I didn't allow myself to get frustrated about not finding a literary agent to represent me. During my research, exploring the world of publishing, I stumbled upon a web page listing 18 Top Business Book Publishing Companies. If not a single literary agent wanted to work with me, I could try finding a publisher on my own.
The "author relationship system" at John Hunt Publishing was also awesome —at first.
After submitting my proposal using a web form, I received two automated emails about my manuscript for which I used the working title The Accidental Entrepreneur:
- One allowing me to create an account in the system,
- The other one saying: "Thank you for your interest in Business Books. An inquiry for your book, "The Accidental Entrepreneur", has been sent to the publisher for review."
Four hours and sixteen minutes later, I received a third mail: "Thank you for your inquiry on "The Accidental Entrepreneur". You have passed the first step of our publishing process! Most inquiries have been turned down by this point."
Woohoo! I could start updating my proposal using a content management system that was a pleasure to work with. I liked it so much that I used it as the master source repository for the information I used for the book proposals I was sending to other publishers / literary agents.
That was a bad idea!
About ten days after finalizing my proposal, I got locked out of the system. My username and password weren't accepted anymore; requesting a new password didn't help. I received "new password activation" mails, but I didn't succeed in activating a new password.
I assumed that my proposal was refused and that my account was deleted. I was pissed about the terrible way of communicating the refusal to publish my work. I started an online search to find out if other authors had experienced a similar problem. I found a blog post entitled My Nightmare with John Hunt Publishing. I won't copy/paste what the author of this blog post wrote because I can't confirm or deny that what's written there is true, but this blog post kept me from contacting the help desk, asking what was wrong with my account. Maybe it was for the better if John Hunt Publishing didn't want to publish my book.
Then, 23 days after finalizing my book proposal, I received an email "Notice about your book proposal". It contained the comments of three reviewers:
- G.L. Davies wrote: "Though this does not read like a bestseller or have that broader causal appeal, users of Bruno's program may find this of interest to them. I very much appreciate Bruno's enthusiasm. My question is, though, how confident is he that utilizing his contact database and social media platform can help us sell 3000 copies in the pre-launch to launch day time frame? We would need those kinds of figures to make this commercially viable for us. We can help him promote this to the broader business community and also if he has a determined and thorough marketing approach, then it would be marvelous to welcome him into our fiction ranks. This book would be a great proving ground to test his marketing ability for future books with us. Despite alienating those not familiar with such technical experience, I do feel we could do well with this if Bruno puts the work in which I am confident he will. I'd like to work with Bruno on this and open the door for possible future fiction releases."
- Sarah-Beth Watkins wrote: "I like the conversational tone of this book. Although it deals with quite a technical subject, I think it reads well which makes it more accessible to the reader. The manuscript would need to be presented as per our author's guide. Gavin has already commented on the marketing aspect. The author has great enthusiasm and a good social media presence to ultilise."
- Dominic C. James wrote: "It's well written, but I think it will have a specialist audience, and Manning might be a better fit, so I think we'll pass on this."
There were certainly some good elements in these comments, but the end verdict was: "Thank you for your submission, "The Accidental Entrepreneur." Unfortunately we do not feel we can take your proposal any further at this time. We wish you the best of luck with your project."
I should clarify that my proposal mentioned that I also wrote fiction and that I selected John Hunt Publishing because I wanted to establish a relationship with a publisher that would also publish other work from me. The reference to Manning was made because I worked with Manning Publications in the past, writing two technical books for them (every publisher asks for previously published books).
The mail concluded with the message: "In accordance with Data Protection Regulation the files you supplied will be deleted." In other words: my earlier assumption that my account had been deleted was wrong, but eventually, my "master repository" was removed before I could access it to make a copy.
Although my proposal was declined, at least three people had taken the time to read my manuscript. That's more than I can say of the other publishers.
Two of them answered with a very short email:
- I received the following reply from Harriman House 15 days after I submitted my proposal: "Thank you for contacting Harriman House with your book proposal. Your book looks interesting, but I regret to inform you the decision was taken that Harriman House is not the right publisher for the book. We wish you every success with the book and its eventual publication."
- I was most surprised by Oneworld Publications. I sent them a book proposal on Tuesday, September 29, at 2:55 PM. I received an answer on the same day at 3:08 PM: "Thank you for this. Unfortunately it would not be for us. But thanks for getting in touch." While I appreciate people answering emails in a timely fashion, it was quite confronting to receive a negative answer within exactly 13 minutes. I spent more time preparing a book proposal tailored to their requirements than they needed to reject it.
These publishers didn't reply at all:
Quite frankly, I prefer Oneworld Publications' answer over no answer at all. I am a published author with a proven track record in business (winning the BelCham Entrepreneurship Award and Deloitte's Tech Fast50, being National Champion in the European Business Awards for three years in a row, winning Bronze and Silver Stevies in the American and International Business Awards...). I thought this would earn me some respect from companies that call themselves business book publishers. I thought wrong.
Only three out of the six publishers of business books I contacted replied. Two declined my book proposal without much explanation. Only John Hunt Publishing provided excellent feedback, but one of their reviewers referred me to a publisher of technical books. Despite the positive comment of another non-technical reviewer that the technical content was presented in a very accessible way, the manuscript was refused. I decided to change the focus from looking for a publisher of business books to a search for a publisher of technical books.