The reasons a publisher chooses a book for publication


The most important factor for a publisher when he receives a manuscript in the post or through email from a potential author and client is whether that story, once published, will produce a lot of revenue for the publishing house in question and whether there will be repeat business with the author in the future. Having chosen the book, the final product has to look good, and this is where the book cover comes in.

Publishers usually make a decision to start with based on whether they believe a story is well-written with an engaging plot. Then they factor in whether it could potentially attract a wide audience and subsequent revenue for the publishing house.

Another factor is whether the author will help to increase sales. The idea behind the story should be a solid one, meaning it is unique and important in its genre. If a publisher has just acquired a similar story may influence the decision too. If the editor is interested he will do a lot of research on who the author is and on current trends.

The biography and background of the author and his pre-existing promotion of himself and of course the book itself should all be able indicate that the writer has the where-with-all to help promote the story once it has been published. In other words, he has to have a proven track record to write or have an already existing expert status in addition to a big, dedicated readership, otherwise called a platform, for the book in the market that it is aimed at.

Depending on whether they want to work with a writer, they normally pitch his story to a large editorial meeting, which would not just include editors, but also assistants, marketing and publicity teams, and they will thrash out and decide whether it has enough value to progress with the project. The author’s work should be able to prove to all those gathered at the meeting that he can come up with a quality product which has the potential to make money for the business.

What can aid a book sale is the cover of the book, says Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin of the Inkwell group. ‘Book covers are vital for sales, in the shops and online (where they need to work as thumbnails and often in black and white) – generally they need to be in genre so the reader knows what they are getting – people tend to go with what they know, but there are stand out covers that don’t sit within genre.’

In the majority of cases, published stories are considered to be a success or a failure within the first eight weeks of publication, if the sales are good or bad. Therefore, publishers will try to figure out how well they feel the story will sell in this time frame. This can be difficult for novices and it can all hinge on whether the publisher is willing to take a leap of faith, the current trends in the market, and whether books in the same genre have proven to be a success. Similar types of books must have already shown a proven track record of revenue coming from the tills in the stores.

The tills in the stores can be affected by bad covers too. ‘A bad cover that doesn’t communicate with the reader can sink a book. Font and size of font is really important – self published authors never have their names big enough on the cover. Your author name is your brand and again, people like to recognize what they are getting (so a consistent font for the authors name across all their books works very well),’ says Fox O’Loughlin.

From the point of view of the writer, it is worth noting that publishers want to make money and if they don’t, they will not be successes in business. When the author is writing a novel and aiming to get it accepted by literary agents and publishers, it is important to import the idea that it will bring in money. It is important that an author researches and pitches a project so that it lessens the work load for the publisher.

It is important that an author has a promotion plan, so that he can prove to the publisher that he can sell books in different ways after the publication date, not just for a month but for up to a year and more.

The more creative and wide reaching that the plan is, the better for all concerned. Added to this is whether the author intends to write any more stories and a lot of the time, publishers look for multiple-book authors given that the more stories writers pen, the more books they are likely to sell at the tills.

Also, publishers are more likely to put money into a writer who will produce products on an ongoing basis for the publishing house or who has ideas on how to market himself by creating even more stories. In return, the publisher will create a book cover that will compliment the story, but according to Fox O’Loughlin, this can vary from country to country. ‘Covers and design vary HUGELY from country to country so a book can have a totally different cover in the UK and US – it’s all to do with the market trends (you’ll see there are trends in style/fonts/colors).’ In the end, the shopper is happy to see a well written book in the stores, with a cover which fits the story, and the publisher will be happy when the money starts pouring in.