Ghostfolk.com writes: What I really would like for you do is tell me exactly what to produce that a publisher simply could NOT turn down because the product (novel) is just what the market gets exicted about and every professional in the sales department of a major publishing house dreams of having assigned specifically to him/her.
P.S. Any idea for a character name?
If you are J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter #8: Harry Potter and the Endless Denouement would be great! If not, then I can't really think of anything. (In all seriousness, I don't think such a project exists, aside from aforementioned HP book.)
Character name: Longfellow J. Turing-Test III, Esq.
Anonymous @ 10:16 writes: I'd love to see you talk about what goes on behind the scenes at a publishing house when an editor decides to bid on a novel that's up for auction, particularly from an unknown debut author. We've seen the P&Ls for a normal acquisition, how does the process change when bids must be made quickly? Does sales have any input then?
I'm always curious what makes the difference between a book that gets a little deal and one that generates a major deal.
This is probably going to require an entirely separate post, but the short of it is: pretty much everything is the same, but happens, well, much faster. (I'll have a chat with some of my editorial bros in the near future to get a more specific & thorough answer for you.) Suffice it to say, major deals are usually brokered by and between major agents and authors, although there are exceptions. More to come on this.
Anonymous @ 10:26 writes: WTF is going on with art departments? Half of my books have marginally-competent covers--I mean, really deeply crappy--and my editor agrees and still can't get a new cover. I've worked with three publishers, and at every single one I started to suspect that the art department had evidence of the publisher sleeping with the interns, or something. They're unassailable. Why?
I have no idea, though I tend to think it's all bureaucracy and politics. Will talk to the art bros on this one & get back to you. As for series—again, more of an editorial question, but the impression that I get is that they're pitched as such and agents/authors generally try to go for the multi-book deal from the get-go. If a publisher signs you for three books and your first one bombs, I'm sure there are methods by which they could cut you loose, but my feeling is that if they're locking you in for three books, they're going to put enough money and resources behind the project to—in the immortal words of Tim Gunn—make it work.
Anonymous @ 11:53 writes: What is the difference in value between a big best-selling author and a midlist author? (Obviously money, but how much exactly?)
And how much value do midlist authors have to publishing houses?
It depends, and I'm really hazarding a guess here, but my theory is several hundred thousand (or even millions) of dollars in billing, depending on how "mid-list" or "bestselling" one is (there are shades of gray, so to speak). Midlist authors are the bulk of represented authors at a house and are important as such, but their titles don't get the same treatment as the Big Fancy Authors, the Hot Shot Authors, or the Celebrity Authors.
Anonymous @ 11:58 writes: I'd like to see a post on how publishing handles books with non-white main characters and multicultural relationships etc. from the percentage of such books published to the marketing to the cover-selection etc.
Though I know you may not want to because not a lot of people are comfortable talking about race, but it is a very important subject for those of us authors of colour who aren't writing the 'norm'.
It's not that I'm uncomfortable talking about race, I'm just not sure I know enough to answer your question—or even whether the data you're looking for exists. As for cover selection, apart from the recent fracas over the cover of Liar, I haven't seen anything specifically problematic with regard to books by or about people of color in general.
Fllay writes: What does it really mean to be on the New York Times Best Sellers List?
Again, this will probably require an entirely separate post, but the short answer: it means the New York Times, through a process that is considered a trade secret (so even if I knew it, which I don't, I couldn't reveal it to you), solicits data from a wide range of national book retailing chains, independent stores, and wholesalers, then uses that information to figure out whether it thinks you're cool or not. (I kid.) Seriously, though, they do their best to calculate who's really selling the most copies here in the good ol' U.S. of A., and they slap them onto the pages of the NYT once a week. (More data from our One True Lord Wikipedia here.)
Tomorrow: part two!