Today I’ll be attending the 2014 Maranatha Christian Writer’s Conference on behalf of Discovery House Publishers. In addition to giving a workshop, the conference organizers have asked me to sit in on a panel discussion. They sent us the questions we’ll be asked ahead of time.
I have written my answers and have posted them here as means for preparing for the discussion. I can’t be sure that I’ll get to say all of this today, as panel discussions ebb and flow in real time, but I thought there might still be some value in recording these answers. If you’re interested at all in my thoughts on the future of publishing, or if you are considering self-publishing or non-traditional publishing, then this post is for you. Enjoy! -AR
1. We’ve seen a lot of changes in the world of traditional publishing in recent years. What do you think the most important changes have been, and how have they affected authors? What additional changes do you think we might see in coming years?
The power of social media to sell products has changed publishing books, at least in part. Social media puts greater pressure on authors to help promote their work and to continually create new things to read. Social media, by its very nature, is personal and personality driven. Corporations (like publishing brands) are at something of a disadvantage. For instance, readers are more interested in following their favorite author on Twitter than they are in following the author’s publisher. This makes the author the promoter of their books in ways that authors were not before.
I wrote a post for the Breathe Writers Conference blog today. You can see the whole thing right here. The following paragraphs are a short excerpt. Enjoy! -AR
Every book that is traditionally published goes through some sort of Publication Board meeting, more commonly called “Pub Board.” This is the meeting in which the final yes or no is pronounced on a given project. After Pub Board meetings publishers either mail out a contract or a rejection letter.
While every pub board meeting will differ slightly from publisher to publisher, there are some generalities that will remain the same. I thought it might be helpful today to talk about who is typically at a Pub Board meeting, and what their role is in that meeting.
The Acquisitions Editor
This is the person in publishing that most authors are familiar with. She is typically the one presenting project ideas to the rest of the group (though not always). Usually the acquisitions editor will provide other members of the Pub Board with the book proposal in advance of the meeting. At the meeting she will start the discussion by re-capping the high points of the proposal and hopefully make a compelling case to publish the book.
Depending on the company, she might have 15 minutes or more to present the book. In this case she might make a Power Point presentation, show a video of the author posted on YouTube, or use some other relevant piece. Or, she may only have 2 minutes to make her case verbally. It all depends on the publisher, the size of the project, and the number of items on the meeting’s agenda. Either way, she is the author’s advocate before the group.
Read the whole article here.
Author queries make me nervous. I’m afraid of offending an author and derailing a project. As an editor, I want to communicate with the heart of a servant and with the “authority” of a skilled professional.
I mean those things. I view my role as one that is chiefly concerned with serving the author. I’m there to help them present their material more clearly. I’m also involved with some level of proficiency. Authors rely on editors to “work their magic” and ensure that the work is logically arranged and grammatically sound.
The author query is an important part of this process. It is the nitty-gritty communication between editors and authors – within the text being edited, no less. Get the queries wrong and the relationship could go south. Hence, my nervousness about them.
Here’s a truth: sometimes publishers have to pass on good writing.
To the writing idealist I’m afraid statements like this are at best unwelcome, and at worst, the catalyst that convinces some to adopt the lifestyle of an angry hermit. Be that as it may, this is a true statement. I saw it happen today. And publishers shouldn’t be criticized as quickly as some (read: angry hermits) would like to. Here’s a scenario I witnessed today:
A fine book was brought to our team to consider. The writing was strong. The ideas were sound. The construction of the content was thoughtful and easily marketable.
Despite all this, the book was rejected.
Here’s why: The ideas (while sound) have been written about before. The writing (while strong) wouldn’t sell the book (insert another hard truth: good writing doesn’t sell books). The construction of the content (while thoughtful and marketable) can’t make up for a story that’s been told before.
On top of all of this, our team has already published content similar to what was proposed today.
A friend of mine recently sent me this video. It was a good refresher to see it again. The publishing team I work with at Zondervan watched it together some time ago. We’ve also spent hours discussing the future of books and different times. It’s an ongoing conversation in book publishing and retail circles everywhere right now. Before giving my thoughts on the video and the ideas it presents, I wonder what yours are?
Specifically, my question for you, the writer of a future book, does the future of books presented here by IDEO excite you? Or not? Why?
I enjoy reading books on publishing. One of my favorites is Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future by Jason Epstein. I like it because it reminds me of the ideals I cherish about publishing and makes me want to roll up my sleeves and make a good book.
Recently I was given a copy of An Eerdmans Century, 1911-2011 by Larry ten Harmsel with Reinder Van Til. I’ve not read it yet but it has joined my ever-growing “to read” list. I feel privileged to be in a city that so many publishing houses call home: Baker, Zondervan, Eerdmans, Kregel and others. When I started working for Zondervan I read The House of Zondervan by Jim Ruark and was interested to learn the history of the Zondervan brothers and how they turned a used book business into a publishing house. (I’m now uber-privileged to get to work with Jim.)
I also enjoy reading about my home city, Grand Rapids, MI. I enjoy the city because it seems to be just the right size between big and small. We have most of the major attractions of a big city but you can still cross the whole thing in 25 minutes. What’s not to like about that?
When I get around to reading this book on Eerdmans I’ll post a review here. I’m hoping it will not only fan the flames of my publishing fire, but that I’ll get a few glimpses at early Grand Rapids along the way too.
If you know of other books about publishing history that you’d recommend, Please let me know. I’m always on the look out for a good book.
The following is a series of posts I wrote for Zondervan on a company blog. It’s a series of posts on the publishing process. I post something new in this series every Friday. I’ll keep this list updated as new posts are published.