You’ve got a great new book idea. You’re anxious to write a proposal and send it off to a publisher or two for consideration. You do some homework and determine the top two publishers in the industry and send both of them the exact same proposal. Maybe you’ll get lucky and one (or both!) will be interested. Can you increase the likelihood of something more than a quick review/rejection by studying each publisher’s existing product lines? Absolutely.
Publishers invest a lot of time, effort, marketing funds, etc., in their existing series. If you can pitch your new idea as the next title in that series you might just increase your chances of securing a deal. Plus, it shows that you’ve given consideration to the publisher’s existing product lines, and that you’re not just blindly submitting a generic proposal.
How do you get to know these product lines/series? Get connected with an acquisitions editor or the publisher and ask them about their business. They’ll gladly tell you all about their top series. Hopefully they’re the products you see in your local stores, on promotion, on Amazon’s best seller list, etc. Buy a copy or two and study the key elements. What’s the writing style? Conversational and witty? If so, you’ll want to work that into your proposal. Do you see an opportunity to add to the series elements with something new and interesting? Be sure to suggest it in your proposal. Remain flexible, however, and keep in mind that adding a new element might not be as simple as you think.
By the way, I’m not suggesting every new book idea has to fall into an existing series. I love it when an author has a completely new idea as a one-off or better yet, something that could start a new series of its own. But much of the store promotions these days are oriented around the top publishers and their top series. If your book can become part of one of those lines you might be able to piggyback off the next series-wide promotion at all accounts – that means deeper stocking and possibly premium placement and/or promotional discounts to the reader.
As I’ve said before, take the time to do an outstanding job on your proposal documentation. Getting to know the publisher’s key series is an important part of that process; research it thoroughly before you start writing a proposal.