Monday, July 4, 2011

Seven Reasons the Committee Says No: Part I


Hey readers, it’s our inaugural Mixing-It-Up Monday. And it's Independence Day! Happy Fourth of July!

Let's launch our new Monday setup with a seasoned pro, shall we? This month’s series comes to us from Nick Harrison, acquisitions editor at Harvest House Publishers. He’s here to give us some advice on how to get our work through publishing committees. Read on!

Seven Reasons the Committee Says No*
by Nick Harrison

Recently I asked for blogging suggestions and there were a number of good responses. The one I’m picking today is Michael R.’s question: ‎“What are the top five reasons books get shut down in pub committee?”

First, for those just learning the ropes in publishing, “pub committee” is a publisher’s committee that decides which books to publish. Editors alone cannot make those decisions. Instead, when we editors see something we like and we believe is a good fit for our publishing house, we present it to the publisher’s committee and hope they’ll agree with our judgment and vote yes to publish the book. Right now, my batting average is about .600. That is, for every ten projects I pitch, approximately six get a yes and four get a no vote. Although it might vary a bit from publisher to publisher, the members of the committee include at least one person each from editorial, marketing, and sales. In our case, the president of the company is also on the committee.

Instead of the five reasons Michael asked for, I’m going to offer seven. They are, by the way, not in order. They all pretty much carry equal weight.

The author is unknown and the book will probably not make him or her known. Face it, most book buyers purchase books from authors they already know and like. Why will they want to try your book—if you’re unknown to them? Similarly, the retailer has only a certain number of inventory dollars with which to purchase his stock. If, say, this September new books are being released by Max Lucado, Karen Kingsbury, Joyce Meyer, Stormie Omartian, and you—what reason will the store owner have to order your book when he would be safer spending inventory dollars on the well-known authors? This is where the very worn term “platform” comes in. A platform is your way to promote your book, thus sending people to bookstores to ask for it. Are you on the radio? TV? Do you hold workshops and seminars about your topic? In short, how will your potential readers hear about you and know if you’re writing for them? By the way, this is an area where I, as a writer, am challenged. I don’t have a platform and in my book proposals, I have to find a way to overcome my lack of a platform.

Next Monday, Nick will return and share reasons two and three for why pub committees reject manuscripts. If our goal is to get beyond the pub board, this series is key. Learn more about Nick Harrison at his blog

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*Post originally appeared on Nick Harrison's blog. Used by permission.

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