Various publishing houses approach the editorial function differently. Yet, the main job of all editors is to find good manuscripts, develop them, and then sell these manuscripts to the in-house departments. With the help of Len Goss, I revised my $5 packet on How to Submit a Book Proposal. In the packet, Len suggested four basic steps that he uses in reaching the publishing decision. He has given me permission to share these here with you.
1. Evaluation: The editor who receives the proposal is going to ask some hard questions about it. Does it fit squarely within the general publishing parameters of the publishing house? Does it fall within the mission statement? Is the topic timely? Is the topic significant? Is the manuscript’s readability level about right? Is it well written? Is the structure of the project coherent? Does the manuscript or the book idea stimulate thought and inquiry? Is it generally usable for courses in the typical curriculum? If so, which courses and at what level? Is this an economically viable book? Will it attract a reading audience?
2. Review: What usually happens when an editor’s initial response is favorable is that he or she will ask for the opinions of colleagues in the publishing house. In many cases, the material is sent to outside reviewers who are asked to read and evaluate the manuscript. The outside reviewers are chosen for their expertise in the subject matter of the manuscript. Sometimes manuscripts are sent to several reviewers, all in the attempt to determine the strength and weaknesses of the author’s position or presentation. When the editor receives all the reviews, he or she must then weigh them and decide whether to reject the project or move it to the next stage, which in most cases means taking it to the publications board at the publishing house.
3. Decision: If things look positive from the editor’s perspective, the project then goes to the publications board. This committee usually includes all the editors, the people from marketing, the sales team, various business managers, the publisher, and so on. The editor presents a summary of the manuscript to this group, and also present things like the author’s credentials, a summary of the critical reviews, his own evaluation, and a summary of the financial projections. Financial projections are done on all books. They include projected sales figures, an estimated cost for producing the book, and an analysis of projected cost versus projected sales.
4. Contract: If most of the members of the publications board see the project in a positive light, then the standard “rich and famous” contract is offered to the author.
All editors have this in common according to Len: They are paid to process words into communication packages. They achieve this by getting the right idea together with the right author. It may be the author’s idea or the editor’s. But ultimately the rubber meets the road when the right idea gets into the hands of the right author. When this mix is achieved, the publishing house has a winning book.
Susan Titus Osborn is the author of 29 books. Join her six-session e-mail course and work personally with her to obtain valuable instruction and personal mentoring. E-mail: Susanosb@AOL.com. Write: 3133 Puente Street, Fullerton CA 92835.