An author team and I just pulled the plug on submitting an awesome proposal that I was sure would sell.

The proposal was extremely well done. The sample chapters, wonderful. The topic (name withheld to protect the innocent) represents a life-changing issue for literally millions of couples in the US alone.

In fact, we had a great run at publishers, and lots of interest with editors pitching to editorial boards throughout the process, but the one element we couldn’t control decided our fate: the bookscan numbers on similar titles just weren’t good enough. As one editor said, “this is a big problem but not a big market.”

In fact, had I repped a book on this topic before I might have known that publishers were at their wits end. Here’s an important health issue with lots of potential readers but for some reasons these folks aren’t buying books.

I’m going to keep this proposal on my desk. Something might change. You never know when a surprise bestseller might re-ignite a category, or a TV show or movie might do the same trick, but for now it’s the most bittersweet moment: we did a great job, but we couldn’t sell the book.

  2 Responses to “Best laid plans of mice and men….on pulling a submission”

  1. This is a great point, and a hard problem–often a difficult one to explain to a querying author, especially when you authentically like their book, genuinely think it’s worth publishing, but just know the market winds have shifted. And it’s even worse when there’s been some previous publishing success on a topic, such that reams of manuscripts on the same topic flow in (rural coming-of-age memoirs enjoy this particular problem on my desk), but none of them are viable because the moment’s passed. The author, of course, hopes the publisher will just “take a chance” on the manuscript, but unfortunately it’s not that simple.

  2. Thanks for your input Brian. It’s the curse and the blessing of Bookscan. Better numbers have reduced the guessing game but I’m sure that some books are overlooked that might have changed the market because publishers are much more focused on following the numbers. Regarding the book above, I think my authors had a raw deal in that another author team with a decent platform wrote a high profile book that bombed. But I think that previous book bombed because it wasn’t very good, not because there’s not a real market there.

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