Questions Editors Should Ask

Editors are responsible to bring new book ideas and proposals to the publishing committee. Previously I wrote about how weak books can kill strong books, especially if the committee has not been objective enough about a given project. Here are some additional questions editors can ask of themselves before they ever bring a book to the publishing committee.

Questions about the Book
* Does it have strong editorial quality and content?
* Can I explain the concept to marketing in 30 seconds?
* Are there one or two clear, solid sales channels for the book?
* Is the book on a topic or in genre that is a strength for us as a publisher?
* Is the book strategic (have prestige or significant value)?
* Does the book fall within a common genre (or is it so unique no one will really know what to do with it)?
* Does it clearly stand out as special within its genre (positioning)?
* Does the book have an in-house champion (in sales or marketing)?
* Will it be difficult or expensive to produce (editorial, design, production)?
* Can we get a break on royalty or will there be an author buyback?
* Will it have organizational support or assured special market sales?

Questions about the Author
* Does the author match our ethos and values?
* Does the author have a platform or name recognition in the general public, in the targeted readership or among gatekeepers?
* Is the author especially promising?
* Are there signs that the author will be difficult or demanding beyond what is reasonable? (You may want to ask prospective authors who have been published elsewhere why they are coming to you now.)

Questions about the Project Editor
* Have I (the project editor) been brutally honest with myself regarding my workload?
* If I am on the fence, have I been honest with the publishing committee about this?
* Am I trying to make a silk purse out of sow’s ear?
* Am I really passionate about this book?
* Am I dragging my feet at any point in the process and if so, why?
* Should I get a second or third opinion from someone in editorial or marketing prior to the publishing meeting?

It is not essential that every answer point toward publication. Most books will have a mixed collection of answers. But carefully considering each of these can uncover issues that may help you eliminate certain projects before they ever go to the publishing committee so that only the very best options are evaluated.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.