Ever wondered what it takes to get a book idea approved, written and published? Amy Kiberd, Commissioning Editor for Hay House UK, tells us what they’re looking for and how to stand out, the key components to a successful pitch, and how the entire process works.
Can you introduce us to Hay House UK?
Hay House is the world’s leading publisher of mind, body, spirit books, online courses and products. Hay House was founded in 1984 by Louise Hay as a way to self-publish her first two books, Heal Your Body and You Can Heal Your Life, both of which became international bestsellers. You Can Heal Your Life has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, and established Louise as a leader in the transformational movement. Today, Hay House is also at the leading edge of online education for self-empowerment and wellness, reaching millions of people all over the world with life-changing content.
We also run a live events programme with some of the world’s most inspirational authors and speakers, and reach over a million people through Hay House Radio – a live, Internet talk-radio station featuring today’s top authors. Listen in for tips on health and fitness, how to reach your highest potential, how to grow spiritually, how to achieve success, how to start the healing process, and much more!
What do you look for when new health/wellbeing/fitness/lifestyle book ideas are being pitched to you, and what piques your attention the most?
Our mission as a company is to empower people, and to support them to find ways to live the best life they can. We look for dynamic, inspiring authors with a strong message and an established connection to, and understanding of, their audience. We look for books that are either saying something new and exciting, or communicating an important message in a fresh way to a new audience. With every book we publish, we want the reader to feel that their life is that little bit better for having read it.
The best proposals are ones where it’s obvious that the author has lots of potential and has worked hard to establish a following, the book’s concept is powerful and the writing is great.
What are the key components to a successful pitch?
It may sound obvious, but one of the first things that is important for a successful pitch is to really grab our attention. Publishers receive so many submissions every day, so it’s important to stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons, work hard on all elements of your proposal to show how committed you are, and really showcase what is unique about you and your work. The best proposals are ones where it’s obvious that the author has lots of potential and has worked hard to establish a following, the book’s concept is powerful and the writing is great – this is the ideal scenario!
We request the following in a proposal:
– A covering letter
– A synopsis
– A chapter breakdown (this is the ‘map’ to the book, with a little information about what will go in each chapter. It’s fine if this changes a bit during the writing, but including a chapter breakdown at proposal stage really helps publishers to get a feel for the scope of your book).
– Author information – make sure you include information about any relevant training, experience, qualifications, etc, that you have; also your online stats – e-mail list, social media numbers, etc; any speaking experience you have and information on any high-profile supporters of your work.
– Sample material – this can be anything from one or two chapters to the whole manuscript, if already completed.
– Video – we don’t request this as part of every proposal, but if you are a good presenter and can produce a video with decent quality, this can definitely be a plus!
The health and wellbeing publishing market is becoming increasingly saturated. How do you think new titles can stand out from the crowd and is there really any value in print anymore?
New titles can stand out from the crowd by really speaking to today’s audience – offering powerful solutions to uniquely modern problems – and by staying on the crest of the wave and offering exciting new information. However, when it comes down to it, the core components that make a good book today are the same components that have always made a good book – a strong concept, engaging writing, a likeable author’s voice, and, in our genre, information and insights that really make a difference to the reader’s life.
The print market in fact saw an increase during 2015, and while eBooks have of course established themselves as a significant sector of the publishing market, this does vary from genre to genre, with print books still proving very popular within the self-help market.
New titles can stand out from the crowd by really speaking to today’s audience – offering powerful solutions to uniquely modern problems – and by staying on the crest of the wave and offering exciting new information.
Can you talk us through the process of creating and publishing a book, from the very start to the very finish?
Proposal stage: Our editorial team assesses the book proposal, and if it meets their criteria and they feel that it has potential, we discuss it in our acquisitions meeting with key members of the Sales, PR, Marketing and Foreign Rights departments. If we are all enthusiastic about the book and feel that the author is someone we would like to work with, we organise a meeting with them so that we can all assess if it is a good fit. We then make the author an offer.
Manuscript delivery: Once we have signed up an author and agreed an advance level, we also agree a manuscript delivery date, and this goes in their contract. This is the date that the author agrees to complete their manuscript by. On this date, the author sends the manuscript to their Commissioning Editor, who reads it and provides feedback. The Commissioning Editor is looking at the overall picture of the book – does the structure work? Is anything missing? Is the tone working well? They may request some rewrites or tweaking, and the author and Commissioning Editor will work through this together until they are both happy that the manuscript is in good enough shape for the next stage.
Cover design, production of promotional material, and sell-in: Well in advance of publication, and in most cases while the book is still being written, the publisher will need to produce a cover and blurb for the book, to sell it in to stores and feed information out online. This is a collaborative process that happens in consultation with the author. The sales team use this material to pitch the book to retailers and secure orders. They are usually selling titles a minimum of six months in advance, so bear in mind that if you secure a book deal, your publication date will need to be far enough in the future to allow for these timelines.
Edit: The next stage is the edit itself – this is the line by line edit that is done to improve the formatting, style and language in the manuscript, and may in some cases include further work on the content. At Hay House we work with a small group of skilled editors with extensive experience in our field. Our Managing Editor holds a meeting or conference call at which both the author and editor are present, and the plan and schedule for the edit is agreed. The editor then works on the text using track changes, before sending it to the author, who has the chance to accept or reject each change, and respond to the editor’s notes and queries. The author and editor send the manuscript back and forth in this way until all queries have been resolved, and the edited manuscript is sent to the Managing Editor, so that it can be sent out for proofreading and typesetting. During this time, an internal design for the book is also agreed.
The core components that make a good book today are the same components that have always made a good book – a strong concept, engaging writing, a likeable author’s voice, and, in our genre, information and insights that really make a difference to the reader’s life.
Pre-launch campaign: In the months before publication, both the author and the publisher work to promote the book to the widest possible audience. This can include online promotion using videos, blogs, e-mail newsletters and social media, pre-order incentives, a PR campaign, live events and numerous other avenues of promotion. In a crowded market, it’s important to put the work in at this stage to make sure your book is on people’s radars.
Production: There will be an employee or team in charge of taking care of the production of your book, and making sure that copies are ready on time for publication. This team will book in a printer, send them all the relevant files, and communicate information such as the type of paper to be used and any special finishes for the cover.
Publication: Your hard work pays off and your book is finally published! Our authors tell us that it’s an amazing feeling to hold a copy of their book in their hands for the very first time, and to see it in shops. Better still is when you receive an e-mail or letter from someone who lets you know how much you have helped them by having the courage to share your message with the world.