The doom and gloom in publishing comes around during times of economic downturn, but it’s especially pronounced now that eReaders are a genuine force in the industry and the business model hasn’t yet shaken out. I’m not a doom and gloomer by any stretch, having survived and thrived in this business since 1987. I think we’re facing a great opportunity for book publishers to expand their minds and business models to embrace new media as well as traditional book readers. When a 20something kid in the Mac store tells me he’s thrilled to get his hands on the iPad but dreams of having his own home library someday because he loves the smell and feel of a book, it reminds me of how easy it is to forget that each generation produces a new crop of book lovers.
That said, let me share just one story of perseverance to inspire those of you currently seeking an agent or a book publishing deal. True, it’s a tale from the past–from an era when I was hearing nonstop “It’s really hard to get a book deal,” “the market is very difficult these days,” and the like just as you’re hearing today.
My first coauthored book, Meditations for Men Who Do Next to Nothing (and Would Like to Do Even Less), was one I conceived one day in a dull editorial meeting I attended as a young editor at HarperCollins. An offhand remark from a colleague sparked the idea, I rushed out afterwards to call my cousin Beverly West, who had been talking to me about our writing a humor book together someday, and said, “OK, I got the book idea for us!” I asked some colleagues for agent recommendations, found someone for us, and she submitted it to 9 houses. All turned it down. Then we did another round of 6 and got 3 houses to participate in an auction, with Warner Books winning. The book sold for a modest amount that was enough to pay a few bills while we penned it, and we ended up selling 60,000 copies in 4 printings and selling Italian rights too, and we got booked on the old Montel Williams show which, while it probably added nothing to sales, was a hoot of an experience. And yes, we were absolute rank beginners as authors with no platform whatsoever–just a fabulously funny idea and, most importantly, execution.
Share with me YOUR story of perseverance!