|My work in publishing is like an unfinished puzzle.|
I’ve worked at three publishers as an acquisitions editor. For the last six years, I've been acquiring books at Morgan James Publishing. There is one key lesson that I’ve learned: You are never caught up—yes never. Unfinished business is a part of the work.
There is always more email to answer and more phone calls to make and more to be done. While I am never caught up, I continue to work on the priorities. For example, an author yesterday sent me an email objecting to some things about the Morgan James publishing program and essentially told me that she was going to pass on our contract offer. I wrote a detailed response, answering each of her concerns (that she mentioned) and offering a revised and improved contract. She appreciated the effort and is looking at it again. Will it work to convince her to sign with Morgan James? That decision has not been rendered but I hope so. At least I’m doing my part to persist and not give up.
Each author has to decide what they are going to do. Some authors make quick decisions while others look at many different publishers and options before they return to Morgan James and decide fo sign. The path to publication varies for each author. From my years in publishing, I understand our publishing model at Morgan James is different and part of my responsibility is to highlight those differences so the author understands the value. After they understand, they can choose to go elsewhere but I’ve served them with the information. We work hard at answering authors questions and helping them in any way that we can. From my experience no publisher does enough for their authors but we certainly do more than many publishers.
The best publishing isn’t done alone. Yes more than a million books were self-published last year. The best publishing is a team effort—getting the best title and cover design and shape of the book then selling that book to the bookstores as a team. We show the covers to our sales people and get their feedback. The team is always able to make better decisions than an individual from my experience.
As an editor, I have books in many different stages of the process. Some authors have signed with the publishing house and their books are in production. Other authors have not signed but are considering signing. Other authors have just submitted their materials and I’m pitching or championing their manuscript to my colleagues to see if I can get them a book contract. While I am respected and build the best possible case with my colleagues, I don’t always succeed. Some of my pitches are rejected and do not receive contracts. The process is all part of that consensus-building process that I was telling you about.
Other times I get push back from my colleagues asking about the author’s connections and marketing plans. I attempt to gather as much of those connections and marketing plans in my pitch to my colleagues but sometimes my words are not enough and need more from the author. This week I went back to an author and asked for more details. They are working on those details and as soon as I have them I will share them with my colleagues. The back and forth is all part of the process.
As I tell every author, the publisher is investing a large amount of money in the creation, production and marketing of the book. If the author is not engaged in this process and selling books to their connections, then no one succeeds. The publisher and the author lose money in the process.
Book selling has several key components in my view:
1. The book has to have great contents and read well.
2. The book cover design and interior have to look high quality and inviting.
3. The book has to be properly distributed so readers can purchase the book. For example, Morgan James not only gets the book on Amazon but also on 1800 other online distributors. They not only sell the book online but also in brick and mortar bookstores.
4. Yet a forgotten key element is the author drives the readers to the bookstore to purchase the book. If the author doesn’t drive readers to the bookstore, then the books are returned to the publisher—and no one sells books.
As an editor, there is always more to be done—more to promote and more to pitch. Yet also as an author, I can always be doing more too. The work is never finished and it’s one of the elements that people like me who work in publishing have to keep in mind. We get up every day and do our best to complete the work and move things forward in this process.
Because we are imperfect humans, the process is imperfect. Occasionally we hear from our readers about the impact of our books and our work and how they have changed people’s lives. Far too often we never hear about the impact of our books and our writing. That’s where the faith element is publishing enters the picture. We do the best we can each day and leave the rest in God’s hands.
Do you have unfinished business as a writer? How are you handling it? Tell us in the comments below.
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