And it looks like this: (image from Penguin India)
Publishers’ catalogues aren’t quite the same as AI sheets, but they’re not so very different and you can see a typical catalogue spread below. (This one taken from the Little Brown Spring 2015 catalogue.)
If you actually want to see a full catalogue then either try this link, or search (for example) “Little Brown catalogue” in Google and look for the PDF.
When the sales team at a publisher talks to a retailer, they’ll sit down with a catalogue like these, flip pages, and go through the entire catalogue in a meeting that takes – what? – an hour or two. The retail buyer is unlikely to have read your book before he/she buys it. The sales guy will have read a good chunk of your book, but not necessarily all of it. That’s scary.
If you browse these catalogues / AI sheets even a bit, you’ll see that you have perhaps 150 words about the book itself. That’s nothing! There’s nothing about your lovely sentences or your amazing characters or that astonishing plot twist on page 178.
So you need a fabulous concept for the book. That’s the only dependable way you can get the retail buyer to take a stackload of books off the publisher. I’d say that (aside from my how to books) I’ve only three times really produced a cracking concept – and only with my crime novel have I really hit the bullseye plumb in the centre. It’s still a thing I find very hard. I think most novelists do. And if all this has scared you, I suggest you click through to that Elevator Pitch post right now this minute …