The Balancing Act

March 21st, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Mad Max, apparently over his Elvis Costello foray (may we recommend following up with Tom Waits or perhaps the Pogues if Max is feeling poetic), considers the plight of the unsung publishing rainmakers. Hmm, that felt like our tongue in our cheek, but our intention was almost sincere. Max says:

Another double-page NYTBR ad for Danielle Steele? Full pagers for James Patterson…John Grisham…Nora Roberts… Robert B. Parker…Lisa Scottoline…Michael Connelly…Jackie Collins? They’re done because, well, because that’s what’s done. But–and meaning no disrespect to any of these fine individuals–where are we as an industry going to be a decade from now if we’re still promoting the same authors we’ve been promoting for the last decade? Brands eventually do lose their lustre (anybody know what John Gray’s up to these days?), plateau, and fall off. So if Job #1 is reinforcing the brands that are working, Job #1A should be building the brands of the future.

And then addresses the reality of publishing. Quarterly results. Targets based on…targets (the second link below discusses this concept from the notion that synergy ain’t all it was touted to be). The pressures inherent in balancing these targets with the plodding nature (in most cases) of author development:

You publishers/eds-in-chiefs–Michael Pietsch and Michael Morrison and Gina Centrello and Bill Thomas and Jamie Raab and Will Schwalbe and John Sterling and Brian Tart and the rest of you–are walking an incredible tightrope. Because the constant scrutiny of your performance relative to your budgeted tagets functionally discourages you from engaging in what we might, in other industries, call R&D. And yet, for the business to sustain itself–and this is why your jobs are so incredibly stressful and demanding–you’ve got to be able to do exactly that: take chances on writers, and stick by writers, who won’t necessarily become bankable brands (if they ever do) within three months, or even three books.

The comments accompanying this post are equally interesting. We liked the “a good list is a balanced list” thought. We liked the observation that current heavy-hitting authors are, to be polite, of a certain age. And we liked that at least one publisher is doing just what Max considers. Heck, we even like the idea that some people are affronted by the concept of “branding” authors.

It almost makes us wonder what the husband slipped into our sparkling water.

File Under: Publishers and Editors