I spent the last month pitching publishers. I spent Monday biting my nails and weighing offers. Today I announce the results and share what I’ve learned.
HarperBusiness will publish Writing Without Bullshit in September 2016. My editor will be the estimable Hollis Heimbouch, who in an ironic twist was the editor in charge of acquiring Groundswell for Harvard Business Press in 2007. Everything comes around.
HarperBusiness is an elite publisher that releases 15 to 18 influential business books per year. I’m delighted to be in the company of authors like Thomas Davenport, Gary Vaynerchuk, Geoffrey Moore, Jack Welch, and yes, Donald Trump.
I learned a lot in the last few weeks. Here are a few insights:
- Editors care and your proposal matters. My proposal was 64 pages long with five sample chapters and an extensive promotion section. You might think that’s overkill for an experienced author, but this is a new topic and I am no longer part of Forrester. I met with nine editors, all of whom had clearly read the proposal in detail and had comments and suggestions regarding content, marketing, and how the book fit with their imprint. The economics of publishing have squeezed a lot of talent out of the business, but those who remain — based on my interactions with them — are top-notch, thoughtful editors.
- Editors love good writing, so they liked my idea. All the editors complained about bullshit from authors and wanted to send them my book. Many said they were self-conscious writing emails after reading my proposal. I think that’s a good sign.
- The pitching process refines the book. Is Writing Without Bullshit a manual on writing? A how-to book? A big-idea business book? Well, it’s all of those, but different editors found different elements attractive. My choice of HarperBusiness reflects our compatible vision for the book; if I had chosen a different editor, you might see a very different book.
- Agents pay off. My agency Kneerim & Williams got me serious consideration from an impressive list of editors. They also set up the editorial interviews and auction rules to maximize my choices and advance. They’re going to make good money on this project and they deserve it based on the value they have created.
- There are a lot of non-traditional publishing options now. I heard from low- and no-advance publishers like Ben Bella Books, Bibliomotion, and Ideapress Publishing. They give more generous royalty splits and offer more of a partnership. If you’re trying to maximize your total revenues from your business, rather than the advance or book sales, consider these publishers.
- Write well and you will get what you deserve. I wanted to keep my title, release the book in Fall of 2016, and get an economic deal I could live with. Nobody balked at the title or the pub date and I got good offers. Why? Because the proposal made a great case for doing things that way.
- Understand the pace of the book business. Publishers are finalizing and preparing their fall 2016 lists now. To get a September 2016 pub date, I needed to commit to deliver the manuscript in January. I could self-publish faster, but would have left all that distribution and marketing muscle behind. I chose traditional publishing and accepted this schedule to maximize the chance of a hit.
Finally, I want to thank you, my dear blog readers. There is no way I could have reached this point without your attention, your faith, and your suggestions. You’re my beta testers and I’ll always be grateful.