Thursday, June 17, 2010

How Publishers Decide What to Publish

I received an e-mail from a potential author yesterday — let's call him Alan — about a book he would like to write for a market we don't publish for. I sent a polite rejection, explaining that we weren't publishing books in that market and wished him well in finding a more suitable publisher.

He wrote back with thanks and asked, "What criteria goes into making a decision?"

Great question. I'll limit my responses to professional and educational healthcare publishing.

First, know that every publisher is different and covers different markets in different ways. We all have markets we're heavily invested in, markets we're marginally invested in, and markets we don't invest in whatsoever.

For instance, here at F.A. Davis we publish heavily in nursing, physical therapy, medical assisting, medical terminology, and others. We publish less heavily in medicine and the dental auxiliaries.

Often the decisions about which markets to publish in are based on the number of individuals that comprise that market. We tend to publish less for small markets and more for large markets.

For us and many other publishers, the return on investment doesn't make sense when you consider the costs of publishing for a small market. Some publishers, though, specialize in niche markets and can make a solid profit in doing so.

That's not the only reason we have for publishing for a particular market, but it's an important one.

So if you're looking to write a book for a small market, look first at niche publishers rather than the larger ones. You'll probably find a better response there.

Hope that helps, Alan.

(His name wasn't Alan, by the way, and he might even have been a she. Tee-hee! I fooled you!)