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What Happens When 3 Presses Want Your Book?
Hi there Manuscript Workers,
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.)
Here’s this week’s situation:
A reader wrote to say that after using the tips from The Book Proposal Book and this newsletter, she had more success with the acquisitions process than she could have imagined (yay). Her book made it through peer review at three presses, including one which was the press of her “wildest dreams.”
The author’s questions:
“My wildest dreams press has already sent back both peer reviews and hasn’t offered a contract, but is still interested and wants to meet in person at a conference. One reviewer has suggested I reframe my argument in a way that I am incredibly excited about. I want to tell the editor that I’m willing to go forward with the suggestion, but I am not sure what that would entail. Am I starting over? Do I need a new book proposal? And other questions that I don’t even know to ask. And, if my dream press ultimately decides not to offer a contract, what do I do about the other two presses that seem to like this version of the manuscript when the dream press reviewer’s suggestion has inspired me to revamp so much of it?”
“What amazing news about the response you've gotten from the presses!
“I think the first thing to do is take the meeting with [Dream Press] and just see what the editor is thinking about the reviews and moving forward. It's possible they're planning to seek a contract for you but just want to discuss the reviews and how you will write your response memo before they take it to the editorial board for approval. You can discuss with them whether that's the case or whether they will want you to revise and resubmit the manuscript for review again before offering a contract. I don't think you'll need a new proposal, but if it's a substantial revision they may think it's a good idea to revise the proposal as well.
“I would be open with [Dream Press] about the fact that they are your top choice but that you have two other presses interested (hopefully you've already been transparent with all of them about undergoing peer review at multiple presses). It's possible that they will be more likely to issue a contract at this point if they know you have the option of going with one of the other presses. Even if they're not ready to issue a contract, my personal opinion is that if the editor seems optimistic about publishing your project eventually, it's worth it to revise and resubmit to them, since they're your dream press. It would be really great if they could give you the security of a contract before you revamp the book and possibly forfeit the chance to publish elsewhere, so hopefully they're willing to do that. It's definitely ok to ask if this is possible. They may say no, but it's still worth asking.
“When you meet with the editor from [Dream Press], you can also be open about the fact that you aren't sure what questions you should be asking at this point. You can literally say ‘what should I be asking you right now?’ Editors don't always know what authors don't know, so it's fine to say that you're open to guidance.
“With the other presses, you can express your gratitude to the editors for taking the project through peer review and let them know that you're considering multiple options. I think it's up to you and the editor at each press whether you'll go ahead and write response memos to all the reviews and try to move forward with offers from those presses. If you're really set on [Dream Press] and they seem likely to offer you a contract (either now or down the road after you've revised), then you might choose not to proceed with the other presses yet or to tell them you need some time to decide whether to proceed. You will be saving the editors some effort on your behalf to get approval to offer you a contract (hopefully they'll appreciate this).
“If you don't feel good about [Dream Press] after speaking to the editor next week, then you might ask to meet (via Zoom) with the editors at the other presses. You can then discuss your ideas about revamping the manuscript and see if they're open to your vision. They may say that you need to resubmit with a new proposal or they may be fine to move forward based on what you've already submitted.
“Ultimately, I think you should do what feels best for your book and your career. If that means the process will take a little longer before you have a contract in place, I think it will end up being worth it. My clients who have worked with [Dream Press] have all been very happy and I think they're a great press. So I'm very happy for the position you're in right now!
“Hopefully this answers your questions and isn't too complicated. I'd love to hear how it goes next week!”
I checked in with the author to see how the meeting with Dream Press Editor went. The editor fully supported her plan to revise the manuscript, but did say that it would need to be peer reviewed again before they could issue a contract. She is still deciding which path to pursue, but I think she’s in a great position and will have a good outcome no matter what.
Did you enjoy this behind the scenes look at navigating the peer review and offer process? Would you like to see more posts like this in the newsletter? If so, reply and let me know or hit the Like button on this post!
If it’s helpful to others, I’ll continue to seek permission from authors to share their stories anonymously here.
Coming up on March 25, 2022: How to Pitch Your Book to Scholarly Publishers, a $30 webinar from me, hosted by Jane Friedman
After seeing the webinar announcement in my newsletter last week, Dr. Karma Chavez wrote to say that she’d like to sponsor registration for 3 scholars of color. I also received an additional offer from an anonymous donor, giving me 8 total registrations to give away. So if you are a scholar of color and the $30 registration fee is out of your budget, please reply to this email today. If I receive more than 8 replies, I will put your name in a random drawing to determine the winners of the free registrations and inform you if you’ve won by Friday (2/11).
If you would like to follow Karma’s example and sponsor some additional registrations, let me know! I’ll draw as many names as I get sponsorships for!