How Do Publishers Decide What To Publish?

By on July 29, 2017
How Do Publishers Decide What To Publish? - Writer's

To many writers, publishers can seem rather mysterious. When we send our books off we feel as though all we can do is cross our fingers and hope and pray that we are one of the lucky ones.

We are often told that, while a publisher is never going to publish a terribly written book, it can depend on as little as whether they have had their morning coffee or not that could tip them one way or another when it comes to deciding to give a manuscript a second glance.

However, while we may often imagine a lonely editor, sitting in a dark room, surrounded by towers of envelopes and papers, the reality is that publishers have a process. Books that are chosen are not done so on a whim, and it is not simply down to one person and their particular mood on the day as to whether you become a multi-million-pound bestselling author, or continue your depressing job at the fish factory until your dying day.

How publishers decide what to publish is not a secret, and the more authors that learn about the business decisions and the steps it takes to receive that positive news from a publisher, the more chance they have of delivering a manuscript that will make them sit up and pay attention.

So how does it work?

Your submission will be read by an editor. Making sure you send your submission to the right editor is an important first step. Broadly speaking, when they read your submission they will be looking for certain things. They will make an initial decision based upon whether they think your work is well-written and your plot captivating. They will then decide whether they believe it is good enough to attract a wide audience and bring in revenue. Thirdly they will consider whether you, as an author, already have a platform which will help to increase sales. Other factors such as whether they have recently acquired a similar book may also have a bearing on their decision.

If interested, the editor will go on to do a great deal of homework on you as an author, on current trends, and on how they can evidence that your book will sell.

If they decide you take your book forward they usually pitch it at a large meeting where many other people are involved. From editors, assistants, marketing teams and publicity teams - all will listen to them pitch your book and together discuss and decide whether they agree that it has enough merit to take it forward.

Most published books are deemed successful dependent on by how well they sell within the first eight weeks of release. Therefore, publishers will do a profit and loss analysis, trying to determine how well they think your book will do in this time period. For first time authors, this can be tricky, and it depends on how much the publisher is willing to take a risk, how volatile the marketplace is at the time, and whether there is any evidence that books similar to your own have become successful.

As writers, it is important to remember that all publishers at the end of the day, are businesses. They want to make money, and if they don’t, they will fail. When you are writing your book and pitching it to agents and publishers, you need to convince them it will sell. Do your own research and present your pitch in a way that you have done some of that work for them.

At the end of the day, if you can convince a publisher your book will make them money, there is no reason why they wouldn’t take it on.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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