bush”). And now I understand some publishers are talking about no advance. It’s all changing.
Another big factor is the “dream publisher.” That’s where an agent, who has inside information authors may not know, is very helpful.
It’s a tough decision, but a nice one to have, and very few of us actually face that problem. Thanks for sharing this insight.
Agents having the advantage of already knowing most of the editors seems a huge advantage and blessing to the author. You parallel to a shepherd in many ways, using your expertise to help guide the author’s path … a steady hand to hold.
It’s good to see the well-rounded aspects that go into a decision regarding deciding on a publisher in an auction situation. All of these facets of the decision-making process are important, but I think knowing that there’s complete buy-in from the publisher as a whole is pretty important. Knowing there’s complete support would give great peace of mind for any author.
Nice list! I’d add “consistency in the management team”. Saw a PBS show on John Denver, and learned that he was dumped from RCA in the late 80s not for a lack of popularity, but because they changed top management often, to bring in younger people, and it was with these Young Turkeys…sorry, young Turks that he had fallen from favour…if they even knew who he was. Consistency of management should (hopefully) lead to consistent and trustworthy vision.
Money would not be that important to me; a big advance without strong marketing and placement would be a step down the slippery slope of “oooh, he didn’t earn back the advance, PASS!”
Consistency in the management team . . . my experience in publishing is slim, but I’ve witnessed my fair share of inconsistent management. There’s nothing like changing rules and roles to deep six morale (unless it is already rock bottom, and change brings a hopeful glimmer). Thankfully, our God-who-does-not-change-like-shifting-shadows is ultimately in charge. As for money, I’m right there with you, Andrew. While I wouldn’t turn it down, a first-book advance would have the unintended consequence of sweaty palms, weak knees and self doubt. Which, come to think, could be very inspiring.
“… a big advance without marketing and placement…”
My dream publisher will pursue marketing and placing my books. And will have concrete advice to help me put together a doable marketing effort on my own behalf as well.
Is this asking too much?
Kristen Joy Wilks
Hmmm…it’s posts like this that allow us the joy of dreaming big. Love it. Thanks Rachelle for teaching us and letting us dream all at once.
Every time I read ‘dream big’, my mind translates it to Dream Pig, and I think of Wilbur, from Charlotte’s Web, who dreamt of a life free of the smokehouse’s shadow.
As for number one, no one is sadder when a much-wanted (by the editor) book goes to another publishing house because one or more of the other factors didn’t line up. 🙁
Thanks for these great factors to consider. My first book is releasing next month, and I have had the most wonderful experience with Revell/ Baker Publishing Group. Vicki Crumpton, my editor championed by book, and the entire rest of the team has been incredibly supportive and helpful at every turn. I feel very blessed and wanted to share a very positive experience, since often we only hear the hard ones.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Ooooh, I met Cicki Crumpton at a writer’s conference years ago. She was very nice.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Argh! Vicki that would be Vickie.
No experience, but would love to have the problem. I believe I’d follow the advice of the best agent with a good track record and shows enthusiastic interest in my baby.
Great article, Rachelle. It’s pretty much as I expected/hoped.
I would consider numbers one, two, and three very high on the list of my priorities.
More money does not necessarily mean a better working relationship, but yes, it is something to consider.
I only wish I was at that point to grapple with what you just wrote! But will keep this information back in the recesses of my mind….when the need arises.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Great post, Rachelle.
My deeply thought out plan is “do what Mary says”.
I figure she’ll know WAY more than I will!
Thank you for this wonderful post, Rachelle. I really appreciate your willingness to teach us how the whole team of a publishing house works with the agent and author in considering a book. Did not have any idea the editor was so critical.
I would definitely want number 2 for my most important on your list. If everyone from the boss down loves it, they will all support it.
Thank you so much. All your advice helps. I work hard in what I write to show the Lord in everything I write. To Him be the glory.