Today we’re going to daydream. Pretend you have an agent and you two have worked hard to get your book and book proposal perfected. Now she's ready to submit your proposal to an editor. She will likely send a quick email to tell you, “Just submitted your proposal to Tom over at ACB Publishers. Now we’ll wait and see what they say!” Depending on how you communicate with your agent, she might call you to tell you this.
What happens next depends on the publishing house. Some houses are really slow. Some move faster. So you might get an update from your agent in a few weeks, or you might not hear anything for many months.
Meanwhile, here's what Tom is up to over at ACB Publishers. As the young adult editor at ABC, he works from seven in the morning to about eight at night. He’s on salary, so there is no overtime pay. He works on about twenty-five books in a year. Today he’s working on a content edit for one title, slogging through some more pages of a line edit on another, he’s got a meeting with a cover designer to give feedback on a reprint cover, he’s got to talk to Rachel in marketing about a book trailer, he needs to call the publicist in New York to talk out some ideas one of his authors has for promoting her book, he has a meeting with his boss, the publisher, to touch base, and he had 356 emails in his inbox, including some projects to reject, and he'd love to get his inbox to 300 before he goes home.
A few weeks later your agent calls to follow up. No, Tom hasn’t had a chance to read your proposal yet but promises to try and get to it today.
When Tom finally gets a chance to read it, he LOVES it! He still needs a good fantasy project in his spring 2014 line, and this could be the book! He’s so excited he puts the project on the agenda for the next editorial board meeting. He doesn’t have time to call your agent and let him know this, however. So you don't know either!
But Tom does bring your proposal to the next editorial board meeting. At ABC, this meeting is made up of four people: Tom, the YA editor; Sue, the children’s editor; Kathy, the middle grade editor; and Mike, the editorial director, a guy in charge of all the editors. Even though each of these editors are responsible for different things, they work as a team when they develop the ABC children’s line. In this meeting Tom will pitch your project to the other editors. If they hate it, they’ll say so. And if Tom can’t get the editorial board excited about your book, he likely won’t take it any further. Your book might be rejected here.
Here is a sample conversation from the editorial meeting after Tom presented your book to the team:
Kathy (middle grade): I love it. But the premise sounds younger. Maybe you should send it to me.
Mike (editorial director): Tom, you think this should maybe be a middle grade project?
Tom: No. I want this one for YA. I think it has great appeal for an older reader.
Sue (children’s): My concern is that this is a new author. You’re so busy right now. Do you have time to work with a new author? You know how they can be.
Tom: I love this project so much it will be worth the extra effort. I’ll work on it from home if I have to.
Mike (editorial director): Wow, okay. Who’s the agent?
Tom: Melanie Smith.
Mike (editorial director): Good! Melanie wouldn’t send us someone who couldn’t follow through.
The editorial board likes the project, so Tom makes a note to include your book in the next pub board meeting and puts the whole thing out of his mind. He’s got a lot to do, after all.
Since the pub board—publishing board—only meets once a month at ABC Publishers, the next time your agent follows up, she learns that Tom intends to present your proposal there. Tom tells your agent how much he loves the project and is hoping it will fill that last publishing slot in the spring 2014 line. Your agent emails or calls you to relay this information.
You're doing a happy dance. You want to tell everyone and their cat, but you hold back. There is still a long way to go.
Things are still crazy over at ABC, so crazy, in fact, that the next pub board meeting got pushed back two weeks to deal with a crisis from a bestselling author who demanded a six-month extension on a book that’s already pre-sold 200,000 copies. It’s “all hands on deck” at ABC to fix this thing. Thankfully, Tom is not the editor working with this bestselling prima donna, but he still gets drawn into the drama.
Eventually, the pub board meeting rolls around. This meeting takes place in a long room at a big table with chairs all around it and a lot of snacks in the center. Since ABC Publishers is a smaller house, there are only ten people present. The publisher (boss), the editorial team (Tom, Sue, Kathy, and Mike), the sales director, his top sales rep, the marketing director Rachel, her assistant, and the finance director.
