Monday, November 12, 2012

Ask an Editor: The Right Publishing House for You

by Roseanna White, editor for WhiteFire Publishing

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!

22 comments:

  1. This taught me a lot, thanks!
    I have a list of publishers I dream of working with, but I didn't know if it was a bad idea to have a list, since I've always heard to take what you can get.
    I also didn't know you could work with more than one publisher. That's so cool!

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    1. Glad it was helpful, Anna! I think when we're starting out, we all think it's a matter of finding that ONE house--but so often that's only the beginning, LOL. I do know a few people who have only worked with one, but they're the minority.

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    1. Susie certainly found a house with super-fab editors... ;-)

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    2. Oh, yes I did! Super-fab and super-cool!

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  3. Great thoughts! I'm really glad I chose to go with a small publisher for my first release. Although, as you mentioned, the marketing won't be as great as a big publisher--you have a more personal touch. And you can always promote yourself, as well as hire a publicist. I also feel that if I had gone with a bigger company, they might have wanted to change the story a bit to make it not as "edgy". I didn't want that for Purple Moon. Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas has been very patient with me and are really great people to work with.

    Thanks for sharing this post, Roseanna!

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    1. More control is a definite plus of smaller presses! And one of our new authors also has a book releasing with Lighthouse! Fun. =)

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  4. Does having contracts wiht multiple publishers help increase the chances of making a living from writing books? I would like to make a living as an author but I know that's not the most realistic, a girls gotta dream!
    Also,carom reading this it sounds like just bc you get an agent it doesn't mean you have it made for getting published?

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    1. Unfortunately no, finding an agent doesn't mean you have it made! If it did, I would have been published well before I was, LOL. But it's a very important step, and sometimes it's a quick hop from agented to published. One can indeed hope. =)

      As for your first question...it *can* help with that, depending on your reasons for working with multiples. If you have a contract with one house that only allows for one title a year, there's certainly room for more, which will indeed improve your cash flow. But what improves it most is a book that sells well--and selling many different titles doesn't necessarily mean more $ than selling one title very well. It *can* mean that, but no guarantees. There's really no single answer to that question, other than that making a living from writing is HARD.

      At this point in my writing career, I'm making the equivalent of a part-time salary from writing, which is AWESOME. But it's certainly not the primary support of my family! That said, were I not working with two publishers right now (WhiteFire and Harvest House) I wouldn't be making even that part-time equivalent.

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    2. Gotcha! I like to dream that it'll happen. Sigh, where's my millionaire man? Hahaha

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    3. And it very well *could* happen, Tonya! The writing-for-a-living. Millionaire man may or may not be less likely. ;-)

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  5. Great post!
    And I'd like to ask: how long is this whole publishing process? I mean, after you've successfully found a publisher, how many weeks or months does it take for your book to appear in shops?
    Thanks!!! :)
    Alina

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    1. There's a pretty big range, depending on the publisher. Some big houses schedule out 2 years in advance, so from signing of contract to publication, it can be 2 years. Others (usually smaller ones), it'll just be a couple months. Thus far, my quickest turnaround has been 9 months, and my longest just over a year. WhiteFire has a policy that there has to be at least 6 months for the multiple rounds of edits, so that's our minimum.

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    2. Oh, that's horribly long! But I'll cope with it that I might turn 16 till I publish ;) I'm just hoping that it's quicker in my country (not much chance, but hope dies last)

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    3. I know it seems long, but the ones that are rushed are sometimes (not always, but sometimes) of a lower quality, because they're not given the edits they need. So it's a good wait. =) Although Dina, who was on here last week, only had 4.5 months to wait for hers, it just occurs to me! She had the quickest turnaround I'd seen, since she was a launching title for a new line with Zondervan.

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  6. Great post Roseanna, thank you! My mind is always thinking, maybe I should just try the smaller publishing houses, maybe they might more easily take on authors that are not known, or have never published anything. Is that true?

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    1. Often times it is, Arlette, especially in this digital age with all the e-presses springing up. And there are other lines and houses known for breaking in new names too, that are bigger. What genre do you write?

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    2. I write fantasy, mostly with a big touch of romance in it. So many publishing houses seem to have taken on that genre, especially a lot of the smaller ones seem to be generally intrested in it

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  7. Hi Roseanna,

    Great post!!! This is always such an insightful blog!

    And since so many are asking questions and getting great answers, I thought I'd ask one that I've been wondering about. How long does it generally take to hear back from an editor after they get your MS from your agent, like after conference?

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    1. Ha! I laugh because this answer can range from a week to a year and a half. =) Very helpful, eh?

      If they requested a full, then chances are it's going to take them a good while to get through it. Usually months. I think the quickest I've ever heard back on a full submission was three or four months. Of course, when you have an agent, they know when to send those pokes and prods.

      As an editor, I can attest to this too. If it's an author I know and am excited about, I can be quick. Like, a month or two. But in general, it takes me a few months to get around to reading it and then actually reading it, and then more time to talk it over with the team, then an official meeting, often revisited at a second meeting...

      Yes, as one friend recently quotes, "The word 'publishing' is Latin for 'slow.'" ;-)

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  8. I loved this. Very helpful and informative, Roseanna, as all of your posts are. I really enjoyed reading your quick cap of Golden's (her name is so cool) story because I read that Louis XIV series and saw WhiteFire is publishing this new series.

    Ha! I love your friend's quote! :)

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