Putting All Your Eggs in One (Dream Publisher's) Basket
Hello Manuscript Workers,
This week I’m sharing more behind-the-scenes advice on how to handle situations that arise after you’ve submitted a book proposal to your top presses. In my newsletter from a few weeks ago, “What Happens When 3 Presses Want Your Book?”, I explained why I like to write posts like this:
In The Book Proposal Book and in my online programs, I talk a lot about how to prepare a book proposal and make initial pitches to publishers. The break-down of how to do that is pretty standard, so I feel comfortable that the advice I offer on those topics — writing the proposal and submitting it — works in a wide variety of situations.
Where things get a lot less standardized is after the submission happens. I regularly receive emails from readers and clients who are in later stages and wondering what the heck they’re supposed to do now that X or Y situation has presented itself.
I love these emails because I find it educational to hear what people’s experiences are in dealing with specific editors and presses. And I like teasing out the idiosyncratic variables and helping people figure out what course of action feels right for them under the specific circumstances.
I thought readers of this newsletter might be interested in getting a peek into one of these situations, and the advice I’ve offered. Maybe you’ll find yourself in a similar circumstance. Or maybe you’ll be able to extrapolate to whatever ends up coming up for you. (And feel free to email me if you experience something and want some points of reference for how to proceed. I’ll do my best to give helpful perspective if I can.)
So here’s this week’s question:
“I enrolled in the very first session of your Book Proposal Accelerator more than two years ago now (!) and finally mustered the courage to send out my book proposal out last year. I was wondering if you'd have any advice for this situation I'm currently in.
“Basically, I sent out my proposal + other required materials to 4 presses in the Fall of 2021. 2 presses rejected the proposal outright based on fit, but 1 (let's just call it Dream UP) said they were interested in seeing the entire manuscript. They also requested for some initial revisions to be done to the introduction. I don't have the full manuscript ready yet (I expressed this explicitly in the proposal and cover letter) and told them I would send that to them once it is complete, alongside the changes they requested for. Obviously, I'm thrilled at this stage (it's Dream UP, after all!), and motivated to continue writing. But I am also aware that everything could still change because no contract has been signed. This leads me to my questions:
“I still haven't heard back from the 4th and last press that I sent the proposal to. Should I reach back out to them at this point? They're also a good UP and I would be very happy to publish with them, as a second choice.
“And what do you think about continuing to send the proposal out to other UPs? I didn't aim for too many at the initial stage because I'm really keeping in mind the fit of the manuscript with presses.
“In general, I worry about my existing communication lines with Dream UP, but then again, no materials have been sent out to reviewers at this point, only an expression of interest made. I'd love to just focus on getting the full manuscript ready for them but I don't want to put all my proverbial eggs in one basket.”
And here was my answer to this author:
“I think this is great news about Dream UP wanting to see the manuscript. If they are truly your top dream press, I think my advice would be to go ahead and get the manuscript ready to show them. It doesn't need to be in perfect polished shape but they'd probably like to get a sense of its potential to make it through peer review. And particularly they might be looking at how well you take their suggestions to revise the intro. If they pass on it at that point, then you'll still be in a good position to reach out to other presses, because you'll have a full manuscript ready for review and can skip a few steps.
“And don't worry if it takes you a while to finish the manuscript. Sometimes people feel embarrassed to reach back out if a lot of time goes by, but you really shouldn't stress about that. Just get back in touch with the editor at Dream UP when you're ready and remind them of the earlier conversations you've had.
“You can definitely follow back up with Press #4 to say you've received interest in the manuscript from another press and just wanted to check in to see if they also might be interested. If they would be a second choice compared to Dream UP, then I'd say to wait until you've played things out with Dream UP, because it might be awkward if you follow up with them and they want to move quicker than Dream UP does.
“You can also reach out to additional presses, but I'd say the same thing—if Dream UP is really your top choice, I think I'd advise putting your eggs in that basket for now. It won't be permanent—if it doesn't work out, you're still free to go down your list to other presses.
“The one mitigating factor here is your timeline. If you need a contract really soon and you're worried that things could get too delayed if you pursue Dream UP and it doesn't work out, then you might want to see if other presses are interested at this point and then decide whether it's worth it to wait for the full manuscript to be finished and try with Dream UP. But if you do have some wiggle room in your timeline, I think you'll be most satisfied with the outcome if you at least try to give things a chance with Dream UP.
“I hope this helps! I know there are a lot of moving parts and this part of the process can feel overwhelming.”
If you read the Q&A above and thought something like “wow, I wouldn’t even know where to start with submitting a proposal to my dream publishers, let alone navigating a situation like this,” may I let you know about my upcoming webinar?
It’s called “How to Pitch Your Book to Scholarly Publishers” and it will demystify the whole process of identifying the right presses for you, communicating with editors, and submitting your book proposal. This is stuff you might not have learned in grad school, but knowing it will give you a huge leg up on getting your book published one day. I can confidently say that this 60-minute webinar could save you months of effort and trial-and-error. It’s happening on March 25th, but all registrants will receive a recording, even if unable to attend live.
Thanks to some generous donations, I also have five free registrations for this webinar to give away. If you are a writer from an underrepresented or historically excluded group in the academy, and the $30 registration fee would be a hardship for you, please reach out to me (you can reply to this email) and I’ll hook you up. If I receive more than five requests I’ll select recipients randomly.
If you have a publishing situation you’d like some perspective on, and would possibly like to have it (anonymously) featured in a future newsletter, send me an email! I will try to help if I can.
Next week’s newsletter will return to the theme of setting goals for your book (and how to make choices that help you achieve them). See you then!