Publishers: Getting to know you
Book publishing is the long game. Thinking of publishing in a short-term way will likely either get you discouraged or frustrated.
Of course, publishing starts with an idea and the desire to communicate it to your community. Once you are ready to act on it, a publisher (likely) needs to come into the picture. Authors may know the names of publishers in their field, usually from going to conference or speaking with their salespeople. But how do you approach them with your idea? I would suggest you start well before any proposal or actual discussion. Developing connections or relationships with publishers can pay off in many ways.
Salespeople play a valuable role in the process of disseminating information from the publisher to the community. They can be a good first start, but you need to connect with other people. In book publishing (as opposed to journal publishing), acquisitions editors (sometimes called commissioning editor) are the key people to know. Acquisitions editors work as part of a team, acquiring books for publication. Other titles connected with the acquisitions process might be senior editor, publisher, or other titles in the management structure.
To develop a relationship with an editor (and therefore a publishing house), start with no agenda. Talk to them at a conference or on a call. Find out where they see the changes in the market, how are they fine-tuning their line, what’s the next big growth area? Offer to help them. Do they need peer reviewers for manuscripts or book proposals? Are there focus groups or round tables that they hold to understand the market?
Follow the publisher on Twitter or LinkedIn and see how active they are. Give them a retweet or make comment. Engage their salespeople about what books are selling.
Strive to become a resource for the publisher about your area. You can do this for a couple of publishers. There is no exclusivity here. Publishers want and need these relationships.
If you pursue this path, I only suggest you go down this road in a genuine and enthusiastic manner. The market knowledge you gain may make your potential project better. You will also have options when you are ready with your project.
You can never have enough contacts or new friends and who knows what opportunities might arise. Cue Julie Andrews’ music:
Getting to know you
Getting to know all about you
John Bond is a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting and the host of the YouTube channel “Publishing Defined.” He has been in scholarly publishing for over 25 years. In his career, he has directed the publishing of over 500 book titles and 20,000 journal articles. His newest eBook is Scholarly Publishing: A Primer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.