A Brief Look At the Major Players
A week ago at this time, I was going from appointment to appointment in New York City. A time or two each year, I get to visit New York and love the feel of this city. Like I usually do, I purchased an unlimited subway ticket (which also works on the bus system). So for $24 you can ride throughout the city to different meetings. It’s almost as quick as taking a taxi and definitely reduced economics. New Yorkers are helpful to find the right train going the right direction. You have to constantly remember if you want to go uptown (north) or downtown (south) and every now and then you go “across town” or shuttle from east to west or west to east. There is a whole different side of life that you can view in the subway and I find it fascinating.
New York is filled with skyscrapers and tucked into these tall buildings are a lot of offices. It’s the nerve center of the U.S. when it comes to publishing. Earlier this week, I mentioned reading Bestselling Book Proposals. I arranged one of my appointments with one of the top literary agencies in New York City. Since my last visit several years ago with this agent, he had changed offices. I found my way to his Madison Avenue address and checked in with the security people on the first floor. The security man asked me to stand in a particular place and they took my photo and printed a small visitors badge with my name and photo. Then I was directed to a particular bank of elevators (different elevators went to a different series of floors) and the security man buzzed a gate to allow me into the elevators. My ears popped with the express elevator and this particular agency consumes the entire floor of this building.
Walking out of the elevator, you immediately see a wall of books with the cover face out. These are a few of the titles from the agencies top authors and I recognized many of the titles and authors. Outside of the elevator, I had to ring another bell so the receptionist for the agency could unlock the door into the agency. Earlier this week I mentioned the statistic in Bestselling Book Proposals about books that fail. This agent had a copy of the same book. He didn’t know where it came from but his copy magically appeared on his desk when he was at lunch. “And you can see the type of security we have in this building, Terry?” The source of the copy was a mystery to the agent. He was interested in my Book Proposals That Sell since he’s always looking for new insight into the proposal process—especially from my editor perspective.
Here’s a bit of publishing insight from Bestselling Book Proposals in the initial chapter where the authors give insight into how book publishing works. “Six huge, multinational conglomerates dominate the book-publishing business; together , they put out about 80 percent of all books sold. Four of these giants are foreign owned, but all have headquarters in New York City, which is the world book-publishing center. As a result, the big six are considered “New York Publishers,” which carries a certain literary cachet, even though they’re actually owned by corporations based in Munich, London, or Sydney.”
Now these six main publishers have many “imprints” or subsidiary companies inside them. Here are big six:
- Random House, Inc.
- The Penguin Group
- Holzbrinck Publishing Holdings — you might not recognize this one but here’s some of their imprints: Henry Holt, Macmillan and St. Martin’s.
- Time Warner Book Group, Inc.
- Simon & Schuster, Inc.
The seventh major publisher is Disney Publishing Worldwide. As Bestselling Book Proposals says, “In addition to the giant publishers, Dan Poynter reports that some 300 to 400 medium-sized publishers exist, along with more than 85,000 small and self-publishers.”
The volume of possibilities for publishing can make your head spin and wonder how you will ever manage to sort through it. You might not have to sort through these various publishers. Because of the high volume of inappropriate submissions, many publishers (large and small) have closed their doors to unsolicited manuscripts and book proposals. This fact causes a lot of heartburn and frustration for new writers who want to get a book published. They dream of writing a book but don’t know how to get the editor’s attention. One of the best ways is to attend a large writer’s conference and begin a relationship with an editor from a publisher you are targeting for your proposal. I understand the necessary commitment to attend a conference in terms of financial and time.
The other possibility is to create an excellent book proposal which an agent will want to represent to the various publishers. The literary agent can approach any publisher with a project from their writer/ client. Often someone will ask me to refer them to a literary agent. Here’s a common fact in the publishing world: every agent is looking for the “right” new client. Yes, they may have a full slate of authors and look incredibly busy and unavailable—but if you present them with an excellent book proposal which they want to champion and sell for you. Then their busy schedule suddenly disappears for you. My charge to you who want to find a literary agent: find one the safe way (follow this link) and write with excellence.