Ladies and Gentlemen, Simon Cowell!

Not really. But I have begin referring to myself as “Simon Cowell of small press publishing.” If you’d really like to see why, you can go check out the finalists of Son of a Pitch, an online query contest that gets things read by actual publishers. My pal Samantha, she of the menopausal superhero novels asked me to participate, so I read the 20 finalist queries, and the 250-word samples they submitted. Out of the finalists, who had been winnowed down through two previous rounds of judging, I requested three submissions.

Despite the rapidly growing size of our Falstaff Books catalog, I’m not an easy sell. Let’s be honest, most stuff gets rejected before it gets to me. We have multiple acquiring editors reading submissions at Falstaff, and they have to like it before it gets referred to me. Then I have to read the book and like it enough to put it into one of our very limited novel-length publications slots. Then I have to converse with the author and come to terms with them on a contract. Then they’ve sold a book.

But I’m the bottleneck. Probably 80% of submissions that come in are rejected before they get to me. I take less than half of what comes through our acquiring editors, and only about a third of what comes to me directly.

Yes, there are way to bypass the acquiring editors (the slush pile). Here’s how – meet me face to face and pitch me. I do open pitch sessions at any convention that will let me, but the downside to getting face time to pitch a publisher at a con is that it’s in front of a room full of people and you get my critique of your pitch right there on the spot. If you can stand it, come to Atomacon in November, I’m doing a 9AM Saturday morning pitch session. So now you have to pitch me in front of people, AND I’ll be pissy because it’s early.

I won’t really. By 9AM most day’s I’ve already been working for at least an hour.

We did one of these at Congregate in July, and one of the authors there is in the queue for a contract already. So it works.

But I’m not nice. I try not to be rude, but I really do channel my inner Simon Cowell. Now I never watched him on American Idol, but I’ve seen him on America’s Got Talent, and Simon is the tough judge. Not because he’s a dick, although he puts on that front to attract viewers. No, he’s the tough judge because he’s in the business of making money. He wants to turn records into dollars, just like I want to turn books into dollars. So if you show up with a half-assed pitch, or trying to pitch an unfinished book, I’m going to bounce you off the stage as fast as Simon will. But if you show up with something that you’ve obviously put a lot of work into, and you’ve researched our press, and you’ve done all the right things before you get there, then I’ll probably ask you for a submission.

Then the book has to be ready to submit, and it has to be awesome, but those are steps 2-27 of selling a book. First you have to get past Simon. And only about a third of the 20% that actually gets to me make it to contract.

And I accept a LOT more books than most publishers. So get your shit ready before you submit!

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2 thoughts on “Ladies and Gentlemen, Simon Cowell!

  1. Interesting piece. I’m sure the industry can benefit from stronger pitches and folks having their shit together. Speaking of which you might want to proofread hard-hitting, self-anointing bad boy pieces demanding perfection from your subs before you publish them. (Hint: your second line)

  2. Fair enough. But I don’t have to be perfect, I own the company. 🙂

    I’ll leave the typo in so everyone can see what you’re referring to, and because I don’t feel like fixing it. 🙂

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