Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Perspective from the Publishing House

A recent comment reminded me of how lucky I am to have been an editor before becoming an agent. The knowledge I have from working inside a publishing house gives me the unique ability to fully understand the acquisition process and to know what might happen when a book is brought up in an editorial meeting.

In response to my post “The Driver’s Seat” about a recent sale, a reader asked:

My understanding is, several folks at a publishing house must read and approve a ms before an offer is made. Since Christine's book was such a hot prospect, did it still go through a committee? (I'm wondering how a group of people can get their act together quick enough on a Friday afternoon to present an offer on a Monday morning.)

While it is true that most manuscripts require multiple reads before an offer can be made, there are always exceptions to the rule. And keep in mind that every publishing house works differently and every deal is different. If an editor has years of experience and a strong track record, often she will be trusted enough that if she likes something and wants to buy it (especially in a situation with multiple offers) she will be allowed to do so. It’s also a misconception that a manuscript always goes through a committee. The “committee” reading the book can sometimes be no more than one other person. Sometimes another, well-trusted, editor, and sometimes the editorial director or publisher.

In this particular case, the editors we submitted to read the material over the weekend. All were asked to get back to me by Monday morning. If an editor loved the book she would obviously need to talk with others within the house and possibly get second reads. She would also have to run a P&L (Profit and Loss statement) to get a sense of how much they are able to offer. If I know on Monday morning that she is hoping to make an offer, then I can plan for what’s next (an auction or just multiple bids) and give them another deadline (possibly Tuesday) for when offers need to be in.

It’s amazing what people can do, and how quickly they can do it, when there’s a sense of urgency.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for addressing this question! (I was the one who asked it.) Very helpful information, as always.

I'm agented but unpublished, and am doing my best to understand this wacky business.