The pragmatic writer’s guide to the publishing houses ecosystem

April 13, 2019

Writing a great book should be the key to publishing success, but it is not quite accurate when it comes to the big and medium publishing houses. The players in this industry have different objectives, based mostly on what will sell next year, and high barriers to entry.

You will spend years discovering the romantic side of rejection letters.  You might also wait for months (for a friend of mine almost two years now) for the answer to one submission before sending it to another publisher.

Before putting all your hopes into the standard publishing industry, here is some tough love you should deal with:

  1. Publishers like to invest in genres they already invested in before. If your book is cross-genre or something undefined, think twice before submitting.
  2. There are actually few things that a publisher’s can help you with before you have a final draft.
  3. They will invest in a tested concept. If you can’t make it work “small” as a self-published author or with a small house, why would you think you can make it in the big league?
  4. Publishers want to sell your book as soon as possible and as many copies as the market can absorb. They have no desire in investing in your person long term unless you sell.
  5. Writing skills that are a little better than the level of contemporary famous writers are unsalable.
  6. Publishers don’t want you to use the profit from the book’s sales just to cover their advance payment. They want you to build your personal brand in an asset actually worth something. If they don’t see the potential, they will revert to point 2.
  7. The editors and the other employees working on publishing, marketing, and selling your book don’t want somebody in need of hand-holding. Be resilient or be gone.
  8. Publishers have the knowledge and the experience, and also the smarts to know you can’t fix a bad book or a writer with a bad attitude.
  9. The publishing houses understand that being potential number one on their best-selling list is where they reap the biggest rewards. It’s unlikely they will be interested in one of many, even if a profitable one.
  10. Publishers are focused on your personal brand, not your person. They will not pay a larger part of the profits if your book sells well. Your next book is not considered unless your previous book sells really well.

And one bonus piece of advice:

The books in which the publishing houses want to invest and publish more than anything are those that don’t need their investment to become best-sellers.

*These ideas belong to people more knowledgeable than me. I just put them together.

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