Friday, January 28, 2011

A Look at an Editorial Board Meeting

I talk with authors a lot about what we at F.A. Davis call the Editorial Board, or Ed Board for short. All healthcare textbook publishers have a similar group of individuals responsible for approving, tabling for further adjustments, or rejecting product proposals.

I thought I'd take this opportunity, snowbound at home as I am, to provide a bit of insight into what goes on at a typical Ed Board meeting. Because that's where your project will first gain its wings.

Let's take a look.

About the Board

Our Ed Board, like others, generally meets once a month. We acquisitions editors (or sponsoring editors, publishers, or whatever) present new projects for discussion. We also present updates of projects passing through the editorial/development/production pipeline. Other business takes place there too, but let's focus on the presentation of new projects, whether they're new or being revised.

We present projects to a selected group of people, including members of the Sales, Marketing, Finance, Production, and Administrative departments, as well as assorted other individuals. At F.A. Davis our president, Rob Craven, attends. That's important because it allows us to have the final decision-maker present, giving us flexibility to move quickly on "hot" projects.

Everyone sits around a large table, and when everyone is seated, the meeting begins. Let's say I'm the first one on the agenda and I'm presenting a new book called, oh, I don't know, Essentials of Snow Shoveling for Health Professionals. Quite a good title, don't you think?

What happens

In presenting this sure-to-be bestselling book, I may discuss these or other topics:
  • Overall vision of the book

  • Overview of author or author team

  • Reviewer comments about proposal

  • Specific markets book will target

  • Approximate size of intended markets

  • Specific courses or curricular content book will fit

  • Estimate of sales for each year of product's life of title (number of years until new edition is published, often 4 or 5 years)

  • Other pertinent financials
People around the table may ask questions, add market information, comment about the book's sales potential or feature set, explore the plan for electronic assets, or anything else about the project to help the decision-makers, and ultimately Rob, better understand the product and whether we should publish it.

I may field questions about specific slices of a particular market, such as, "What percentage, do you think, of snow shovelers are health professionals?" or "Are there regional differences in how health professionals shovel snow?" or "Will all snow shovelers be interested or only those with bad backs?"

I then answer each question in turn: "About 15 percent," "There are many more snow shovelers in the Northeast, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest than other areas," and "Of course everyone will be interested, but bad backers probably represent about ¾ of the market."

Pretty good answers, huh?

Possible outcomes

After all the preparations, discussions, comments, and questions there are basically three possible outcomes. The project may be:
  1. Approved (or approved to go to a higher decision-maker, depending on the company).

  2. Tabled until more information is gathered or the proposal is otherwise adjusted and then brought back before the Board.

  3. Rejected.
Best-case scenario, and what we all work hard for, is outcome #1, an approval. We certainly accept tabling a proposal because at least the project isn't dead. We just have to rework this or that, and then eventually — probably — we'll get an approval.

We generally hate rejections, but we know that hey, it's a business, sometimes that's just the way it goes.

After the meeting I'll call the author and explain what happened and what the next steps are. If it's an approval, it's away we go!

So when your acquisitions person is preparing for Ed Board, or whatever the decision-making body at that publisher is called, be kind. He (or, you know, she) is working hard on your behalf. We put ourselves and our reputation on the line for every book we bring before the Board. We want to succeed, just as we want your book to succeed.

So let us go forth from this day forward, within an Ed Board and without, to shovel the bejeebers out of this snow!