By Ramona Richards
A few weeks ago, I asked my Facebook followers a simple question: If you could ask an editor anything, what would be? The responses, for the most part, reminded me that editors don’t often communicate much about their side of the desk. For instance, this one from author Kellie Coates Gilbert:
What is the single most critical question an author often fails to ask when considering partnering with a publishing house?
In my mind, the answer would be: Where do I fit in your publishing plan?
Most authors – me included – get so excited about just getting a publishing contract that we don’t stop to think whether our book is a good fit for that house. We don’t want to rock the boat by questioning too many of their decisions. But the question above is a legitimate one for a number of reasons, and any marketing/editorial team should be able to answer it easily. Books are ranked on an upcoming list the minute the contract is approved.
The details you’ll be looking for include the following:
Are you a key title? If not, less marketing money and efforts will be geared toward placing and selling your book. Are you prepared to pick up the slack with your own marketing and publicity efforts? After publication, can you put effort and time into proving you are a viable author to re-sign to future contracts? To prove you need a better slot for the next book?
Are you in the right season? Some books just lend themselves to spring, summer, or fall because of their topics, themes, or setting. Is your book a light, feel-good romcom best suited for a summer beach read? Or is it heavy with character transformation and introspection that might work better for a reader curled by the fire. Do your characters celebrate any holiday? If you think you’re in the wrong place, don’t hesitate to ask about being moved. It may delay a few royalty payments, but it’ll mean better sales in the long run.
How much will be expected of me during the release month? If your marketing team is going to need you for interviews, web chats, personal appearances, etc., you don’t want to schedule important deadlines for the same time. Trying to finish a book and market one at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Not only does it set you up for lackluster performance on both counts but it pegs you as unreliable…not a reputation ANY author wants. You may be SuperAuthor, able to handle all things at all times, but the stress is just not necessary.
Getting a book placed with a publisher isn’t just about the writing and the editing. It’s about finding the right home for the right book. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how they’re going to treat your darling in the long run.
Ramona Richards is the Senior Acquisitions Editor for Christian Living and Fiction at Abingdon Press. A writer and editor since 1981, Ramona has worked on staff or as a freelancer with more than 20 magazine and book publishers. She’s the author of two devotional books, seven novels, and numerous articles.