Ask an Editor
Not long ago, Stephanie blogged on finding the literary agent that's right for you. I'd already known I would be writing about finding the publishing house that's right for you, so this post of hers got me really excited for the subject. In a lot of ways, it's a similar process. And in some very interesting ones, it's a whole new game.
I know a lot of authors, and I can honestly say that I've never talked to any who said, "I want Big Press as my publisher, and no one else. If they won't give me a contract, then I'm done." Usually it's more like, "I have this list of ten thousand publishers, and I'm sending to them all. Whichever one bites is the one I'm going with."
As with most things in life, a middle ground must be found. ;-)
So how do you even compile your list of dream publishers? I daresay most of you have one already. It's the list of publishers who have put out books you love. Publishers with visions you think are awesome. Publishers with an editor you'd just adore the chance to work with. This list is a great thing to have, especially if you've really studied the industry. If you know that Big House specializes in steampunk and Big Press is futuristic science fiction, though both merely say "speculative" on their website. It's handy to have an idea of what each publisher might mean by "historical" (prairie? biblical? western? Gilded Age? Regency?) or "contemporary" (lighthearted? romantic? dramatic?).
But realistically, when you have an agent, they present your book to a whole slew of publishers at once. There is always a criteria, a system, and often your agent will talk about pros and cons: "Big House is starting a new line, and the editor is really excited about it. Your book would be perfect--but before we'd even consider signing with them, I want to talk to Ms. Editor about their marketing plans, because if they don't launch big, it could flop, and you don't want to be caught up in that. Now Big Press over here--this is their specialty, and you're a great match. But they would want you solely to support Star Writer, and she'd be the one getting the big push from them, you'd just be singing backup."
And even once you land that first contract, you still often have a dilemma. Your new publisher only wants your historicals, for instance, and not your science fiction. Your fantasy series is a good match, but they have no interest in that other idea you've been working on for five years. Or even if it all fits, they only want one title per year from you, and you churn out four. So...now what?
This, my friends, is why a lot of authors work with more than publisher. Either to diversify or to try to match their writing output with their publishing output. Or, occasionally, because that dream contract they landed turned out to be not so perfect after all. Maybe they clashed with their editor or marketing team...maybe the publisher is cutting back...maybe they didn't get the support they were hoping for. So there they are again, back to hunting up a deal.
A lot of times, it's a matter of finding the perfect match for a particular project. A perfect example of this is WhiteFire's latest release. Trapped: The Adulterous Woman is the first in a series of biblical novellas about the unnamed women in the gospels by well-established author Golden Keyes Parsons. Golden's debut novel was a historical fiction set in the court of King Louis XVI of France, in the days when the Huguenots had to flee for their lives. Thomas Nelson picked up this series and has published four of her historicals, which take the readers from France to America, all the way up through the Civil War. Golden has really enjoyed working with them.
But all these years, she's had a novella series close to her heart--and Thomas Nelson wasn't interested in novellas, nor in biblical fiction. They passed on it and gave her permission to seek publication for it elsewhere. Now, round about the time she started thinking about this, WhiteFire put out two biblicals by yours truly. Golden read them, thought, "Wow, they would be a great match for my novellas!" and submitted it to us.
The result is, as they say, history. WhiteFire had the joy of adding a well-established author to the line, and Golden got to see this series of her heart see publication. A win for all involved!
Now, there is still a give-and-take--WhiteFire, for instance, can't offer the huge marketing push and distribution that Thomas Nelson can. On the other hand, we give a more personal touch--Golden had a lot of input on cover design, she knows she can ask me anything and I'll get back to her pronto, and we have a very tight-knit community of authors and editors that support, encourage, and promote one another.
Sometimes an author will find a publisher that fits them beautifully, that all their projects work for, and who propels them to greatness that makes them never want to leave. And that is awesome. But for most of us, it's a matter of finding the right for us as people, and for our particular stories at particular times.
Have questions about how to know if a publisher is right for you? Or another question that's been on your mind? I'll be here to answer them!