I’ve only mentioned it a few times on this blog, but I consider myself very lucky to work at a publishing house. And I love what I do! For a while, my career was taking a different path, and it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I hoped. I took a chance on publishing, thinking it would be a “dream job,” and guess what? Dreams can become reality. I love working with books, and every day brings new learning at the publishing house. It’s not a dream every day, but I sure do enjoy what I do.
I used to work with the nonfiction divisions at the house, but I recently transitioned to the fiction team. Which is very! exciting. But since I’m moving away from nonfiction, and the more general role I previously held, I thought I would share a few lessons learned and insights gained during that time. These are tidbits not only that I learned, but I thought might be interesting for others in the writing world who are looking to getting traditionally published. So here we go!
Most authors who get signed have an agent
We have an online submission system that we direct authors to who want to submit an unsolicited manuscript to us, but generally speaking, we do not take unsolicited manuscripts. Nearly all authors who get signed have an agent, or get one early on in the game. Those who didn’t have an agent but still got a deal connected with the acquiring editor at a conference or through another author we publish. Agents are important! And if you don’t have an agent, you definitely have to get yourself out there.
Titles are not the author’s decision–and they can’t be trademarked, either
We work hard to collaborate with authors on their book titles, but the ultimate decision comes down to the publisher. There may be a rare case where an author worked a clause into their contract, but even then it never goes further than joint agreement on the title. About half the time, we’ll use the title an author proposes, and the other half of the time, we’ll go with a different idea we came up with. Sometimes, those titles might be the title of another book–and again, we do try not to use titles in our space that are recent. But the occasional drama does come up! *shrugs*
Author platform does matter
This may be more specific to nonfiction books, but this really is true. I know this is something debated in the writing community, but it definitely is important in all I’ve seen. Granted, “important” ends up mattering in different ways. Here’s what I mean–our publishing committee discusses an author’s platform before we ever sign them. Sometimes, we make a comment about the small platform, but if we really like the content and enough people speak up in support for it, we might move forward with a book, giving it a small projection. However, if an author has a small platform and weak content, that might sway the room against the proposal. So, all said, platform makes a difference, but it’s not the sole deciding factor.
You don’t need an English degree to work at a publishing house
Yes, many people do have English degrees–at least the people in the editorial department. But there are tons of different roles at a publishing house that lots of people don’t ever think about–rights and contracts, production, sales, marketing, customer service, design, and more! Some of these departments might require a college degree, but many others might not. There’s a starting place for everyone, and typically lots of ways to grow and strengthen your career no matter where you begin.
Publishing schedules work way in advance–and all at once
Explanation: We work on three schedules, spring, summer, and fall. At any given time, we’re at a different point for each season, and we’ll be working on anywhere from three to five seasons at a time. For example, right now, we are just getting start on books releasing in spring 2020, and we’re at various points for books releasing in fall 2019, summer 2019, and of course, those releasing now in spring 2019. Especially in my previous assistant position, I was always looking ahead to schedule meetings and plan for books releasing years from now. Plus, we’ll look at new book proposals and might sign the author, but the book won’t be due for at least a year. This publishing business takes time, which is necessary but can also be infuriating!
That’s all for today! Interested in more insights from the publishing house? I’m sure I’ll have tons more to share from everything I’m learning while working in fiction. Stay tuned!
Until next time,