Monday, July 19, 2010

The intangibles in weighing publishing offers

by Jane

Recently, I was selling a book and had three offers – one from a large, well known publishing house, one from a medium sized company, slightly less well known and the last offer was from a tiny publisher located far from New York. After weighing all of the terms of the offers, I recommended to my client that she accept the third offer. My client, quite rightly, wanted to know why.

There are so many factors to consider when one has more than one offer. First, of course, and it was true in this case, is the amount of the advance and the royalty rates. These are important considerations, especially the royalties, when the amounts of the advances are close to each other.

But then there are the other less tangible things:

What is the payout of the advances? In this day and age when advances are being broken down into smaller and smaller increments, the payout becomes every bit as important as the total amount, if not more.

What is the publisher’s distribution capability? Does it have its own sales force or does it use commissioned reps? How are the books presented at sales conferences?

How do the publishers envision the book? What will it look like? Where will they concentrate sales?

How will the book fit into their existing publishing programs? Will it get buried or will it be a lead title?

How enthusiastic is the editor; is that enthusiasm shared by the company’s senior management?

How accessible is the editor? Will the author and the agent be able to communicate with him or her easily?

Will the author be consulted thoughtfully on the title, the cover, the press release, etc.?

What is the publisher’s web presence and how does it promote its books both traditionally and electronically.

All of these things I believe are more important than just being published haphazardly by one of the big name publishers, where the editor is so busy he or she doesn’t have time to return a phone call or ask for the author’s opinion and where, ultimately, the book gets completely lost.

In fact, we do a lot of business with some smaller companies and have seen the books we steer their way sell hundreds of thousands of copies more than they would have had they been published by larger houses.

I’d love to hear about your experiences in this regard. What do you think are the most important factors in deciding which publishing house to go with when there are multiple offers at approximately the same financial level?


  1. This is a great post! I've often wondered what I might discuss with my agent when we get to this point. Thanks so much for giving me insight!

  2. Wonderful post, Jane, thank you so much for this! This is exactly the kind of thing unpublished writers are curious about, but rarely have occasion to find out about!

  3. Thanks for sharing this! I had no idea that the "brass ring" might be a smaller house.

  4. Appreciate this look at publishing from an agent's viewpoint. Some excellent questions to ask and good things to consider. Thanks for the post!

  5. I think an important factor in choosing a publishing house would be how they plan on marketing my book both online and off.

  6. Editor enthusiasm and marketing would tip the scale for me. I'd rather take a smaller advance than go with a house where they aren't crazy in love with my book and looking forward to promoting it.

  7. Renee Restivo26/7/10 1:47 AM

    I would consider the quality of the books that the house has published in the past.

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