Multiple Houses Continued

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Sep 06 2006

Yesterday’s post elicited so many comments that I felt the need to expand on this further and continue the discussion. It’s something I feel could be talked about for days, but I’ll try to contain myself.

Since I suspect that most readers already know why they want to be published at multiple houses and what the advantages are for them, I’m going to continue to talk about how I think the publishing houses look at this new trend and their thoughts about it. In other words, I’m playing devil’s advocate.

The question was asked whether or not this trend is specific to authors publishing in different genres, and while that is certainly an important (and sometimes necessary) part of choosing different houses, that’s not necessarily who I’m talking about. I’m talking more about the author who writes romance in general but might have two or three different series at different houses.

A former colleague of mine, from my days as an acquisitions editor, read this post and reminded me of what it was like to sit in on scheduling meetings, deciding when a book should be published. I remember hearing the complaints of the publisher, editorial director, and others that they couldn’t schedule a book by a certain author because she had another book coming out with another house that same month, or even that same season. By publishing two books by the same author so close together you almost guarantee a loss of sales. Most readers have a limited book-buying budget, and spending it all on the same author is unlikely to happen.

In addition, let’s say that your first book comes out with Avon to stellar numbers and sales. They are thrilled with what you’ve done and have put a lot behind you. Your second book is published by Pocket, and for whatever reason—maybe it’s a different genre or market, maybe the cover isn’t as strong—the numbers are considerably smaller than they were for the Avon book. Do you know what’s going to happen? The bookstores are going to order your third book (another Avon book) based on your most recent numbers. Therefore, the lower numbers are likely to trump the sales of your first book. Of course this can happen both ways, but again, I’m playing devil’s advocate here.

Those are just two fresh new thoughts I had on the subject. Interestingly enough, there is nothing to prove that being published with one house is better than three, or vice versa. My job here isn’t to convince you to do one or the other, it’s just to let all of you know what I see as the possible downsides to this trend. My fear is that authors think that you have to be published with multiple houses these days and that a contract with only one house is actually a negative, or even a failure. What I want you to know is that there are two sides to every story.


7 responses to “Multiple Houses Continued”

  1. Avatar 2readornot says:

    I happen to have three different editors reading different mss right now…on the extremely unlikely chance that all three want the books, what course would you suggest? Now, you’re probably thinking it would have been better not to spread out so much — but I don’t have an agent yet, so I was querying editors along with agents. One was an open submission call to a normally closed house — another was pulled from the slush pile and requested (which shocked me); another was an editor I met at a conference. Any thoughts? What would you do as an agent if someone like me approached you with the first offer?

  2. Avatar jfaust says:

    I actually had a very similar situation happen just recently. A client of mind had two different proposals out with publishers. When we finally did receive an offer on one of the proposals, from a smaller house, other publishers actually backed away from the second proposal since they didn’t want to get into a situation where they were in competition for an author’s time. How I would handle a situation like yours would depend on a variety of things–the proposals, the editors, the houses, etc.

  3. Jessica – I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your thoughts on things. I have found I really enjoy stopping by each morning to see what you have to say! Thanks!


  4. Avatar Loralee says:

    I have to say this discussion has been an eye-opener for me. So, of course, if there is more than one publishing house involved, I can see where having two or three publishers might be counter-productive. And I am a firm believer in loyalty, too. Thanks for the insight. I knew I would get a definitive explanation here.

  5. Avatar Jaye Wells says:

    Thanks for sharing that perspective. Those two issues had never occured to me.

  6. Avatar Nonny says:

    “By publishing two books by the same author so close together you almost guarantee a loss of sales. Most readers have a limited book-buying budget, and spending it all on the same author is unlikely to happen.”

    Would this be part of why publishers encourage or request multi-house authors to use pseudonyms?

    “Therefore, the lower numbers are likely to trump the sales of your first book.”

    Again, would using a pseudonym counteract that?

  7. Avatar jfaust says:

    yes, it is why so many authors publish under two names and hopefully a second name would counteract that.