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Saturday, September 9, 2017
Books Weather Many Challenges
In the blink of an eye, on the East Coast, summer turned into fall as soon as Labor Day Weekend escorted away any remnant of the heat a summer should have. But I’m not here to write about the weather. That’s the job of meteorologists, who by the way seem to be wrong 50% of the time. But I will say that the weather pattern we are experiencing can come to symbolize the book industry.
Some books come on strong, like a hurricane. Others have to weather cloudy days until they get to shine. Some never seem to have their day in the sun. Book success is as random as the weather. But sometimes one loses perspective when seeking to peek beyond raindrops or through sunglasses. Sometimes the weather – and books – surprise us.
This summer seemed short and mild. Can a long winter be coming soon?
Some in the book world feel that way about a specific title or line of books. Will they get to experience summer or winter? That is the question all authors and publishers grapple with.
While we take this analogy a bit further, can one describe global warming’s dangers as being akin to what Amazon may bring to the book industry? Whereas global warming endangers a planet’s survival, Amazon threatens the life of books, and the publishing industry.
The weather, though seemingly unpredictable at any moment’s notice, generally follows seasonal patterns and historical cycles. This is why we’re not shocked at a big hurricane in August in Houston or a big snowfall in February in Boston. But bad weather is not guaranteed at a specific moment in time any more than a book is destined to be a best-seller at a specific point in time.
Authors and publishers constantly gamble on what they think is a good book and of what will sell.
Sometimes they lose -- royally -- and sometimes they get lucky and break through with a big book. And sometimes it’s 50º in August in NYC and 80º in March in Rhode Island. Rare, but it happens.
Publishers are like uninsured homes in flood zones. They take risks and hope to buck tends and patterns. They don’t want to believe that their destiny is to be under water and will seek to prove the experts wrong. But there are times where they play it safe, issuing typical fare that barely meets expectations. They want to have Christmas in July and a heat wave in January, even though it’s unlikely to happen that way.
A lot of publishing, though profit-aware, is driven purely by personal tastes, ethics, beliefs, and passions. Books get published not because they seem like gigantic money-makers, but because a publisher wants to release certain kinds of books, written by authors who feel passionate about their works but have no research to support a potential economic windfall from their writings.
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