Editor Leis Pederson – Notes on the Publishing Industry and Marketplace

Hi Folks,

This is my last round of notes from our May RWASD Chapter meeting with Leis Pederson. She gave us a lot of great information. This next section relates to the Publishing Industry and market information about it. Again, these were from my own handwritten notes and I did my best to take them accurately. Hope they are useful to you. 

Printing Machine

How important are titles to selling a book? Not hugely important. If a manuscript is submitted with a bad title, it wouldn’t deter Leis from acquiring it, nor selling it. It’s up to the marketing department to come up with something different.

 How much input does an author have on the title of a book? Leis said that she can only comment on how things are done at Berkley Books. But what she asks the author is, “How attached are you to this title? Can we change it?” If the author thinks that it’s very important, then they go back and forth on the exact element of the title that was proposed to see what they can keep and come up with options for Marketing to choose from. But all in all, she wants the author to be happy with the title and doesn’t want it to be forced on them.

Is there a type of book that you wish someone would send you right now? Nothing at the moment.

How much promotion is done for debut authors? It depends on a lot of factors, how many books are coming out that month, if there are back-to-back releases scheduled, etc. No set dollar amount. Berkley Books has a publicity department that handles the print ads (if any), blog posts and social media in general. But they appreciate it when an author does their own promotion as well. It helps everyone.

I have a friend whose book was only on the shelf for 1 week, is that the industry norm? Leis had never heard that. A book on the shelf for only one week wouldn’t be enough to obtain adequate sales. It could be on a kiosk, perhaps, for a week and then moved to a regular book shelf, but none of the books coming out of Berkley would be on the shelf for only one week.

How do you feel about series? She likes them

How is the market for Historical Romances? Leis publishes historical romances and likes them. There are also other editors at Berkley that also publish historicals. They are becoming more difficult to acquire or sell because the readers are becoming more picky about what they buy.

There’s no special time period that they are requesting more than another. If it’s an amazing book, time period doesn’t matter. World War II is the latest they’ll go and still consider it a historical. After that, it’s considered “Retro.”

How has the trend towards eBooks affected BerkleyBooks? Berkley Books’ new policy is to release the eBook at the same time as the traditionally published book. They have an entire legal department that searches out pirated copies of books regularly, but the piraters are pretty smart and change their websites all the time. Authors can also submit websites where their books are pirated and send them to the legal dept to shut down as well.

 What is a Scheduling Board? At Berkley, they have a giant board where they slot books. There is no Bell Curve saying that they can only buy 3 paranormals in a year. Once a book is acquired, it is usually published one year later. That date can move forward or backward depending on if others meet their deadlines or not. It’s a moving target that’s updated regularly.

Do you have any interest in Gothics? Yes – if it’s well written. A Gothic is one of the first books she’s ever edited. They are hard to do well, but a great book is a great book. They want great books.

Why is Chick Lit out of style? Because the market became over-saturated with them. They were so popular that everyone was doing it, and then supply suddenly overwhelmed demand. They are now referred to as Women’s Fiction.

With the economy as it is right now, are publishers steering clear of hard back books? The industry is definitely taking a hit, but it’s changing daily. It really depends on the author whether or not they’ll put it out in hard back.

 What are Sell-Throughs (Sell-Thrus)? They are the percentage of books sold, gross versus net on a book. So if 60,000 copies of a book were printed, and 30,000 copies were sold, that’s a 50% Sell-Thru rate. Publishers want at least 50%. These numbers are not in the contract. Remaindered books are also counted in the Sell-Thru.

 What is Remaindering? It is when the printed books are overstocked in a warehouse and they want to clear it out. They’ll sell them at a discount to stores like Dollar General.

How do you feel about multi-book pitches, and do all the books have to be completed at pitching time? It depends on the book proposal. If it’s a series or a trilogy that’s fine, but the concept needs to grab her. The rest of the books do not need to be completed, but there would need to be a synopsis on them.

How do you feel about Social Media for unpublished authors? It’s a good thing to social network so that you know the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Get tips and hints for submissions and queries. It’s not a good idea to post samples of your work. Create a fan base that will want to buy your book as soon as it’s published.

What books are hard to publish right now? Romantic Suspense – it’s harder to sell because the readers are very picky.

What are your thoughts on Light Romance or Humorous Romance? It’s very hard to tell someone that you’re funny and have them believe it. What you find funny may not appeal to a wide audience.

 What is the difference between BerkleyHeat and Sensation? Heat contains graphic sex and lots of it throughout the story. They tend to push the envelope in terms of bondage, multiple partners, etc.

Sensation has a small element of the same thing, but considered more “normal” sex. When submissions come in, editors will shuffle between the two lines depending on the story.

I’ve never written a synopsis, do you have any tips for how to write a good one? Find a good chapter contest and read through their score sheet. If you can answer every one of those questions well, then you’ll have a good synopsis.

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