How to Prepare for Your First Conversation with a Book Editor

After authors get their first email from a book publisher to schedule a call about their proposed book, they do a big happy dance!

Their next step: They frantically call their book coach or a published author-friend to ask, “Hey, a publisher wants to discuss my book project! How do I prepare? This could be a make-or-break discussion?”

When I get such a call from a book-coaching client, my first comment is to congratulate them! Editors are readers, not necessarily talkers. That’s why what you put on paper becomes a critical step. A well-written query and proposal gets your idea noticed and snatched from a competitive slush pile of potential projects!

After the atta-boys and atta-girls for initial success, here are the typical questions I pass along for the first conversation with a book editor who shows interest:


Jot Down Key Questions to Help Make Your Final Publishing Decision and Writing Plan


Here’s a list of starter questions:


Do You Agree with the Audience Identified in My Proposal?

Unless you have alignment here, your entire manuscript and marketing effort will be off target.

Far too many authors think their book will appeal to almost everyone. As they refer to it, the book will appeal to a “general market.”

Wrong! Publishers today will tell you that there’s no such thing as a “general market.” You need to zoom in much more clearly about your ideal reader. EVEN IF your book will have wide appeal, neither you nor the publishing house can market to the whole world. So agree on your ideal readers from the get-go.


What Are You As Publisher Planning to Do to Market the Book?

From the proposal, the editor knows what you have in mind for your own marketing efforts. In this discussion, you want to get reciprocal marketing information. How excited do they seem about your book concept? How much effort and money are they willing to put into their marketing support?

Granted, just having the attention of a major publishing house gets you general market support:

  • Shelf space and wide distribution online and in brick-and-mortar stores. (Although most books are bought online today, researchers have discovered that potential readers go into bookstores to find books of interest and look them over; THEN they may actually go home to buy them at a discount from an online retailer.)
  • Credibility with potential book buyers. Their name on the spine, inside cover, and catalog or online write-up as publisher guarantees that your book meets a certain expected standard of high quality.
  • Reps/connections to sell foreign rights and spinoff products.

Large publishers typically have deep pockets for more personalized marketing activities if they really believe in your book!


What Publication Date Do You Have in Mind?

Do they plan to tie your title into a specific holiday or seasonal push? Can you suggest a potential tie-in yourself?

How does that potential publishing date align with your own schedule of writing and any other work requirements?

This initial conversation is definitely the best time to discuss the release date and agree on your deadline to have the manuscript to the editor. Once that publishing house locks in on a release date, moving that slot sooner or later can be like moving an elephant—difficult.


How Many Copies Will You Print on First Run?

Whatever the editor’s answer, it won’t be final because they’ll be getting further input from their marketing team. But even their early answer tells you how big they anticipate this book concept could be.

These days, publishers typically print short runs on the conservative side because they can easily and quickly reprint those books that come out of the starting gate selling well.


What Are You Thinking Will Be the Retail Price? Hardcover or Softcover Format?

The editor will have a typical price in mind based on several criteria: the book’s concept, ideal readers, length of the book, and competitive books on a similar topic.

Keep in mind that this first conversation is the ideal time to give your input on the editor’s tentative pricing and format. Hard covers are priced higher, of course. But authors will sell fewer hardcover than softcover books. On the other hand, a less-expensive softcover will typically sell more units and thereby reach a wider audience. If you have other spinoff products or services in mind, your goal may be to sell to a larger audience to reap income, generate leads, or build credibility for other career goals.


Based on Your Experience in Publishing Similar Books, How Many Copies Do You Estimate You’ll Sell Over the Life of the Book?

Only brave and confident editors will answer this question with a firm number because they don’t have a crystal ball and hate being proven wrong. But they will typically give you a range to set your expectations. And that information, along with the answers to the previous questions will help you make a final decision about whether to accept their formal contract offer when it arrives.


With all these answers, you’re ready to write and roll.


Learn how to craft a winning proposal and catch the eye of an editor—sign up for Dianna’s Booher Book Camp. Learn more at

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