When debut writers have secured themselves an agent, the book is finished and it’s on submission to editors, that’s when the fun really begins. If an agent attracts interest in your book, then the decision about which publisher to go with is a decision that will affect the rest of your writing career. Here are some tips about what to think about if you find yourself in this enviable position.
1) Sometimes, only one publisher will make an offer on a book, or sometimes if a book is being sold at auction, one publisher will come in with a much higher financial offer than the others. Of course it’s always tempting to go with the money, or to accept the first or only offer that comes along, but for a debut novel it’s important that the publisher is the right one to launch your career. You don’t have to follow the money – if you make the decision not to go with a publisher you’re not sure about, it might well end up being better for your career overall.
2) The agent/author relationship is so important, and the same applies to the editor/author relationship. The editor is the champion for the book in-house, and they’re overseeing everything that happens to the book on the road to publication. They also do the final round of editing. It’s important to trust your editor, to believe in their passion for a project, and to know that a year down the line when the book comes out, they’ll still be a cheerleader for it.
3) Similarly, it’s important to get to know the whole team at the publishing house – it takes a village to get a book out in the world. If you’re brought in to meet with an editor and their team, it’s likely you’ll meet marketing, sales and publicity professionals. If the whole team is on board and are excited about advocating for a book, it bodes well for the success of the project.
4) Every publisher is different – the way things work at one of the big six publishers varies from how independents operate. Publishers have different lists they’ve built their reputations on, and it’s important to see what has worked well for them in the past, and who your publishing stable-mates will be. Sometimes publishers are branching off in new directions, and being the first of a certain type of book on a list means that you might get more focus on your book, but equally if you know the publisher has proven success in your area, that’s also an important consideration.
5) Remember that your agent knows the publishers inside and out, and they’re the ones who chose to submit to those publishers to begin with. We want the best for you, your book and your career, and our advice comes from our experience in the industry. Nobody knows what will happen on publication day, but it’s our jobs to ensure that books get placed in the right homes, to give our authors the best chance of success.
Laura Williams is an agent at Peters Fraser + Dunlop, representing a wide range of fiction and non-fiction authors. Peters Fraser + Dunlop is one of the longest established literary and talent agencies in London, representing clients with expertise across a range of media, including books, film, television and radio, public speaking, digital platforms and journalism.