As I’ve said before, William Goldman’s maxim, “Nobody knows anything,” is so ragingly true, I am always amazed at its up-to-the-moment relevancy. Goldman was talking about Hollywood, but the legendary quote applies to the book trade, too.
A friend recently submitted a terrific proposal to a major house. The subject? The paranormal, what I’d call a fiction/non-fiction hybrid project.
Said friend is an established author, and the editor who read the proposal took it to the editorial board immediately, so sold was Mr. Editor.
The decision? Pass.
“At the end of the day, they just didn’t know if it was marketable,” the editor reportedly said.
There were also the usual comments about the razor-thin margin for error when choosing titles in this economy.
Understood, until you think that through. A really different take on a white-hot cultural topic, with an established author – what are we missing?
Notice this juicy tidbit this week from Publishers Weekly:
P Is for Paranormal – Still
There’s no new way to say it, except possibly en francais, the language of love. Paranormal is le dernier cri in the romance category – its hold on readers and publishers alike defies any logic or explanation. In its first year it was a phase, then it became a definite trend. Now, it’s a sea change, with no evidence that the tide’s waning. So, sure, everybody agrees about the P-word, but what, exactly, is its appeal – why is this romance genre so, er, bloody popular?
One wonders what the thousands who trudged through BEA this week were thinking about, but we do know all of them were wondering which books will be white-hot sellers. And with Fergie, the Duchess of York, providing the keynote – fresh off her much-publicized attempt to sell access to her former husband – well, by golly, the book business has never been more deliciously decadent.
I had pledged not to write about BEA, but darn it, the thing is so fascinating, I can’t help myself this week. After all, it’s the heartbeat of book publishing, at least this week in the U.S.
Not surprisingly, there were a few interesting observations from attendees. Two publishing representatives also said they didn’t hear nearly as much concern about the economy this year. Those weren’t Greek publishers, by the way.
Even as publishing types continue to prove Goldman a prophet, they still know a few things, perhaps. The fact that book producers and sellers have adopted an indefatigable stance in the face of economic uncertainty is heartening for anyone who loves the book game. The sheer variety of interests and initiatives at BEA prove this statement:
“Roger Cooper, publisher of Vanguard Press, was happy with the greater focus this year on digital: ‘People are talking about e-books and different platforms, more than just what’s the hot new book.’ Cooper elaborated that it’s been exciting to see people on the show floor, tech entrepreneurs and others in the digital space, interested in the content the industry creates and the variety of ways it can, and will, be used. Penguin’s Susan Petersen Kennedy said she was happy with the turnout and that there was a good mix of booksellers and media at this year’s show. Harlequin’s Amy Jones added that she thinks the move to midweek has allowed more librarians to come to the show: ‘the mood is much more positive even than last year.’”
So we have all types at these book shows: those who love the leathery feel of a real book; those who are intoxicated with the possibilities of the digital boom; and then those sweet librarians who have been on the frontlines of book promotion for eons.
And let’s not forget the writers. Because I can tell you that in an era when nobody really knows anything for sure, there is one established author pounding the pavement at BEA, a can’t-miss proposal for a paranormal project tucked under his arm.
It’ll sell eventually. He just knows it.