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The Pub Board - Your Best Friend and Worst Enemy

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So your agent has finally found a sympathetic editor for your wondrously impatient manuscript?

And they work at a major publishing house, imprint, or press. Now you think you're in tight? Whooo! Think again. The obstacle course has just begun. Your credentials and manuscript are facing the gauntlet of THE PUB BOARD! 

The what? 

A group of chair-bound editors and professional types at the press who down or up their thumbs for the stack of proposals sitting in front of them; and it varies from place to place, but more often than not, the pub board meets once a month. They include the specific editor who is a fan of your manuscript, of course, but what about other players and professions?

Let's back up for a second. Pre-pub board editorial meetings can occur for the purpose of winnowing forth the absolute best proposals, thereby giving the editors a running start before sales and marketing weigh in to potentially cast doubts. And let's face it, if this group of editors don't see sufficient potential in the proposal (novel) despite the devotion of your new fan editor, your future career with this organization stops there. The Pub Board will never see it. 

We can verge off here into the politics of human organization, but that's a subject for your social-psyche class, or some derivation thereof.

Now back to the working parts of the Pub Board. Traditional publishers will send reps from the Sales and Marketing departments to Pub Board meetings. The sales types focus on sales to major bookstores and chains like Barnes & Noble. Their jobs are on the line, like everyone else's. What if they get it wrong and a thumbs up results in a first novel that sputters to dust on the shelf? How much dust can collect before feeding the tropical fish becomes a daily pursuit?

Where do the fingers point after the thumbs go wrong?

In contrast, the marketing types are focused on selling the proposed novel directly to the reader. Among other things, they examine the author's platform. Is it good enough? Do they have 5,650,876 followers on social media? No? Does sales believe the bookstores might wish to stock the novel? Well, too bad. The platform isn't good enough. The thumb goes down. And like the sales type, the marketing type foresees a future of feeding the fish if too many poor decisions are made. So what does this mean in terms of fight-vs-flight decision-making? It's much easier to be negative and wax positive only when it feels like there is sufficient support and enthusiasm all around the room, and that way, you see, if things go south later on when the book flops, the fingers will point everywhere, or perhaps, not point at all. 

Consider, how many humans are willing to accept responsibility when their jobs are on the line?

So as you might surmise, Sales and Marketing thump the heaviest fists at the table.They can be expert or inexpert, experienced or green as ivy, whatever, it does not matter. If they get fidgety over the prospect of success, gravity rules the thumb.

And don't forget Accounting! 

Accounting figures the cost of book production, and they'll crunch the numbers on you.The more pages your novel has, the more expensive to produce. Aside from pages, the accounting types might argue that an especially fancy cover will work hard to cause the novel to remain in the red. Then guess what happens?

You must keep in mind that Pub Board politics and dialogue fail to take into account such vital and earth-moving novel elements as plot, characters, and theme.

I wonder why? Does anyone know?

[url={url}]View the full article[/url]

Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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