Wednesday, September 30, 2009

After the Proposal: the Wedding

So what happens to your book proposal after you've poured your blood, sweat and fears into it? (Be sure to read my previous post so you're ready for this part).

Submission: If you have an agent (difficult to interest one with a first book, but if it's good enough, it's possible), you submit it to him (in my case, Greg Johnson of WordServe Literary Agency) and he in turn, tweaks it to his high standards and then submits it to an editor at a publishing house. Actually, he sends it to more than one. If you don't have an agent, you submit the proposal yourself after you've received a positive response to your query (one-page pitch letter).

Literary Limbo-land: You wait. Your proposal is piled with the other submissions and sometime within the next six months (a week or two if you're lucky), the editor sneaks a peek at it. If interest is piqued, she will likely read it thoroughly and discuss it with the editorial team at an "acq ed" meeting (acquisitions editorial).

They will be looking at all aspects of your proposal: your writing skills, idea, timeliness of topic, author platform, marketability, voice. If your proposal falls flat at any point along this continuum, a rejection letter will find it's way to your in-box or mailbox.

Hope on the Horizon: If your submission makes it past the acq ed board, you can start to breathe again, but don't bet the farm yet. It is passed on to the Pub Committee, where many projects are nixed. The Pub Committee is made up of the big cheeses: the publisher, editorial director, marketing director, sales director, and sometimes even the CFO. The question now is not just whether the book is good (it wouldn't have made it this far if it wasn't), but will it sell? Is it a good fit with the publishing company? Is it too much like any other projects already in the works? (This last question killed at least one of my books.)

This is where your book is studied under a microscope. The market will be analyzed and numbers crunched: first-year sales projections, production costs, royalty rates, etc. You are now an objective product that must be processed.

The Engagement Ring: If your book is still alive and well at this stage, a contract offer will be forthcoming via your agent (if you have one). If it doesn't make this final cut, your "pass" letter will arrive (they don't like to call them rejection letters but you and I know that's what it feels like). You are free to try another publishing house, and I highly recommend that you do so.

But if the glitter of a diamond announces an engagement, you're to be congratulated!

Stay tuned next week for the next exciting steps to publication . . .

*Special thanks to Rachelle Gardner, WordServe Literary Agent for her input; if you don't already get her excellent newsletter, you should sign up!