In hindsight, I can see where there were other things happening to prepare me for this moment. I had been attending lunches with a local branding guru, tightening up things like my web presence, platforms, and even expanding my thinking about a bigger picture. The funny thing was that I had not attended a single meeting to gain anything for myself. I had been attending these meetings in order to help our ministry brand have a cohesive and professional look.
Instead, it turned out, all of those little nuggets of gold that I had been plugging away at for the ministry were also the very things I needed to know for making a good impression for the publisher pitch. As I went through the pre-conference check list of things to do (thanks to all of the women who had already walked this road for sharing their experiences), I was checking things off left and right. Another affirmation that this was the right moment to step out in this calling.
One of the trademark lessons from our lunch sessions was the reminder that “you are your brand”. Because of that statement, I had already been looking at things from a visual perspective, experiential perspective, and conversational perspective. Let me explain.
Visual perspective simply means that I took the time to coordinate everything. My website matched my social media, those color themes matched what I wore to meet my publishers, which matched the paper I handed them with my pitch. I also had a mock cover for the book that tied the theme together. I wanted the publishers to remember me and associate me to the work, and vice versa.
Experiential perspective relates to my experience and education in the genre the book was going to be marketed in. The way I carried myself, wrote, spoke, and pitched needed to match the project I was sharing with them. Walking the line between experiential and conversational, I also needed to know the stats and relevant information about my topic. From the conversational perspective, I had a very short amount of time in order to share about myself and my project. The last two years helped me learn how to hone in on important details, discard the extra fluff, and speak about who I am and what I do with confidence.
He was preparing me for something, a day, that I had no idea was coming at the time. Little by little, inch by inch, moving me toward the finish line of a race I wasn’t even aware I was running.
Now, I’d like to say something else from a practical standpoint about the pitch. There were a lot of amazing women, pitching a lot of amazing books. Devotionals. Bible Studies. Testimonies. Memoirs. Children’s Books. Of the women that I spoke with, and clearly I didn’t meet all 700 women in attendance, I was the only person pitching a leadership book written for women by a woman. From a very practical point of view, it is possible that helped my book standout against the backdrop of other options.
I want to say this because I don’t like to sit from a perspective that God favored me against others for some reason. I don’t want anyone to be discouraged that it was the “right time for me” and thus is was obviously not the “right time for you”. I don’t believe any woman was in that space by accident. You were there at the right time, but for perhaps a different reason that you expected. His plans are greater, His timing is perfect. And as it was said during one of the main sessions… He never shows up early or late. So be encouraged, don’t give up!
The pitch itself was 90% preparation and 10% presentation. Having just a few minutes doesn’t leave a lot of room for over explanation. The preparation was done before I left my home. You enter the space, introduce yourself, and hand over your One Sheet (will discuss that later). There are the basic pleasantries of sharing a bit about yourself, and your background. A smooth transition into what your book project is about, and thankfully the publishers pretty much guide the conversation. At no point did you feel like a smarmy salesman trying to sell yourself to someone. Instead, the way the publishers guided the meeting allowed it to be a more natural flow and less intimidating.
After you have dished out who you are and the book project, that is where the conversation will land in the hands of the publisher. You will be told one of a few options. The hard no, which is the one that simply means they are not interested in your book. It is not necessarily a reflection on your topic or writing ability, rather just a recognition on their part that your book is not the right fit. They may already have a book with a similar subject in the works. There may be some theological differences (some Christian publishers do have association with certain denominations beliefs), or maybe they have set certain standards for their authors. There are publishers, even in the Christian publishing world that do care about whether or not you already have a platform. Some are not interested in first time authors. Some are looking for very specific books for their next season, and you just don’t fit.
The next answer is the soft no. Usually this is the no that comes with feedback. Perhaps they feel that your content needs more development. Maybe they are looking for someone who is a confident author and speaker, and you don’t have both of those in your tool belt yet. The soft no, is more akin to the “no, not right now”. This doesn’t mean that the publisher is telling you to make all the changes and resubmit. It means they see promise, but rough edges that need to be tweaked. PLEASE DO ASK the publisher, if they give you suggestions for improvement if you can resubmit directly at a later time once you’ve reworked the material. It never hurts to ask.
The third answer is a yes. However that is not a yes that lands a contract, instead it is a “yes, we’d like to see more”. At which point the publisher will give you their contact information, and you will send them your full proposal via email. (I only ran into one person who was actually asked for their full proposal on site).
The proposal goes into a lot more detail (will discuss this later), about you and the project. When the publisher returns home, they will review all of the proposals and start narrowing down their pile to the ones they believe will sell at market. The proposal will then be shared with the “Pub Board”, who collectively will decide which books they will offer a contract on. Keep in mind that most publishing companies only bring on about 12 new authors per year, and they spend their summer attending writing conferences and collecting proposals.
A yes is encouraging & worthy of celebration, but don’t get ahead of yourself. Understand there are still more things happening before the contract lands in your email box. Do celebrate it though, they do not give yeses out like eggs at Easter. In one of my publisher meetings I noticed that the publisher put a mark next to the names of the people who were instructed to send a full proposal. I was one of the last appointments of the day, and I was only the 2nd person marked. There were still two days of appointments to be had, and who knows what happened at the other conferences. So celebrate the yes!
Things I learned:
- It is expected that when you send your proposals you also let the publisher know if any other publishers requested the proposal. You don’t have to tell them who, or even how many. It’s courtesy to let them know that they are not the only one who asked for it.
- You continue this courtesy should a publisher make a contract offer. It is standard practice and it encourages the other publishers to make a timely decision.
- Finally, you do notify the publishers once you have signed a contract.
Some publishers move faster than others. They may be more excited about your project, or have holes in the next year’s catalog they need to fill. Some publishers take their time and do things on a slower schedule. Informing of a contract offer doesn’t guarantee they will up their timeline for you.
When I reached out to the publishers who requested my proposal, one was incredibly honest with me (which I appreciated). She shared it would be several months before it even went to the Pub Board, and that I was not the only leadership book they were looking at. She told me that if she was in my position, she wouldn’t wait around and potentially miss the opportunity.
The publisher I signed with was very excited about the project, and very eager to move on a faster schedule. Because of this, my book is set to publish in September of 2019. Even if I had waited and signed with one of the others, the book may not have hit the shelves until 2020.
Most importantly were the wise words of my husband… “You want to sign with the publisher who pursued you”.
Meditating on that sound counsel, praying about it, and having my circle of friends praying over it… I knew I was was supposed to be with Leafwood Publishing. They have made this process incredibly easy, and guiding me along the way. I am thankful to them for being part of this journey with me and trusting me to be a part of their catalogue of authors.
I will still be continuing my series on the publishing process. It doesn’t end here.
For a quick update about where I sit today:
I completed my word count edits, and submitted my manuscript. I just received it back with their editing notes related to the content. Working on that, now. Discussions have begun with the team who design the cover. We will also re-title the book, as the edited version has a more poignant direction. We have a few titles we are work-shopping at the moment.
Also, I received my advance copies of my next Chicken Soup for the Soul Book: Best Advice Ever. It will be for sale in November. I will share more details on that closer to release date.