Although the name differs from one publishing company to another, almost all major publishing firms have a process to review ideas before committing any money to either a blad (https://ajpc.co/what-is-a-blad/) or publishing the final book. When AJPC is acting in conjunction with a major publisher like ilex, this is the document that begins the process.

Who sees the proposal?

The Publishing Committee is a regular meeting that assesses new proposals and decides whether they should be worked up into BLADs (sample documents) or – sometimes – simply commissioned as final books without the intervening stage. It consists of representatives of the key departments:

  • Domestic Sales Team: The people who have to get the book into shops will be looking for an idea that they know retailers will want.
  • International Sales & Export: It is likely that the book will be sold in all English-language markets, so someone must ensure the book isn’t too specific to one region or another.
  • Foreign Rights Sales Team: The people who will sell translation deals will be looking for the book to work in their markets, and to be technically simple to translate.
  • Publicity: It’ll be their job to ensure sales in the home market, so they’re looking for anything that makes you promotable, be that a history of doing lectures/TED talks etc. or your own channels (podcast, social media, blog etc.).
  • Senior Staff: The CEO, Editorial Director etc. will take guidance from the sales teams at the presentation, but also have their own goals for their company and its brand.

How do they feed back?

Members of the senior staff tend to respond with their gut instincts and considerations about the overall company strategy/brand, while the more practical sales teams will provide estimated sales numbers. They have access to systems that tell them how other books have done in terms of sales in their respective markets and will use this to make assessments. After a pitch, assuming there are no objections to the overall concept from the senior staff, the sales estimates from the different departments will be used to estimate profitability and, assuming a certain target is met, the book will move forward.

Why does the committee exist?

The point of a committee like this is to ensure that only successful books are commissioned. Publishing a book is a very significant investment – as well as the author’s advance (which the author keeps even if the book doesn’t sell), a publishing house needs to pay for printing and distribution, and commit time to promoting that book. On a personal level, sales staff don’t want to risk their reputations by promoting a book that ends up not selling. Publishers also need to be careful as traditional bookstores will return unsold books to the publisher after a while.

What should I do so my book succeeds?

Actually getting past the committee to at least the BLAD stage should be reasonably straightforward if you’re working with AJPC, since you’ll only be approaching a committee that is right for the idea in question. Sometimes, of course, even the best ideas won’t overcome the prejudice of committee members (Harry Potter was turned down 12 times and Twilight 14 by different publishers). But you can really help things along by:

  • Publicity: Provide AJPC with every possible connection you have to magazines, and privately share the size of any email list you have built up. Although publishers will do a lot to assist publicity efforts, publicity departments are much happier to work with authors who can also help themselves.
    • Social media numbers: High is good, obviously, but evidence of engagement is great too.
    • Email: If you can commit to sending a promotion email to your own followers that is great!
    • Foreword: Can you get someone famous / important in your field to write a foreword or a quote for the cover?
    • Events: Have you spoken at a trade event etc.? Do you have any future bookings?
    • Media: Do you have good contacts with any relevant magazines / newspapers / YouTube influencers etc who will promise to cover your book release?
  • Foreword: Can you get someone famous to agree to write a foreword? Or at least provide a quote for the cover?
  • Sales Comparison: If you could identify some books that you feel yours will be better than, and explain why in one sentence, that is very helpful (the sales team can use this in their comparisons).
  • The Future: The senior staff, who are looking to direct the whole company as well as just thinking about this book’s chances, will be impressed if you can connect the idea to a growing industry. Let AJPC know of anything you can think of.
  • Buy-backs: If you / a brand you work with is likely to want to buy a significant number of copies of the book at an agreed discount, then the idea of commissioning the book is a lot easier for the publisher since there are guaranteed sales.

Summary

The New Title Proposal is a short briefing document accompanying a pitch to the key decision makers in a publishing company used to decide whether to invest any time and money into that book. If successful, a book can go on to be worked into a BLAD (visual proposal with sample text and images) or immediately commissioned.


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