On Writing the History of the American Bible Society–Update #92

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I am starting to make some progress again on the ABS project.  More on that tomorrow.  Today I want to reflect a bit on my journey toward landing a publisher for the book.  (I signed a contract today with Oxford University Press).

If you have been reading along with these updates, you know I spent a lot of time back in August crafting my book proposal.  I sent it off to literary agents, university presses, and trade presses (including Christian trade presses) that do not require a literary agent.  Here is what happened:

1.  Most literary agents turned me down.  The story of the ABS was interesting, but not interesting enough, they thought, for a trade book.

2.  One literary agent was interested until I told her that I had sent the book out to some universities presses that had trade divisions.  She did not feel comfortable selling a book to publishers who I had already contacted with the proposal.  I learned a good lesson here.  Literary agents want the exclusive right to pitch a proposal.

3.  Two Christian publishers were interested in the book and offered me very attractive deals.   These were both Christian trade presses and thus were not required to send the proposal out for review.

4.  An academic press with a trade division also made me a very attractive offer.  They sent the proposal out for review very quickly and came back with a contract.

5. A very well-respected Ivy League university press was ready to offer me a contract, but they did not think that they would be able to put the book through the review process and  prepare the book for publication in time to meet my May 2016 publication date.  Yet this press really wanted the book and wanted to include it in a new series geared toward popular audiences.  They suggested sending my chapters out for review as I completed them.

6.  Several other university presses wanted the book, but they could just not meet the timetable or my desired price point.

In the end, Oxford and one of the Christian presses made the best offers.  Oxford sent the proposal out for review and I got three very positive responses from referees who clearly knew a lot about the history of the ABS.  Oxford promised to keep the price point low (under $30.00), agreed to publish it as a trade book, allowed me to have some extra images, and promised to make sure the book would be published in May 2016 in time for the ABS’s 200th anniversary celebration.  

The Christian press made a similar offer and even offered a 12-page glossy insert for images. 

In the end, I went with Oxford because I wanted the book to appeal to both Christian and non-Christian audiences.  The Christian press mentioned above made a great offer, but I thought that if I accepted the offer it would limit my readership.

Stay tuned for further posts on securing a publisher.