Here Tom gets his (and your) big chance. He spent a few hours preparing a video presentation to illustrate your project to the pub board. Mike tells everyone that Tom is going to present a young adult fantasy novel by a new author and that the editorial board things this could fill that last slot for spring.
Sales Director: I think this one is great. It’s got a Percy Jackson meets Hunger Games vibe that I can totally sell.
Publisher: I still don’t understand what a crowl is.
Marketing director: Offspring of the gods and an elf. Think Galadriel.
Publisher: So it’s Lord of the Rings meets Percy Jackson meets Hunger Games?
Sales: I like adding Tolkien. That will tie in with the upcoming Hobbit movie.
Publisher: But didn't Percy Jackson do the Greek god thing to death? Can we sell Greek gods anymore?
Marketing director: This one isn’t Greek gods. They’re crowls, which are Greek-like gods set in a fantasy world.
Sales director: I can sell anything I can relate to the Hobbit right now, you bet.
Publisher: Okay, Tom, tell us about these crowls.
Everyone is silent as Tom shares your plot in pictures, almost how a book trailer might look, though Tom narrates the story himself. He also presents the profit and loss statement and talks about sales figures for similar titles, how you have a YouTube channel where you post humorous video book reviews and have a huge following, and how he thinks you would be a great author for ABC.
Publisher: And you want this for spring 2014? You think a new author can turn around the edits that fast?
Tom: Yes. And I’m willing to put in the extra time to make it work.
Mike: The manuscript is done. And the writing is great.
Finance Director: But it’s a lot to invest in an unproven novelist. Can you sell really sell twenty thousand copies on a new author?
Sales: With the Hobbit angle, I can sell fifty.
Finance Director: *snorts* Sure you can.
Publisher: I still don’t understand what a crowl is. It sounds like crone, and what teen wants to read about old ladies?
Sales: A crowl is the new hobbit.
Marketing: A crowl is nothing like a hobbit.
Sales: It is if I say it is.
Mike: Well? Do we make an offer on this one?
Finance: Cut that advance in half and I say yes.
Sales: I say yes. I’ve been looking for a Hobbit angle to sell.
Marketing Director: I vote yes. It’s clever and smart, but accessible.
Publisher: It’s not my kind of book, but I didn’t like vampires or the dystopian craze, either, so I trust your judgment, Mike. And if we can sell twenty-five at the lower advance, I’ll go for it.
And so you get an email or phone call from your agent with an official offer from the publisher! Hallelujah! And offer might look like this:
1. World English language rights
2. All international language rights, worldwide
3. All electronic/digital and ebook rights to the text of the book
4. Non-dramatic audio rights, both on a hard medium (such as a CD) and digital audio download rights
5. DVD curriculum rights
Advance: $5,000 ($2,500 payable on the receipt of signed contract, $2,500 payable on acceptance of manuscript)
Royalty: On 1 to 20,000 copies sold 8% of net, on 20,001 to 40,000 copies sold 9% of net, and on 40,001 and up 10% of net.
Format: Softcover, $9.99, approximately 300 pages
Delivery: April 2013
Target Publication: March 2014
Here you might bring up your concerns over the advance, the royalty rate, or when the manuscript is due. Your agent will negotiate this with the editor and, once she's done, email you a PDF of the book contract. You read this carefully, ask your agent any questions you have, and when you’re done, print three copies, sign each contract, initial each page, and mail them off to the publisher, who will process them, keep a copy for themselves, mail one to you, and the other to your agent. Sometime later, you’ll receive the first half of your advance payment in the mail, minus your agent’s 15%.
What happens next? Tune in next Tuesday to find out.
So what do you think so far? Did you realize how many people the acquisitions editor needs to convince to publish your story? Did you realize that his job was so much more than reading new manuscripts?
And congratulations to those who finalled in last round's contest!
And congratulations to those who finalled in last round's contest!
Laurie J. Curtis