We’re in the middle of a series of Friday posts on the publishing process. The other posts are on galley copies, ARC’s, and endorsements. Today I’d like to tell you about one of my favorite steps in the publishing process here at Z. It’s a monthly meeting called “Dream It.” I can’t be sure, but I think this meeting is unique to Z. Other publishers may have something similar, but I don’t know.
What is “Dream It”?
A Dream It meeting is basically a sanctioned brainstorming session. Our editors and marketers get together once a month for about two hours (sometimes longer and sometimes shorter) and share book proposals, new ideas, and other incomplete thoughts with one another. The documents attached to these discussions (i.e. proposals, sample chapters, etc.) are sent around a week in advance of the meeting so everyone has a chance to review them ahead of time. The goal of Dream It is not to walk out with a hard-and-fast decision made about a project. Rather, the goal is to give the dreaming person (usually an editor) enough feedback on a project or idea that they’ll know how to proceed.
Here’s an example: When I first heard about Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood it was in a Dream It meeting. The acquisions editor wanted to get the team’s feedback not just on the book, but also on the idea of Zondervan joining the Re:Lit line of books, which until recently had only been published by Crossway. Obviously we all liked the idea and ended up publishing the book. But before we got there, we brainstormed about things like: the book’s content, the authors, the branding, any changes in process that we’d need to implement in order to make this project work, unique marketing considerations, etc. etc. etc. Throughout all of this our editor was able to get good feedback from the whole team (editorial, marketing, the publisher, and operations staff) about how this project might go if we pursued it, and what it would take to actually make it fly. At the end of the meeting the team had officially not approved or denied publishing the book, but rather, had given the acquisitions editor ideas on how to move the project forward.
Another example of how important Dream It can be for our team: Commmentary series – most pastors and Bible teachers I know love them. They’re great aren’t they? A series of books with each one solely devoted to one or two books of the Bible. They’re chock full of background info, insights into the original language, modern application, and all kinds of other nuggets of wisdom that pastors and teachers love to incorporate into their lessons. But you know what? They can be a real bear to publish sometimes! Think about the logistics of publishing a commentary series for a second: You’ve got a general editor, their team of editors, a whole cast of authors that need to be carefully selected and asked or convinced to join, a long release schedule to plan (that can sometimes take a decade or more to finish), pricing and marketing concerns, and a host of other details. Then, you also need to make sure the series is unique (there are an awful lot of commentary series out there after all) and you need to make sure that the vision for the series not only aligns with the publishing house, but also the general editor’s vision, and that it will ultimately be a blessing to the kingdom when it’s all said and done. Whew!
The first time I heard about the Regula Fidei commentary series (Scot McKnight is the general editor) was in a Dream It meeting. The acquisitions editor wanted to know that the team thought about the idea of Scot McKnight editing a commentary series (we were geeked), and how would we make it different from our other successful series (the NIVAC, the EBC, and others), and when and in what order should we release them (still being finalized). Again, this initial conversation about the series and the many that followed were of critical importance to making this project actually happen. (Stay tuned for more on this series. Check McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog for updates too.)
Does your workplace have something similar to Dream It?
It wasn’t until I’d worked at Zondervan for a few years did I realize how unique the Dream It meeting might be. Now it’s one of my favorite meetings. Not everyone has a chance to sit in with their peers at the “idea stage” of a project and speak into it. It’s become a meeting I value because it helps keep the team glued together, it helps us publish better books, and it reflects the kind of engaged, open-minded, creative-thinking atmosphere I hope I always get to work in.
Think about how different every workplace could be if there was a regularly scheduled Dream It meeting.