It’s All about Fit

Most people would be shocked by the number of book proposals and manuscripts publishers are bombarded with each year. It is safe to say that all large publishers receive hundreds, perhaps thousands of business book proposals each year. Many are rejected for reasons that are different than what most people think. 

One of the chief reasons has to do with the concept of fit. One of the key reasons publishers reject manuscripts is not due to the quality of the work, but because the concept is not a good fit for that particular publisher.

For example, at our imprint we would not look to publish a book on global investing. And certainly not in this environment.  Which raises another important issue: fit is not a static variable, it can, and does, change with the times.

Today, with a sinking economy and a plummeting stock market, we would be less likely to acquire many types of investing books. Are we still acquiring books on investing? Absolutely, because the stock market is not going away. However, we have to be far more picky about what we decide to publish in that category, and we are already a very selective publisher. A prominent example is real estate. For about five or six years before the housing crisis hit, every just about every business book publisher signed and published scores of real estate books. When the market came crashing down, the market for real estate books disappeared pretty much overnight.  So publishers must of course alter their acquisition strategy. This is obviously not rocket science, but to this day we still continue to receive book proposals from authors and agents on real estate books.          

Lastly, on the issue of publishing and fit, I will quote the great hockey player, Wayne Gretzky. He said: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” That holds true for publishing as well. We have a saying with similar meaning, “if it’s in, it’s out.” This alludes to one of the most difficult parts of the job of a good editor and publisher. Since they still have to be written and produced, books that are signed up today may not be published until say, late 2009 or even 2010. Since we have no crystal balls, we must do the best we can using everything we know about the business as well as what is happening in the world and what might happen in the future. One of the books that we predicted beautifully is entitled:

The World is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy, with a reading line on the cover “The Mortgage Crisis Was Only the Beginning, by David Smick.

That was a book that we decided to publish well over a year ago and one we got right. But there will always be books that all publishers do not get right. The market zigs when somebody expected it to zag. That’s just the price of admission in publishing.  However, publishing books is still the greatest job on the planet! 

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