One of the most frequently asked questions I get as part of the team at Thomas Nelson is: How does Nelson determine which titles to acquire?
As a traditional book publisher, we obtain the majority of the titles we publish from the agents with whom we work with on a regular basis. Agents perform a valuable service as the initial filter in determining which titles have the quality and market viability required. They also help authors create proposals that clarify why publishers should consider specific titles. Book proposals provide detailed information about the book, the market for the book, and the author, and they help publishers sort through thousands of candidates to get to the few that move on to the next step in the process.
While most titles come to publishers via agents, there continue to be a number of bestselling titles that did not come through the normal process, and so we also seek out candidate titles through non-traditional channels. With the success of The Shack and other self-published titles, we realized that new technologies make it possible for quality books to take a different path to being published. We launched our first self-publishing services division in 2009 to help aspiring authors fulfill their dreams of publishing their books and to have the opportunity to spot successful self-published titles sooner and acquire some of them.
We consider self-publishing to be a “farm club” (to use a baseball analogy), and we look at several factors when considering which titles to call up to the Nelson imprint. We monitor sales of all the titles that we help authors self-publish and combine that data with other information, including Amazon rank and reviews, Twitter and Facebook reputation (Klout score), and author platform and commitment (speaking, marketing, etc.). Once a title seems to warrant consideration, the primary factors are the quality of the book and the level of projected sales.
All titles that are being considered for acquisition are discussed in a series of meetings to winnow the list down to the strongest candidates. In the Editorial Board meeting which usually consists of the Publisher, Acquisition Editors, other editors, and marketing team members, the goal is to determine which titles are the best ones to take to the Publishing Board (or Pub Board) meeting to present to the Sales team for their feedback and sales projections. Factors that are considered include the quality of the writing, the author’s character and platform, the timeliness of the topic, whether the publisher has been looking for a title on the topic, how the title fits into the publisher’s line, what makes the title different from competitive products, and how big the market is for the title.
In the Pub Board meeting, the focus shifts to establishing the level of sales that could be expected during the first year after the title releases. The same factors come into play with heavier emphasis on competitive products, the author’s platform, and the preliminary marketing plan. The sales projections are used to run proforma P&Ls to determine how profitable each title is expected to be, and the authors (or agents) of the titles that show the most promise are then approached with initial offers in hopes of negotiating agreements.
So it’s a business decision–we look to acquire highly profitable books that conform to our standards.
What part of the process do you believe could be improved?
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