Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How We Find The Books We Publish

posted by Deb Werksman

(The following numbers are one season from one editor--probably not statistically significant, but interesting nonetheless)

Out of curiosity, and because we love data so much, I decided to take a look at one season of my list and analyze how we had found the books we acquired to publish for that season.

There are 36 fiction titles on my list in that season.

11 of these came to us through submissions from agents

10 were submitted directly by the author
Of this 10
*2 of the authors had an agent already
*3 signed an agent after we made our offer

15 are books that we pursued by contacting the agent or author ourselves
Of this 15:
*3 who were unagented when we approached them, signed an agent after we made our offer

Of all 36 books on the list, 4 had been previously self-published with sales of about 1000 copies or more. They were available from on-line retailers as well as by ordering from the major book retailers.

I receive 200-250 submissions per month. I would estimate that 60% of the submissions come from agents, and the rest directly from authors.

I have never, in 16 years of acquisitions, acquired a book for mainstream publishing that had been vanity-published.

What I'm looking for:
  • single title romance fiction in all subgenres
  • a heroine the reader can relate to
  • a hero she can fall in love with
  • a world gets created
  • the author has a career arc

Also seeking:
  • commercial women's fic (strong romantic element, unusual premise and great hook!),
  • historical fic (Regency, Georgian, Victorian England my faves),
  • Jane Austen related fic (oh yeah!)


  1. From my home to yours, have a super Thanksgiving, everyone!!!

  2. Interesting stats, Deb! Thanks for sharing. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  3. That WAS interesting. An eye-opener.

  4. Good Morning, Deb. I don't know if I'm an author in your season of stats, but I am glad to be one of your authors.



  5. Good Morning, Deb. I don't know if I'm an author in your season of stats, but I am glad to be one of your authors.



  6. Fabulous post, Deb! I'll be sending the link on to my writer's groups. Wishing you, and all my fellow casa authors, a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

  7. This was a very interesting break down of the season, Deb! Are there really 36? haha!

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

  8. Yes, what Amelia said! Very interesting post.

    And I hope everyone has a lovely Thanksgiving.


  9. 36 of us, huh? Wow.

    I'll be forwarding to my chapter.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. Thanks for the breakdown, Deb. At this time with the situation at Harlequin, it's good to know that RWA's stand on Vanity Publishing holds true.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  11. I'm a sucker for data. Thanks for sharing yours. Most interesting! Best wishes for your continued success.

  12. I just LURVE messing around with numbers! Thanx for such a provocative post, Deb!

    So if there are 6 months in a season, you received 1500 submissions and bought 36... that means roughly 2.5% of the submissions were bought. Hmmmm...

    Happy Turkey Day to those who celebrate it on Thursday!


  13. Happy Thanksgiving. And yes, those numbers are interesting.

  14. So happy I am one of those on your list, Deb. I for one am a very happy girl to be with Sourcebooks.

    Have a fabulous Thanksgiving everyone!!!