Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Work with the Middleman

Middleman-graphicSeveral days ago, I wrote about how many writers are attempting to get devotional books published yet publishers are using book packagers or book producers to make these books.   I’ve been doing some additional thinking about this topic because it’s my turn to lead a discussion on an online writer’s group (which isn’t as public of a forum as this blog).  Many writers are approaching a publisher for a devotional book or children’s book. They are trying to work with the wrong person.  In many cases, the publisher isn’t using individual writers for these products. They are using a middleman. If you don’t know about the middleman or book packager, then you can’t find the work. Packagers hire writers.

Publishers use packagers or book producers because these sources have earned their dependability and trust.  With a high level of confidence a publisher can give a packager an assignment usually based on a small sample of the design and writing. The publisher doesn’t have to use much internal energy from their editors or graphic designers (I say much because someone in house has to monitor the packagers work but it involves a small amount of time). And the publisher can depend on this packager to deliver excellence on time (and writers are notoriously late).

When I was doing some research for this online discussion, I learned about the American Book Producer Association which has been around since 1980. I should not have been surprised there is a trade organization of packagers.  These packagers hire writers and graphic designers to pull together these finished books for publishers. Their site includes some excellent articles including What Is A Book Producer and Why Publishers Use Packagers. Also notice a valuable resource for writers—a directory of their members including name, address, phone numbers and email addresses.

Hold up a minute before you flood their offices with submissions and paperwork. Do you want to get some of this writing work? The majority of it is work made for hire and some writers resist this type of writing but I’ve done a lot of it over the years.  If you decide you want to pursue some of this writing, then like any type of submission, you need to make a good first impression. What do you have to show these book producers that you can write and deserve one of their assignments? What types of books do they produce? Have you written the type of material the producer has done in the past? How can you show the packager that you will be an excellent choice to meet their needs? These questions are a few of the ones you will answer with your approach and it will increase their interest and your possibility for an assignment.

Even with a good pitch, you should be prepared to try out on speculation. A few times, I’ve tried out for some packagers and not received the assignment. That experience always feels bad for the writer because essentially you’ve poured creative work and energy into something which hasn’t gone ahead—or has gotten rejected. But I want you to know you can be rejected for your try out work with the packager. It’s another reality of the business of publishing. For whatever reason, they didn’t feel like it was a good fit—and it’s their call (which I respect). Other times, I’ve tried out and received the assignment, met the deadline and received fair compensation for solid work (all that anyone can ask for in this publishing business).

As I’ve mentioned in the past, there are no short cuts or quick fixes. Just understand using a book producer could be another opportunity for you to practice your writing craft and build some more experience. In this case, you can’t cut out the middleman but need to work with this company.

7 Comment:

At 10:24 AM, Blogger Robin Bayne Left a note...

Thanks for the great info, Terry!

At 7:22 PM, Blogger Bonnie S. Calhoun Left a note...

Thanks for the great resource, Terry.

You are a veritable cornucopia of information!

At 5:42 AM, Blogger Donna J. Shepherd Left a note...

Thanks, Terry!

At 5:53 AM, Blogger Joanne Brokaw Left a note...

As always, Terry, you offer invaluable information! Thanks for taking time to explain it all for us. :)
Joanne Brokaw

At 12:17 PM, Blogger The Encourager Left a note...

Terry, Until a recent post where you mentioned packagers, I was unfamiliar with the concept. Is there a list of packagers/producers that work with Christian publishers?


At 12:26 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


There are Christian packagers that work with writers. Follow the link in this post for the directory and you will find a few Christian publishers. Ask around and most importantly--go to a bookstore and study some of the copyright pages. You will find them. They are not immediately evident but they are there. I'm not going to be including a list because I will definitely miss some--and it's not my place in these entries about the writing life. If you seek them, you can find them.

The Writing Life

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Trish Ryan Left a note...

Great article! It's good to be reminded that just because we think we've created something fabulous, that doesn't mean we can just throw it at some random person in publishing and expect the whole system to adapt to us. :)


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